Poetry Sucks

Here are some great ideas for Grade 1 and up (including adults!) poets and teachers
who need some ideas to get started.
Print this off for handy reference in your classroom or home.
The poetry here is all written by 7-9 year old children.

People think poetry sucks because:

They think it has to have incomprehensible words, impenetrable meaning and intricate rhyme and rhythm,
must be very serious, over 100 years old, British, and have no connection to real life.

But poetry really is:
Built on manageable patterns and concepts
Able to connect with all our everyday experiences
Able to be learned and taught at all ages with ease


Try out these ideas!




A. Start with Nursery Rhymes   
Change the words. They are familiar rhymes and rhythms to all (except ESL students). They are short, manageable and fun.



by Dixie

Poor little bear

Has lost his hair

And doesnít know where

To find it.


Leave it alone

And it will come home

Dragging its brush

Behind it.

by Tamara

Jump, jump, jumping up

On your trampoline

Merrily, merrily, merrily merrily,

So dizzy that Iím green.


The Cat                        


Scratch, scratch, scratch the chair

With my little claws

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

I know you like my paws.

by Candace


Yell, yell, yell in school

Loudly down the lane

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

The teacherís gone insane!

by Lindsey


Blow, blow, blow the wind

Gently down the hill

See the arms go round and round

Of the old wind mill


by Jack


Trip, trip on a rock

Falling on my head

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

A big scab where I bled.

by Mathew


Itch, itch, itch your skin

Underneath your arm

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Iím allergic to the barn!

Poor Little Kitty            
by Breann

Poor little Kitty

Has lost her mitty

And doesnít know where

To find it.


Leave it alone

And it will come home

Dragging its wool

Behind it.

Little Boy Blue             
by Sarah


Little boy blue

Has got the flu

And doesnít know how

To get rid of it

Leave it alone

And he will go home

Dragging the barf pail

Behind him.

Crocodile Dish
class poem

Croc, croc, crocodile
Chomping on the fish
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
And then he ate the dish.


Other changeable rhymes:
1, 2, Buckle My shoe
Mary Had Little Lamb
Jack and Jill
Old King Cole
Hey Diddle Diddle
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
This Little Pig Went to Market
Round and Round the Garden
Fuzzy Wuzzy
Little Jack Horner
skipping songs


Other ideas: Move on to rewriting familiar songs:

Coconut Moon songs by Kitty Cochrane

There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea, Frere Jacque, Down By The Bay, My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean, Zippity Do Dah
The Farmer In The Dell, I'se The Bye That Builds The Boat, The Ants Go Marching, Sunday Monday Happy Days
Bingo Was His Name-o, A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea

Note: even adults can use these simple poems and songs to create fun, meaningful pieces.


Concept: Line
While writing these, students will learn the concept of LINE (where to change lines)
Poems look different from other writing
A line is PART of a sentence
Lines are usually not long
Most lines are 2-5 words long
They can be just 1 word long
Lines always end on an interesting word (eg "dynamite" instead of "and")
Get rid of "and, then, so, but, because" (in all writing)
Lines can be grouped (in couples, fours, ...) called a stanza (equivalent of a paragraph)



B. Pattern Poems
Move on to writing simple poems with simple patterns. Here are some ideas - very easy, quick, and lovely. They can be made more sophisticated by focusing on a theme and using more descriptive words.


I Wish I Were, But Really I Am  (Kenneth Koch) Wishes, Lies and Dreams: Teaching Children To Write Poetry ISBN 0-06-080530-7 1080



Too Fishy
by Brendan


I wish I were a sharp teethed shark,

But really I am an orange goldfish.


I wish I were a stinging ray,

But really I am an electric eel


I wish I were a silver salmon,

But really I am a gray codfish.


I wish I were a white whale

But really I am plankton.

Too Small


I wish I was a blue whale

But really I am a shrimp


I wish I was a volcano

But really I am an ant hill


I wish I was 1,000 years old

But really I am 1 year old.


I wish I was a cat

But really I am a mouse.


I wish I had a castle

But really I have shack.

I Wish

By Nena


I wish I were a flower but really I am a seed.

I wish I were big but really I am small.

I wish I were a deer but really I am a moose.

I wish I were a tiger but really I am a lion.


Outer Space Wish

By Robert


I wish I were a burning comet,

But really Iím a gas planet.


