KidPoWriMo Day 18 ~ Template Poem

I knew my birthday week would be a challenge as I tried to balance KidPoWriMo with the additional things added to my week.

Still, I am moving forward.

One way of getting started with writing a new poem is to use another poem as a template. It can be any poem. If you pick a poem you like, you will probably enjoy taking it apart and putting a new poem together as you look at each piece. If you pick a poem you don’t like, you are likely to improve it when you use it to create a new poem.

Poetic word of the day: “template” (click here to read the definition on Word Central)

I learned about template poems from a poet who was a guest at my poetry event. She explained it like this: “Take each word of the poem and substitute it for another word by its part of speech.” Where you read a noun, replace it with another noun. Do the same thing for adjectives, verbs, prepositions, adverbs, pronouns, etc.

Once you have finished substituting words, you will have a completely new and original poem. But, it may need more work. Poetic devices that worked in the first poem might be lost as you create the second poem. Sometimes, a poet may be so inspired by one line of template writing, an idea will take the poem in a different direction away from the template poem. If so, go with it. The template exercise works if you only re-write a line or two or if you revise the whole poem.

My  cousin once asked me for a birthday poem. I chose “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou as my template. I did not go word for word throughout the poem, but I used the same pattern of phrases. When I needed to write more, I just repeated a pattern. When a part of the poem did not fit what I was doing, I didn’t use it. The finished poem was about my cousin (a man) and it was funny (especially since he is known to be rather serious most of the time)!

PROMPT: Write a template poem using part or all of a poem found on-line. Build a word list as you write.

Let us start one together:

Read Emily Dickinson’s poem: “Hope is the thing with feathers” on

The first line is the title of the poem. The first word is a noun and it can be substituted with many other words: “fear, love, hate, anger, cheer, kindness, vision, etc.” The next word is a verb. I could use the phrase “is a thing” again, but I really want to choose other words: “has, gives, takes, moves, claims, burns, builds, adds, etc.” The article “the” can be replaced with “a” or “an” if I must replace it, and I believe I must. The next word is another noun, “sickness, burden, place, duty, song, pebble, etc. The next word is a preposition which I will replace “with”: “for, to, above, etc.” Finally the line ends with another noun: “medicine, cowards, fish, houseplants, horses, daylight, water, ground.”

Using the words I listed so far, I can create dozens of lines from the template. Not all combinations will make sense. Here are a few:

1. Fear burns a place for cowards.

2. Hate takes a sickness to medicine.

3. Love moves a burden above ground.

All have poetic potential. And I am inspired to create a complete poem from them. I could go on and write templates of more of the poem or write on my own from one of the lines I just pieced together.

Now that you have started, go ahead and finish your poem in a way you prefer.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Try substituting a couple of words from your child’s favorite nursery rhyme. “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” might become “Sprinkle, sprinkle, happy cake” or “Sparkle, sparkle dancing ______” (you fill in the blank). As you go to each word, ask your child(ren) to come up with a replacement in context. When you are substituting a verb, ask a question like this: “What else would the little star do?”  When substituting an adjective, ask “What kind of…” or “What color ____ is it?”. If your child(ren) get inspired and imagination takes you away from the template, let it happen.



KidPoWriMo Day 17 ~ Tanka

Our Wednesday haiku adventures have led us first to 5-7-5 (17 syllable haiku) and then to six word haiku. I would rather not use the word “haiku” to describe poems that are much larger than 17 syllables because there are larger forms of poetry. These poems could fit into these other descriptions. Tanka is one of these slightly larger poetic forms.

Poetic word of the day: tanka (click here to see this word defined on

The easiest way to describe tanka is to add two 7-syllable lines to the American 5-7-5 haiku format.

So, you will have five lines and the syllables per line will be in this order: 5-7-5-7-7.

Although this is 14 syllables larger than haiku and you get to say almost twice as much as you can say in a 5-7-5 haiku, I encourage you to make the most of all the syllables you have just as you would be when writing haiku.

If you have any haiku that you think need more words to be the poem you want it to be, try remixing it into a tanka.

You may start by moving the lines around. The five syllable lines can switch places and the seven syllable line can go in one of three places in the tanka. You may also add two syllables to one or both of the five syllable lines. Then once you write whatever lines are missing, you will have a tanka.

Let’s go through this creative process together. I will create as I write.

PROMPT: Write a tanka poem by remixing an existing haiku by you or someone else.

I am going to remix a 4-line haiku poem entitled “Bad Morning” by Langston Hughes into my own tanka (the title and author’s name link to the poem on the All Poetry site). I like his haiku because he sneaked in a rhyme.

