Think all poetry has to rhyme? These inventive ways to teach kids about poetry are all about the free-verse. All  you need is imagination, a sense of humor and a few craft supplies. Read on for our four ways to teach your little bohemian the fine art of poetry.

cut up method of poetry collage                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

For the Baby Beatnik
Beat Generation writer William Burroughs’  “cut-up” method works strikingly well for the half-pint crowd. Think of it as a collage with words. Get out the safety scissors, grab some magazines and cut out words. You can also write words on paper and cut them out. Once you’ve got them cut up, toss them in the air. The order that they land in is the order you write down or recite.
Tip: Stick to words kids will recognize like animals and colors and don’t forget your articles (a, an, the) and conjunctions (and, but, if). Schoolhouse Rock flashbacks, anyone?

hike mt. tam kid craft photo: Niall David Photography 

For the Nature Lover
If you prefer your poetry in the garden Emily Dickinson-style,  try rock art poetry. Using waterproof ink and stamps or paint or paint pens, write words or individual letters on smooth stones. Arrange the words into a simple verse. As an added bonus, you can rearrange it anytime.
kids books stack spine poetry                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

For the Aspiring Avant Garde
Book spine poetry is about as simple as they get and a great intro for kids to poetry. Just stack books spine out and recite. For example:

What am I?
My Father’s Dragon
Demolition
The Dark

For the Free-Lovin’ Free Verser
Elementary school teachers will tell you the secret to those adorable poems your kids bring home are based in this easy method know as cinquain (pronouned “sin-kane”). It’s a five-line poem, with a 1, 2, 3, 4, 1 sequence. There are variations on the method, but here’s one you can try with yours:

Line 1: one word, noun
Line 2: two words, adjectives to describe noun in line 1
Line 3: three words, verbs that relate to line 1
Line 4: four words, feelings that relate to line 1 (make this one a complete sentence, e.g., “It makes me laugh.”)
Line 5: one word, noun/synonym for line 1

Example:

Rabbit
Fuzzy and white
Hopping, Sniffing, Hiding
How I Love You
Bunny

—Amber Guetebier; photos by Amber Guetebier except where noted.

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