I wish I were an alien,

But really Iím a space ship


I wish I were a small star,

But really Iím the big sun


I wish I were a hard planet

But really Iím the big moon.


I Used To Be, But Now I Am  (Kenneth Koch)


Too Soft

by Timothy


I used to be a piece of white old cloth,

But now I am a white comfortable blanket.


I used to be a piece of crystal clear ice,

But now I am some fresh drinking water.


I used to be a green stiff chalkboard.

But now I am a piece of white chalk.


I used to be a little sunflower seed

But now I am a giant sunflower petal


I wish I were a cow

But really I am an ox.

by James


I used to smell like bad cheese

But now I smell like shampoo


I used to smell like a bottle depot

But now I smell like roses


I used to smell like alcohol

But now I smell like sunflowers.


I used to smell like bad butter

But now I smell like apples.


I used to smell like barf

But now I smell like lilies.


I had a bath.

By Rylie



I used to be a caterpillar.

But now I am a butterfly.


I used to be a baby.
But now I am a teenager.


I used to be an alligator.                

But now I am a crocodile.


I used to be an egg.

But now I am a dinosaur.


I used to be a knight.

But now I am a king.



Make your own pattern

I Got A Fly                   
by Blake


I got a fly

But it flew away


I got two flies

But they flew away


I got three flies

But they flew away


Some day I will be a fly.

And I will fly away too.


Selling Flies                 
by Robyn


I am selling flies.


I will sell a fly to the bakery

And they will make shoo fly pie.


I will sell a fly to the painter

And he will make fly speck paint.


I will sell a fly to my friends.

They will keep it as a pet.


My mom says

I will become a millionaire


If I do

I will buy her lots of flies.

My Pet Fly                   
by Kirsten


I have a pet fly.

Her name is March.

She was born in April.

Her motherís name is May,

And she was eaten in June.

Her fatherís name is July,

And he was swatted in August.

Her brotherís name is September,

And he was stepped on in October.

Her boyfriendís name is November,

And he was frozen in December.

So she slept all January,

Had babies in February,

And she called them all March.

Why Do Flies Buzz?
by Jerrica


Buzz says the fly

When he wants to sleep


Buzz says the fly

Because he wants some food


Buzz says the fly

Who wants some friends.


Buzz says the fly

Where are you?


Buzz says momma fly.

Itís time to go to bed.




Other Pattern Ideas (Kitty):

I seem to be..../ But really I am....
In the night..../ In the day...
At home I'm..../At school I'm....
When I'm sad I.... /But when I'm glad I....
When I was small..../But now that I'm big....
When I'm old..../ But now that I'm young...

If I were a boy..../ But because I'm a girl....
Counting, months of the year, days of the week
12 Days of Christmas
I Know an old lady... (add on poems and songs)
Smaller to bigger, older to younger, richer to poorer


Concept: Pattern
All poems have a pattern of some sort
Patterns are in all subjects: math, reading, art, science, social, music, gym....
Learning to recognize patterns helps students become better problem solvers and organizers
Working within a pattern gives students a place to begin and end
Look for other patterns in poetry that you read with the students.
It's important to have students NOT RHYME in these poems.
Rhyming can limit writers from exploring other poetic concepts, so set rhyming aside for now.



C. Borrow Poems 
Read lots of poems. Look for poems where you can borrow the patterns and themes. (Big Books are great, Shel Silverstein, poems in readers, Dennis Lee...) Look for the patterns, look for the line. Get poetry books in the class, read them out loud, read them together. Discuss them, enjoy them, find one you can jump off from.


By Sarah


Watch out for boxes

Theyíre full of foxes


Watch out for wings

Theyíre full of rings


Watch out for socks

Theyíre full of rocks


Watch out for whales

Theyíre full of nails.


Watch out for cops

Theyíre full of mops


Watch out for rungs

Theyíre full of slugs.

(adapted from a Big Book called "Danger!))

by Katelyn


Look at the leaves

Look at them spin











None of them making the





(from a poem in a reader about fish)


If I Were (inspired by a Shel Silverstein poem)


If I Were One Inch Tall
by Karen

If I were once inch tall
I could bathe in a film container.

A calculator could be a computer.

I could live in a dollhouse.

A cookie would be a pie.

If I were one inch tall.

If I were one inch tall.

Broccoli would be a tree.

Cherries would be apples.

A jellybean would last a year.

If I were one inch tall.

If I were one inch tall,

A centipede would be a train.