Pick your haiku or write one to get started.

Here is my version of Langston Hughes’ 17 syllables. I have reworked them into 3 lines:

(5) Oh, Lord have mercy!

(7) I’m sitting here frustrated

(5) Shoes are mis-mated.

Next, I will write an original haiku poem inspired by this one:

(5) No tissues in sight,

(7) I need to suppress a sneeze!

(5) Heaven help me please!

by Cheryl Crockett inspired by Langston Hughes’ “Bad Morning”

Notice, my haiku has a different topic and is unique and original.

Next, I can take take one or both of my 5 syllable lines and make them into 7 syllables by adding two.

(7) THERE ARE no tissues in sight

(7) OH LET heaven help me please!

As I build my tanka, I can use these lines in either of their 5 or 7 syllable forms, edit them again or write new lines.

Now, my haiku has a complete message, but as a tanka, it needs more information. I will think about other things that accompany a sneeze and a need for tissues or a substitute for tissues. This will help me create a word list that I can expand into phrases.

(1) Cold

(1) Flu

(1) Dust

(2) Shirt sleeve

(2) Paper

(2) Towels

(2) Pollen

(2) Disease

(3) Allergies

(3) Infection

(3) Contagious

(4) Toilet tissue

Now I can finish my tanka by expanding my haiku:

(5) Pollen fills my lungs.

(7) There are no tissues in sight.

(5) But with all my might,

(7) I need to suppress a sneeze!

(7) Oh, let heaven help me please!

by Cheryl Crockett

How did your tanka develop? If you would like to share it, feel free to do so as a comment below this post.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN:  Read some haiku that you have written using the prompts earlier during #KidPoWriMo, or find some on the internet. You can do this by typing “HAIKU” into your favorite search engine. Talk to your child(ren) about each haiku and ask them what else might have happened before, during or after the story or message in the haiku. Help your child(ren) to create 7 syllable lines based on the details they imagine. Add these lines to the haiku to make a tanka.

With each of these exercises, because your children may need help writing from an older person, make sure to tell them that you are “making poetry together“. This tradition will stay with them and they will understand that poetry is important to you and it will become important to them, too.


KidPoWriMo Day 14 ~ Iambic Pentameter

Get your iambs and feet ready. We are putting them together again to make pentameter.

That sounds like something that’s hard to do. It just sounds hard. Pentameter is easy.

And since we worked with iambs that were stressed on the even numbered  syllables the last time we discussed iambs, we will switch it this time.

We will put the stresses on the odd numbered syllables this time. And we will combine words with more than two syllables to create iambic phrases and sentences.

Poetic word of the day: “pentameter” (click here to see the definition on Merriam-Webster’s Word Central)

When you hear the word “pentameter”, does it make you think of a number? There is a famous government building that has a name that begins the same way.

If you know the name of this building, you probably can tell me what is different about it (see below)

Back to making pentameter. When we started with iambs, we put three feet together. We returned and put four together. Pentameter happens when we put five iambs (or feet) together.

QUICK MATH QUESTION: If an iamb contains two syllables, and we are putting five of them together, how many syllables will be in one line of pentameter? (see below for the answer)

I do not always write backwards when creating pentameter, I piece together words or phrases of 2, 3 or 4 syllables. Sometimes I start from the middle and add words before and after.

Here is a list of words that have 3 syllables. You can test big words using whisper-shout. First, whisper the first syllable, shout the second and whisper the third. Then reverse it. Shout the first, whisper the second and shout the third. Which way seems right? Test yourself using these words:










Depending on where you place a word in your line, it can support a right or left-foot iambic sentence. As I build my iambic lines, I keep track of the number of syllables as my line grows. For example (using the words above):

double-jointed acrobat (7)

He thinks I am a true believer (9)

cucumber salad (5)

an opened envelope (6)

my crazy rock fanatic (7)

helium baloon (5)

bright idea (4)

All of these phrases have alternating stressed and unstressed syllables.

The lines for today’s prompt will begin with a stressed syllable.

PROMPT: Make a word list of three syllable words. Put at least 20 words on your list. Underline or highlight the stressed syllables. Put each word into a phrase that is iambic (stressed syllables separated by unstressed syllables). Write a poem, based on your favorite or best practice phrase, that has 8 lines where each is written in iambic pentameter (10 syllables). You may rhyme if you like.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Help your child(ren) make a word list of 3 syllable words. Take each word and ask them to put a word before each word or after. Write down those phrases and ask them to do it again. Count the syllables and check where the stresses are in each phrase using whisper-shout. Make at least one iambic pentameter line. With parents helping, I would not ask younger children to work on much more than one or two lines.


