Joy in Words – Writing Poetry

By Ruth Manna on January 26, 2011

Poetry is magical and memorable. The poetry we read, write, and hear in childhood stays with us throughout our lives.

Last week I wrote about heart maps, a visual reminder of what matters, a beginning step in writing poetry. This week, I describe several of my favorite books about teaching students to write poetry. I like to give you resources to make it easier for you to plan lessons. I'm happy to discuss writing with you, so post a comment or question!


05289833e7a085308b901110.L._SL500_AA300_[1] Wishes, Lies, and Dreams by Kenneth Koch

This is a classic book and one of the first books I bought when I started teaching. These many years later, it's still available. Wishes, Lies, and Dreams is the story of poet Kenneth Koch’s experience teaching poetry to inner city students. There are many samples of student work and specific, practical ideas for teachers. I have used Koch’s ideas and suggestions along with heart maps to loosen students up and get them writing. Wishes, Lies, and Dreams is a must-read!



0590227327_lg[1] Kids’ Poems: Teaching Second Graders to Love Writing Poetry by Regie Routman

Regie Routman, a teacher for over thirty years, has a series of books for teaching students to enjoy writing free verse about subjects that matter. A 1st grade colleague of mine swears by this series.

Here’s an article about writing poetry written by Ms. Routman.



Poetry Matters[1] Poetry Matters: Writing Poems from the Inside Out by Ralph Fletcher  

This is a great book for sharing with 5th and 6th graders. Again there are examples from poets that teachers can use when teaching a variety of poetic forms.






Listening to poets read their own words is captivating. Their intonation and inflection help readers understand. Some recordings you might enjoy include Billy Collins reading "The Lanyard," Langston Hughes reading "I, Too," Sekou Sundiata reading "New American Theater," and Maya Angelou reading "And Still I Rise" and "Phenomenal Woman." If you’re a middle or high school teacher you might share these poets and their poems with your students.

There are also excellent Web sites for you to explore, including Giggle Poetry, a site for elementary students; Poetry and Music, a series of six lessons about the connection between poetry and music on ReadWriteThink;, which includes resources for teachers; and Instant Poetry Forms, which provides fill-in-the-blanks poetry writing exercises.

Happy writing! Let me know what happens. I'm interested.


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