Poetry is an extremely flexible writing form. It is easily weaved into our writing programs across the year as opposed to just being pigeon holed into a specific unit of work. Poetry offers a unique response to literature -fiction or non fiction. Such is the flexible nature of poetry.
From an early age children have much exposure to a significant amount of rhyming verse. That our classrooms are filled with poetry that is enjoyable to listen to, or fun to read is important, but it may not necessarily provide the best starting point for inexperienced poetry writers.
When used skilfully rhyme can add to the lyrical nature of poetry. When it is used out a sense of expectation, it frequently serves to detract from the poem's intention. It weakens the words overall. If you listen closely you can hear the words clunking into place. They just sound like they don't belong.
Don't get me wrong. I am not anti-rhyme. In fact, I have to guard against over using it. It is a natural inclination. But comfort and proficiency with rhyme often takes a long time to develop. It takes a lot of practice and support -a lot of reading and a lot of listening. I often let my rhymes percolate for a while before I am satisfied they are ready to be shared. Lots of trial and error occurs. I have to remove the 'clunks' so I will feel confident the poem will flow smoothly over the reader's tongue.
When inexperienced poets attempt to create their own rhyming verse, it frequently sounds like the words have been forced to sit where they just don't feel comfortable. I refer to this as, ‘The moon in June with a spoon ‘ syndrome!
When this occurs the writer becomes more focused on finding words that rhyme rather than attending to meaning. The end result often has little, or nothing to say. It’s ho hum. We need to direct these probationary poets towards an understanding that word choice is critical to being an effective writer. You are not just filling the gaps with any old word that rhymes.
As an alternative, introduce a range of poetry forms into your classroom. Provide alternative models of poetry that allow the inexperienced poet see poetry beyond the realms of rhyme. This will increase the choice for students. When choosing mentor texts for poetry, tap into what kids enjoy. Make the connection by selecting poetry that provides a range of emotional triggers from giggles to grief.
Immersion in a range of poetry forms lays a foundation for writing options. By choices, I most certainly mean more than just haiku or acrostic poetry!
A simple three line question structure that sets young poets up for some initial success.
Where are you?
What are you doing?
What are you thinking or wondering about?
I am sitting in the backyard
Watching ants crawl up the oak tree
Where will they end up?
To assist your probationary poets to become aware of word choice try synonym substitution with a known poem:
When Relatives Come
When relatives come
They hold/pinch my cheek and make a fuss
They touch/tickle my chin and call me lamb
And say/remark how nice and big I am
They tap/pat my head and call me dear
And speak/talk as if I’m not here!
Mary Ann Hoberman
There will be those students who still lean towards rhyming verse. If that is the case teach them how to begin with something manageable such as rhyming couplets.
As I was traveling to New York
I met a man who loved to………
He talked to me of many things
Apples, apes and angel’s ………
His words were like a sweet refrain
And now they’re deep inside my …….
Rhyme and meter (the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse) are complementary elements. As your students become more comfortable with the structure you can remove some of the scaffolding. E.g.
• Challenge them to provide the entire second line
• Challenge them to write both lines
• Challenge them to write an entire four line stanza
Always look for poetry that incorporates wonderful language, poetry that celebrates words and above all connects the reader to the wider world. Look for poetry that not only looks good on the page, but sounds good to the ear.
Poetic forms abound, and while rhyme is not a crime- your poet's voices, deserve some choices.
|Some words present a real challenge for poets committed to rhyme.|