An ant would be my friend.

An aphid would be a pet.

If I were only one inch tall.

One Inch Tall
by Lacey


If I was only one inch tall,

I could use a bead as a ball,

I could use a tissue as a blanket,

I could use a pebble as a chair.


If I was only one inch tall,

I could use a paper airplane as a real airplane;
I could use an empty tissue box as a house,

I would be able to ride a caterpillar.


If I was only one inch tall,

I could use a leaf as a sled,

I would use a container as a playground,

I should beware of mosquitoes,

(If I was only one inch tall.)


Other Adaptable Big Books:

Yes Ma'am, Hairy Bear, Dan Dan, Boo Hoo, Grandpa Grandpa, Smarty Pants, Mrs. Wishy Washy, One Cold Wet Night
(Shortland Publications New Zealand, distributed by Ginn)




D. Comparisons

Powerful poetry usually has striking comparisons.


Me, Myself, I (Kitty)  Kids love focusing on themselves. The poem can be really who they are, or who they'd like to be. These are lovely displayed with a self-portrait.


by Mark


My eyes  

are as brown as chocolate

being made.


My headís
smaller than soccer ball
in the air.


My arms

are like an 
armchair being used.


Iím as hungry

as a starving



Iím as fast

as a cheetah

flying through the air.


I get as mad

as a snorting



Iím as messy

as pig in a

mud puddle.

Me !
By Brandon
My fingers are as small as a yellow pencil.
My arms are as skinny as a pen cut in half.
My face is as white as a sheet of paper.
My nose is as red as a cherry.
My eyes are as blue as the sky.



I have eyes as brown as paint oozing.

My hair is as hazel as a mud puddle.

My mouth is like a chatterbox that never stops.

My skin is as smooth as a nutshell.

My cheeks are as pink as a fresh rose.

I am as fast as a cheetah in a race.

I am as gentle as butterflies flying in the air.

I am as friendly as a black spider crawling.

I am as hilarious as a monkey dancing.

I am as sly as a fox chasing a rabbit.




by Thomas

I am as fat as a whale.

My eyes are as brown as a rolling log.

I am strong as a Kodiak bear standing up.

I can bite as hard as a komodo dragon eating a goat.

My fingernails are as sharp as a pocket-knife.

I am as hungry as a giant grumbling.

I am as fierce as an alligator roaring.

I am as smart as a parrot talking.

I am as creative as an artist painting.

I am as funny as a clown juggling and standing on a ball at the same time.



My hair is as brown as chocolate pudding cooking on the stove.

My eyes are as brown as a bear coming out of his cave.

My hand is as brown as a piece of wood found on the beach.

My teeth are as white as snow on the mountain.

Iím as fast as a shooting star.

Iím as tall as a zebra jumping in the air.

Iím as quiet as a turtle in the grass.

Iím as brave as a lion running in the jungle.

Iím as happy as a monkey jumping up and down

Iím as kind a  a butterfly flying freely through the air.


Concept: Comparisons
Comparing is the easiest way to clearly describe something
Compare to something unrelated (not "snow is like cold rain")
Comparisons need to be sensible (a fly is not like an eel)
Comparing using "like" or "as" is called simile
Comparing without "like" or "as" is called metaphor
Comparisons are used in powerful story and non-fiction writing too




E. Powerful Words
All poetry has beautiful words: powerful, interesting, potent.


Haiku: Traditional Japanese poetry, with 5 syllables on the first and third lines, and 7 on the second line. Writing haiku, with such a limited number of words, helps writers to eliminate the small, boring, unnecessary words. What you're left with is a power packed punch.

By Robbie

Snowflakes are like big
Clouds falling from the sky
Softly hitting me.

By B

Snowflakes are like food
Soggy, wet, juicy, tasty
They melt on your tongue

Winter Snowflakes
by Michael


Snowflakes are like small
Bits of confetti falling
Under the dreamful sky

by Scott


Flowers are mini
Helicopters. They fly high.
Both have propellers.

by Sarah 
(winner of Young Authorís Competition)

Tigersí teeth are sharp
Nails that bite into soft wood
Like into fresh meat

Dancing Lights Above
By Kenny

Northern lights are like
Rainbow waves in the ocean
Rolling in the dark

Nothern Lights

Northern lights are rivers
Rippling over huge, hard rocks
Running past water

Northern Lights
By Bryan

Northern lights are like
Thick blue rope getting pulled, tied
Twisted up in the sky

Big Blue Waves
by Britni

Northern lights are like
Giant beautiful blue waves
Shining in the air

Rivers Flowing

Northern lights are like
Rivers flowing through the sky
Rippling softly!

by Madison


Leaves are like blobs of
Paint falling from oak trees
Splatting the hard ground.

by Stephen

Leaves are like a bird
Floating in the lovely sky
Swooping carefully.