*The Pentagon is named for the geometric shape of the same name. It has 5 sides.

MATH QUESTION ANSWER: Two syllables per iamb times five iambs to make pentameter equals ten syllables per line of pentameter.  2 x 5 = 10











KidPoWriMo Day 11 ~ Mixing it up

Congratulations! The month is one third of the way finished!

With apologies for the delay in posting the 11th prompt, I am working to catch up.

Today is when we pause for a moment and remember what we have covered so far this month. If you like one of the lessons more than another, that is OK. You may like working with iambs more than writing haiku. If so, then write using iambs in most of your poems. If simile’ makes you smile but you don’t have time for rhyme, use more simile’ and don’t let anyone stop you.

You may have noticed that the prompts I have posted have not been very specific. I have not asked you to write about a particular thing that I choose, like “apple pie” or a “purple pillow”. Although everyone reading this may have seen these things and knows what they are, some of you might not be as inspired as I think you’d be if I gave you a specific prompt. What I have tried to do is to get you to think of things that inspire you and let you write about them.

[Think about this: if I did give a prompt to write about a purple pillow, and your teachers and parents and other poets were reading the posted poems, we would have so many poems about purple pillows, the internet would be overdecorated!]

Whether you are using the prompts found here or writing your own poem each day, you have freedom of choice. This is true even when there is no #KidPoWriMo.

Poetic word of the day: art (click here to read the definition on the Bing Dictionary)

Poetry is art created with words. But, the things poets write about are not always beautiful. Still with our words, we draw attention to the things we choose as topics for our poetry, and we do so in an artistic way.

Have you ever just talked to someone about something that is important to you? When someone writes a poem about an important topic and shares it, people are more likely to pay close attention to what they say, especially because they took time and effort to write the poem in the first place.

You can mix two, three or four (or more) of the prompts so far. But, if another poet chose the same prompts, the poems you write would still be very different. The prompts I am offering here leave lots of room for you to use your own creativity and express your individuality.

PROMPT: Below is a list of possible mix-ups (or mash-ups). Pick one of them and use it to write your poem.

– rhyming, ode containing simile’ ~ the ode can be to something you found or got while on summer vacation

– 5-7-5 haiku, written backwards that includes personification ~ write the whole haiku backwards starting with the last word of the last line

– 6-word haiku that uses iambs that includes alliteration ~ it is OK if all six words do not begin with the same letter – see how many you can make fit into your haiku

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Combining alliteration,  iambs and word cards, have your child(ren) pick a letter and write down some left-foot iambs that are nouns and that begin with that letter. Pick another letter and do the same thing, but with adjectives. Each card should have two syllables (either one two-syllable word or two one-syllable words).

Use the whisper-shout technique to make sure they are left foot iambs. Build a stack of 20 words (10 nouns and 10 adjectives in separate piles). Pick one card from the middle of each stack. Read the adjective card and then the noun card. Write more iamb cards as you think of more words.

Once you have four combinations you like, copy them onto paper and think of verbs and adverbs (and other parts of speech) you can add. If your younger child(ren) do not know about the parts of speech yet, help them think of words that make their cards into a sentence, even if the words are not iambs.

The randomness of combining iambs written on cards and the fact that you and your child(ren) can pick pairs you like, will help you begin a poem that you will feel proud to have written with your kids.

NOTE: Rhyme, Iamb, 5-7-5 haiku, Ode, writing backwards, alliteration, spoken word, simile’, personification, four-line stanza and six-word haiku are some of the topic covered on the first 10 days of KidPoWriMo.


KidPoWriMo Day 9 ~ Four by four

Last Tuesday, we learned about iambs and feet in writing poetryUsing this, today we will write the first four lines of a poem. Each line will contain four iambs.

REVIEW OF DAY 2: One iamb is also known as a foot that has two syllables where one is stressed and the other is unstressed. I suggested that we name an iamb with the first syllable stressed a: “left-foot” and one with the stress in the 2nd syllable a “right-foot”. An iamb can be one two-syllable word or two one-syllable words.  For this exercise, stressed syllables will always be next to unstressed syllables. In other words, alternate the unstressed with stressed syllables.

The following example will use “right-feet” and the stressed syllables will be in UPPERCASE letters.

The 2nd line of a favorite children’s rhyme has three right-foot iambs:

the MOUSE ran UP the CLOCK” (from “Hickory, Dickory Dock”)

The line has six syllables (3 feet or iambs) where the even-numbered syllables are stressed (2nd, 4th & 6th).

