Tony Mitton's Plum (Scholastic, 2003) offers a fresh pick of funny and fantastical verse that encourages readers to really stretch their imaginations. After sharing his poem "Instructions for Growing Poetry," with your students, invite them to use Mitton's approach in writing their own poetry.
Breaking the Rules
Before reading the poem, begin a discussion by asking, "What are the rules to writing poetry?" Write responses on the board. Then, tell the group you'd like to share a poem in which the writer bends a lot of these rules. Read the poem through slowly several times. What pictures do they see in their minds? The poem's title implies that the poet is comparing a poem to a real object in nature (a plant). Ask your class what this object might be. Next, go on a Rhyme Scavenger Hunt by challenging your class to locate and count all the rhyming and near-rhyming (eyes/inside) words. How does this collection of "grab-bag" rhymes affect the poem's music? What does this poem say about writing poetry?
Writing "Instructions" Poems
Let go of the rules about poetry and get creative. Encourage students to write their own poems on any and all topics, from "Instructions for Slaying a Dragon" to "Instructions for Eating Watermelon." Give them these creativity tasks to generate ideas for poems: "Think of two questions to ask a giraffe." "Write 10 words that best describe a jump rope." "Name three things that bikes and trees have in common." At day's end, ask volunteers to read their poems aloud.
Liza Charlesworth is a poet and the author of several books for children and teachers including 100 Awesome Writing Activities to Use With Any Book (Scholastic, 2001). This article was originally published in the October 2002 issue of Instructor.