What’s the Best Process and Prompts for Writing Poetry in the Classroom?

Finding great prompts for writing poetry seems like the perfect place to start any poetry lesson, but there is more to it than that.  The process of creating great poetry lessons is simple once you know it.  The combination of an easy process and great prompts for writing poetry will simplify and improve your ELA writing block.

How I Developed My Poetry and Writing 

When I first entered fourth grade as a paraprofessional, I was excited to learn that we would be writing poetry all year.  That’s right, the entire fourth-grade class, about 160 students, would be writing many forms of poetry all year long.   We wrote poetry about so many topics and using several forms.  I was constantly amazed at the poems my students produced, even the struggling writers flourished during poetry writing.  Furthermore, the kids enjoyed writing poetry.  There were many times the whole class was laughing as they clamored to share poetry they’d written.  It was amazing to see my students proud of what they had written and enjoying sharing it with others.

Why Topics for Writing Poetry Isn’t Enough

I taught poetry in that school for years, and I brought poetry into other schools I worked in too.  After teaching poetry for so long I’ve gotten pretty good at coming up with prompts for writing poetry.  Having a prompt is an important starting point, but an easy process that makes the lesson flow is important too.  It will help bring lively poetry lessons to your classroom.

What are the Best Ideas For Writing Poetry?

The best ideas for writing poetry are ideas your students can connect to, which means they come from your students’ lives.  Now depending on where they live and what things they like it’s going to change.  There is a process that will help you shape these general ideas into useful topics and prompts for writing poetry.

The World Wide Web of Poetry Writing Prompts

Online there are endless prompts for writing poetry.  All it takes is a simple search.  I’ve included a few of those lists here for you.

My goal is to help you take any prompt for writing poetry and transform it into a lesson that is perfect for your students and also teaches them other writing skills that the standards require you to teach. 

The Secret Steps to Endless Prompts for Writing Poetry

There is a simple process I use that makes it easy to create your own poetry prompts that are a perfect match for your classroom.  With these three steps, you will be able to create any poetry lesson you want. 

How Do You Structure a Poem?

One aspect of poetry that is different from other types of writing is that poetry has so many different forms.  There are over 50 forms of poetry.  That’s a lot of choices and a lot of forms to know well enough to teach your students. I think this is the reason a lot of educators shy away from teaching poetry.  There are so many forms it’s hard to know where to start.

The good news is you don’t need to know them all.  If you plan on teaching poetry throughout the school year I recommend finding 5-10 forms of poetry you like.  Get to know those forms of poetry well enough that you can teach them.  It might seem repetitive to teach only five forms of poetry all year, but as you know your students need repetition. 

Here are a few of my favorite forms:

·  Odes

·  Haikus

·  Acrostic Poems

·  Rhyming

·  Limericks

·  Two Word Poems

·  Cinquain

·  Diamante

If you want to familiarize yourself with these forms of poetry you can check out the breakdown in these two articles. 

Seven Types of Poetry to Teach

Poetry For Upper Elementary and Middle School

How Do You Begin a Poem?

Now that you know which forms of poetry you want your students to write this year you are ready to begin writing.  The hardest step is deciding what topics for writing poetry you want to pick for your students.  Have a topic that all your students can write about is important for revising, editing, and grading.  It keeps the writing process and gradins simple.

The topics for writing poetry you choose can vary greatly depending on who your students are.  There is no one set of topics that is perfect for everyone.  At this point, I love coming up with topics and have some ideas for writing poetry to share with you.  This is not a comprehensive list, just something to get you thinking.








I know these topics seem pretty general. Some of them are fun and lend themselves to create funny poems, while others are more serious.  They are general ideas because you want your topics for writing poetry to be something all your students can relate to.  My article What are the Best Rules to Writing Poetry that Teachers Need to Know? explains why you should use relatable topics. It’s important for students to connect to their writing by being assigned meaningful topics.  You will notice that a lot of these are topics are things that are important to your students. 

I know you came here for prompts, but since there is no one size fits all it might be better to use this list to think of a more specific topic for your students.

What are the Rules to Writing Poetry?

Now your students are ready to learn the rules to writing poetry.  They will need to follow the basic form you’ve chosen for each poem.  However, if a student has a great idea on how to break the rules a little bit then talk about how poetry lets you break the rules and let them do it.

I’ve already mentioned my other article What are the Best Rules to Writing Poetry that Teachers Need to Know? You can read it for the full explanation. In case you’re short on time (because teachers are always short on time) here is the short version.  

Poetry is all about connection.  Your students need to connect to themselves, their writing, and their audience.  Poets can only be real and honest in their writing if the topics are important to them.  It tells their story and message to the world.  

Teach students how to use line length, blank space, punctuation, and free verse.  All of these aspects of poetry allow students to express themselves better and make their writing more accessible to the reader.  Imagine if poetry helped your students use punctuation better in all their writing?

There are tools poets use to write impactful poetry.  Poets must show their readers their vision using words.  Often students show their vision through the literary device of imagery.  All literary devices are important of the tools poets use often.  Alliteration, similes, and metaphors can be useful tools to write a powerful poem. 

The last tools poets might use are a thesaurus, dictionary, or rhyming dictionary.  It’s not cheating to use these tools.

Finally, these are some things to avoid while writing poetry.  Avoid cliches.  Don’t try to be perfect.  And poems do not have to rhyme. 

This is the super short version of the rules to writing poetry.  They aren’t truly rules because poetry offers so much flexibility. Enjoy the flexibility as the teacher grading all of the poems, but let your students enjoy it too.  It’s one of the unique things about poetry that gets students excited to write.

Prompts for Writing Poetry

  1. Use your senses to explore an object, moment, or place
  2. A color
  3. A moment from your week
  4. Feelings after listening to a song
  5. A lesson learned
  6. Traveling (it doesn’t have to be a big trip)
  7. Advice to a younger you
  8. Things close to your heart
  9. A strange dream
  10. When your perception of someone changed drastically or was shattered
  11. A home renovation is a metaphor for life.  What needs fixing and changing?
  12. A Haiku about nature
  13. About a time of history you could be “observing”
  14. A Freaky Friday switch
  15. Body positivity (depending on the grade and group)
  16. A favorite item such as a book, toy, or movie
  17. From the perspective of a pet
  18. Your inner dialogue as you run or walk
  19. About yourself as the hero or villain or both
  20. Social justice
  21. Doing Chores
  22. Friendship
  23. Holidays
  24. Opposites
  25. Earth

I believe that if you specify a form of poetry with one of these prompts you will be able to help your students write some great poems.  Some of these have links to resources I created that match the prompt to make it super easy for you.

Final Prompts for Writing Poetry Tips

There are basically three steps to creating prompts for writing poetry.

1. Pick a form of poetry

2. Pick a topic

3. Help your students learn the rules for writing poetry, but just one at a time.

Poetry and Writing Articles

There are endless ideas for writing poetry online, but make sure you pick ones that are a good match for your students.  Here are a couple of articles that can help you better understand forms of poetry and prompts for writing poetry.

Seven Types of Poetry to Teach

Poetry For Upper Elementary and Middle School

What are the Best Rules to Writing Poetry that Teachers Need to Know?

3+ related articles and links (internal/external)

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school.  The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets make this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

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