Each line of the poem we will write today has an added iamb for a total of 4 iambs per line.

Poetic word of the day: “stanza” (click here to see the definition on Wikipedia)

A stanza is a part of a poem. It can contain as few as two, up to almost as many lines as you like. Similar to a paragraph, which can contain any number of sentences and is a section of a written work, a stanza is a section of a poem.

When putting your words together, feel free to use the whisper-shout exercise, from Day 2,  to make sure you have put the stresses in the right place.

Pick your topic and write it down. I am creating as I write this post. My topic is “snacks”. I will write my whole creative process. Let’s write together, shall we?

I am going to write backwards so I can put my topic word at the end of a line and because I know it will be easy to find other words that rhyme with it.


The word “HEALthy” is a “left-foot” iamb, but when I put a one syllable word after it, I can make it work in my line. But, because we are only using right-feet iambs, I will try something else. My strategy will be to use as many one-syllable words as I can.


I have two iambs and I put my topic word at the end of the line. Next, I will think of words to go in front of them:

i JUST can’t WAIT to GET my SNACK

Now, I have a line! I could use it to open my poem as the first line, or it could be at the end of my poem. Where would you put this line among the four? I will figure this out as I write the next lines.

my CHOICE is ONE that’s GOOD for ME

OK, a second line came quickly. Now, for a third. As I start my third lines, If I am going to use rhyme, I need to keep “ME” and “SNACK” in mind.





This is the order that the iambs came to my mind. When I put them together into a line, I get:


And I have rhymed SACK with SNACK. Knowing that I still need to rhyme something with ME, the word “AGREE” came to my mind and it is a right-foot iamb! Yay!


don’t YOU aGREE


I wrote a few options of phrases for my fourth line.

that’s WHAT i THINK do YOU aGREE


These almost work, but I am not happy with what I have written so far. Should I think of another word or phrase that rhymes with ME?

you SEE


the BEE


for FREE

with GLEE

(from “A”) to “Z”

OK, I will start my fourth line over again writing iambs that go with “for FREE”



each ONE

them ALL

them FROM


I have more iambs than I need, so I will put some together to make my fourth line:


Let me try another combination:


Now, I have four completed lines that I can put together into a stanza.

I just can’t wait to get my snack.

My choice is one that’s good for me.

I put some grapes inside my sack.

I picked them all myself for free.

I can reorganize the lines so that the line I wrote first is somewhere else in my stanza:

I put some grapes inside my sack.

I picked them all myself for free.

I just can’t wait to get my snack.

My choice is one that’s good for me.

I can put my lines together is many different ways. I can pick the one I like best and put it in my poem. When you read my lines, you can feel the rhythm as you say the stressed and unstressed syllables.

How did your stanza take shape? Notice in my creative process, shared above, some ideas seem good at first but later don’t work the way we thought they would. It is OK to take a couple of steps back and write a few more ideas to see which ones you like best.

Now do this again to make your 2nd stanza and at least a 3rd. Write as many as you like to finish your poem.

 FOR PARENTS WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN: Play with iambs made from one syllable words. Start with the example line “the MOUSE ran UP the CLOCK” and use it like a template. Take one of the stressed words out of the line and replace it with another word chosen by your child(ren).  Then pick any other word and replace it. Do this one word at a time until you have written a new original line. My example: “my PUP went OUT to PLAY”. Let the whole family help change the words. Write down each line, try to make pairs of lines rhyme. Finally, put them together.


KidPoWriMo Day 8 ~ Personification

Have you ever read a story or poem with objects that do things that humans do? But, you know that if you were to hold that object in your hand, it probably wouldn’t do anything like the way you read it.

When you write about something that is not human but make it behave like one, your are using a poetic device called: “personification”.

Poetic word of the day: “personification” (click here to see the definition on Merriam-Webster’s Word Central)

Personification is my favorite thing to do in a poem when I want to be funny. It helps me make the humor happen and it helps readers look at the topic from a different angle.

When you use personification in your writing, you can make anything you write about do anything you want. All you need is your imagination (and maybe pencil and paper). If you have a game you haven’t played in a long time, you may imagine it whispering to you, “When can we play again?” or it might say loudly, “You’re too old for me! Let me go  to your cousin’s house.”

Personification doesn’t always mean making things talk. Anything a person does can be used to personify something that is not a person.

If you decided to wait until tomorrow to do some work you were supposed to do yesterday, all of the work you have to do in one day may keep you from having any fun. Using personification, you may write about this:  “my chores are ganging up on me” or “my chores have gotten so big, they could try out for the football team!”

