Shape Poems


Poetry is in the air in my 4th grade classroom! We are reading and writing poems every day for the next few weeks. I always like to start my poetry unit with something that has a low intimidation factor (and does not require rhyming in any way), so we usually begin the poetry unit with shape poems (or concrete poems). In past years, the students used a writing “frame” I provided to write what I called adjective poems. They added adjectives to the poem frame and then transferred the poem to the shape. I explain the process for the adjective poems in THIS BLOG POST.

concrete poems shape poems student poetry

This year, students chose a simple object and brainstormed words they associated with their object. Students picked all kinds of items– basketballs, dogs, donuts, soda bottles, ice cream sundaes… They made a word bank using a graphic organizer like THIS ONE. Once they had a big list of words, we began a search for an image to match their word.


We searched for black and white clipart in Google images. The kids pasted the clipart image into a Word document and enlarged the blackline image to fill an 8 1/2″ x 11″ page. We printed the image and lightly traced the main lines with pencil on a blank piece of copy paper. Using black pens, the students used words from their word list to fill in the shape over the traced pencil lines. Students left the paper with the clipart image under the paper with the concrete poem while writing to serve as a guideline. In the example below, the student is starting to create the French fry shape by writing words like “salty”, “crispy”, or “crunch” multiple times in each fry. The student poets would match the area they were filling with a word that made sense for that area of the image.concrete-poem-patternThe kids also added a few details to complete the effect such as pink pen instead of black for the dog’s out more ideas for student poetry in my TeachersPayTeachers store. CLICK HERE to purchase classroom resources for teaching poetry.key-concrete-poem


Facebook Character Activity


A few years ago, my students designed a Facebook page for a favorite character in the book, Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise. I was surprised how much critical thinking was involved. The students needed to pick a significant scene from the story, summarize it from the point of view of a character in the form of a Facebook post, and then respond to the post from the point of view of a different character.


It was challenging for students to think about one story event from several angles. The finished writing activity reveals quite a bit about a student’s understanding of events in the story, character traits, and character interactions and motivations. It is a short activity but packed with reading skills, and the results are completely entertaining! It also had the bonus of incorporating technology skills since my students completed the Facebook page digitally.


I recently assigned the activity again, and it did not disappoint. My students were in three separate reading groups this time around, but all students completed the Facebook page based on a character from their assigned book. It is such an easy activity to adapt to any novel study.


In my classroom, I inserted the blank FACEBOOK TEMPLATE that I designed as a background in a PowerPoint slide and then added text boxes as placeholders on top of the background. I shared the template with my students, and they clicked in the text boxes to add their writing. They also inserted pictures, used bullet points, and changed font sizes (potentially tricky technology skills for 4th graders).


For younger students or classrooms/homes without computer or printer access, the activity could be handwritten using THE TEMPLATE. The basic Facebook page with the text box outlines can be printed, and students draw profile pictures and neatly write posts, likes, and replies.


The samples above are related to the novels, Dying to Meet You, Love That Dog, and Hate That Cat. Complete novel units are available for purchase in my teacher store. Click the book names to see more details about the novel studies.

Poetic Inspiration

concrete poemMy fourth grade students are preparing for the annual Valentine’s Day Poetry Slam showcasing original student prose. I have this fabulous music teacher at my school who enthusiastically embraces this project every year and helps me organize the event. I used to hate to read, teach, discuss, analyze, or create poetry because my memory of studying it as a child is not filled with sunshine and chocolate. My short stint as a high school English teacher did not improve the situation. In fact, many schools handle poetry in such a dry way, we all have a bad taste in our mouth when it comes to poetry.

In the last few years, my view has changed. Poetry can be fun for students and offer a creative way to express feelings students might not share otherwise. I have also started to realize how much poetry enhances other areas of language study.

  • Many poems typically follow a pattern of some kind. There might be a rhyme scheme. Rhyming words reinforce spelling patterns and expand vocabulary. Authors might repeat words or phrases in a specific order to emphasize an idea. Identifying a repetitive word pattern demonstrates a writing style that a student can emulate in their own writing.
  • The repetition of letter sounds draws the attention of the reader to the beginning, middle, or ends of words, which supports spelling instruction. The easiest letter sound repetition to find is alliteration. In the fourth grade, I never teach assonance because I just can not bear using the word with a bunch of ten year olds.
  • Figurative language requires some brain power. A student has to activate background knowledge to interpret expressions that are not literal. When Emily Dickinson tells us that hope is the thing with feathers, students have to translate the thing with feathers to a bird and then compare the bird to hope by tapping into a vocabulary bank for the various meanings and applications of the word, hope. Without critical thinking, the poem’s message would be lost.
  • Poems use words in a creative way. Students often follow the same subject followed by verb sentence order when they write. Poems show how we can have flexibility in our writing.

Poetry can be intimidating for kids, so I started breaking down different poems and types of figures of speech into simple activities to help students create their own poetry.

  • Take a poem you love with many lines that repeat and replace with ideas from your own life. I like to use the first stanza of “Love That Boy” by Walter Dean Myers.  My students keep the beginning of most of the lines and develop their own simile (so I get to teach simile at the same time). My son, Mr. Star Wars, is actually in one of my language arts classes this year and his “Inspired By” poem made me cry. (He does not know I am reprinting his poem here.)

love that teacher poem

  • Give each child an object. I like to choose an object from nature like a cloud, mountain, tree, flower, sunset, or ocean. Have the kids write five sentences about the object, but each sentence must use personification. The cloud could offer comfort. The mountain could glare down at you. The flower could dance. The students list the five sentences to create a poem.

personification activity

  • Provide three categories for students. They could be categories like sports, food, or animals. The students choose a topic like basketball, ice cream, or dog for each category and then generate a word bank to go with the topic. The students go through the word bank and group words that start with the same letter sound. The student also attempt to add words that have the same starting sounds as words that are already in the word bank. Using words with similar sounds to create alliteration, students organize the words into lines of poetry. Voila! Instant poem. (Hint– onomatopoeia words work well with this activity too.)

Many authors have started writing books that center around poetry but are presented in novel(ish) form. They are fast reads and good stories. Here are a few titles that I like.

  • Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
  • Gone Fishing by Tamera Wissinger
  • Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Emily by Michael Bedard (picture book)

Have some fun writing a short poem this Valentine’s Day!

I have more poetry ideas for the classroom in my teacher store. Click HERE and HERE.