PROMPT: Write a story poem using personification. Make it at least 8 lines long.  See if you can combine one of the previous lessons and write with iambs, rhymealliteration or maybe simile’.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Personify some items your child(ren) will use in their poems. For instance, a lamp that lights the page on which poems are written can be personified when you make it talk about that. The pen or pencil can add how they shape the words and make them appear on the page. And the notebook can talk about how it feels to hold the important poetic words your child writes. Finally, the three could have an argument about which one of them is the most important, and why.

When riding in a car or on a bus, your child(ren) can personify different things seen through the window. “The blue car is moving slowly because ‘he’s lost…” or “he’s sad” or “he is hungry… where is the gas station?”. “The sun keeps playing hide and seek with your child and the clouds.”

You probably already use personification when you pretend to give a teddy bear a voice  that sings a lullaby or when a forkful of broccoli “asks” your child to eat it. Maybe an empty room in your home “gets angry” if the light is left on or the bathroom sink “cries” if dirty hands pass by without being washed (feel free to use any of these).

Let me add one caution: Consider setting a boundary around this poetic device. When poetry or creative time is over, make sure your child knows they need to stop playing with personification for now. There is so much of it on television, in books and games, they could just as easily stay in personification mode all day. They might even flip it and use it on you when they want something from you or if they don’t want to do something that needs to be done. There is a time to be poetic and a time to understand that cars don’t really get hungry and lamps, pens and notebooks do not have arguments.

My computer and I now bid you “good-bye”.


KidPoWriMo Day 2 ~ iamb that I am

KidPoWriMo has its own Community on Google+. If you have a gmail address, you already have access to Google+. For those who are on Facebook, you are invited to join the KidPoWriMo Facebook Group. If you want to post your #KidPoWriMo poems on-line, you now have more options. You are welcome to display your poems as comments below posts on this site.


Take off those shoes! Did you know you can write poems using feet?

Oh! But we won’t be using the kind of feet that get covered with socks!

When someone takes a walk in the park, they might tell you they went there “on foot”. When we measure 12 inches with a ruler, we call it a “foot”. But, the word “foot” is also a measurement we use to write poetry.

Poetic word of the day: “IAMB” (click here for the definition on

Here is what you need to know about IAMBs and FEET:

1. An iamb and a foot both have two syllables;

2. An iamb and a foot may contain one word of 2 syllables, or two words, each with 1 syllable.

3. In the iamb, one of the syllables is stressed and the other is unstressed.

Before you get stressed out about stressed syllables, think about your name. Do you know how many syllables are in your name?

Here is a list of two syllable names:

Michael   –   Emma   –   Abdul   –   Sophie   –   Kamal   –   Mya

Jose    –    Kendra    –    Gary    –    Marie    –    Tony    –    Michelle

If you have a two-syllable name, add it to the list.

Five  of the names on this list have the stress on the 2nd syllable and the remaining 7 have the stressed 1st syllable.

Here is an easy way to figure out which of the syllables is stressed in each word:


Say each name by whispering the first syllable and shouting the 2nd; then switch to shouting the first syllable and whispering the 2nd.

Do not say the names too slowly. Speak as if you are talking to friends who have these names.

When you shout a syllable, you are making it the stressed syllable. When you whisper, you are making that syllable the unstressed syllable.

Since you are going to say each name twice, stressing a different syllable each time, one way will seem strange, the other way will sound a lot like the way you are used to hearing the name. When the first syllable is stressed, let’s call it a “left foot”. When the 2nd syllable is stressed, we can call it a “right foot”.

PROMPT: Make a list of words and phrases that are iambs. Use the whisper-shout exercise to discover which syllable is stressed. Put the left feet on one side of your page and put the right feet on the other side. Write two lines that rhyme and that contain four feet each.

PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Use the whisper-shout exercise with words that are a part of your child(ren)’s daily experience. Put right-feet iambs  (with the 2nd syllable stressed) together and say them to a beat. Then try it with left-feet iambs (with the first syllable stressed). Try singing the words along with some instrumental music.

balLOON   –   DADdy   –   MOMmy   –   BATHtub   –   PUPpy

helLO   –    SUNshine    –    aBOVE    –    APple    –    goodBYE

Below, the names in the whisper-shout exercise appear with the stressed syllables in bold UPPERCASE letters. Did you figure out which syllables are stressed?

MIchael   –   EMma   –   AbDUL   –   SOphie   –   KaMAL   –   MYa

JoSE’    –    KENdra    –    GAry    –    MaRIE    –    TOny   –   MiCHELLE