Synchronized Swimming
By Karly

Swimming, splashing free,
Underwater sequence
Turning round, and round. 

Clouds Haiku 

Clouds are like little
White doves with feathers reaching
Across the blue sky.  

by Lindsey

Lightning is like
A spear shooting through the sky
On dangerous nights.  

Concept: Powerful Words
Poetry is condensed writing
Write the poem with the creative, right side of the brain

Then edit with the left side: get rid of half of the words
Underline 5 boring words and change them into interesting words
Use each interesting word only once
Put words together that normally aren't pals for impact (slithery rain)
Look for synonyms (right click on computer in Word)
Collect and post lists of powerful words found in reading material

Practice speaking with powerful, more precise words


F. Use Your Senses
Poetry helps us see, hear, feel, taste, smell, NOTICE things: for the first time, again, in detail

Senses Poems (Kitty) and Colour Poems (Kenneth Koch)

by Julie


Flies smell like

A pigsty


Rotten tomatoes


Flies look like

Mini gorillas

Moths covered in ash

Black airplanes


Flies taste like

Sour milk on bread

Birch bark

Brussels sprouts


Flies feel like

Snake skin

Vibrating strings



Flies sound like

An earthquake, wind whistling

A lion roaring


I think flies are fabulous!

Senses and the Movie Theatre
by Stefan


I see people.

I hear pop pouring.

I smell liquorice.

I taste popcorn.

I feel someone poking me.

I know this is going to be fun.


by Janet


What is purple?

Purple I hear

Is the great grandmother of red


Purple is tulips

Blooming in the spring

Purple is a wonderful thing


Purple is the colour of amethysts

On a big, gold ring.


Purple sounds like a

A bird chirruping a summer song.


Purple is the wrapper

Of an Easter egg

Made of brown chocolate


Purple is a butterflyís wings

Sparkling in the morning sun.

by Elija


Gold is an old sunset

Rising again

Gold is a wedding ring

Sliding on a finger

Gold is a road

Rolling through a fairy tale

Gold is a belling ringing

In the Christmas spirit




F. Play with Words:
Poetry is fun. Play - with the words, ideas, sounds (onomatopoeia), shapes, rhyme, rhythm, word order, humour, double meanings (homonyms), repeating sounds (alliteration).


Reverse Poems (Kitty) (can be read forwards and backwards)


by Kevin





by Kevin







by Lindsey







by Tomas










Sound Poems (Kenneth Koch and Shel Silverstein)

Musical Sounds           


I am a drum.

Boom boom!


I am a triangle

Cling Clang!


I am a flute

Toot toot!


I am a piano

Ping ping!


I am a bell

Bing bing!


I am an orchestra

Boom boom cling clang toot toot ping ping bing bing!

Sounds of a Hockey Puck
by Kevin


I am a hockey puck.




I crash!



I hate


To go






Boing! Smash! Ugh!

Sound Poem 
by Bryan

I am a cat.



I am soft.



I am fast.



Nibble, nibble!

(On your pet fish)

The Storm
by Mathew













(adapted from a Shel Silverstein Poem "The Fourth of July")



Line/Shape Poem (Kitty)
Use words in different shapes to depict the item, action or emotion

             fly        I
         I can           t   
     I think               r
Sometimes              y

by Kitty 




. Break the rules
Poetry is art, which means you get to break the rules, and make up your own. Pretend, lie, make up words and punctuation...


What Am I? (Kenneth Koch) Pretend to be something you're not, and give hints.

I Am


I am a truck,

A red truck

With chains on my wheels

To grind through the snow.

I hate when my chains

Fall off my tires.

I like when I have some oil.




I am a cow

I am brown

I go

Clumpity clump

Click clock





Bow Wow
by Lindsey


I am a dog



I love food.



I like to chase cats



I like the mail carrier



But he does not like me



you are....      the pirate is..... the main character is...... mom is..... the sandwich is..... the Earth is..... Our principal is..... my sister is.....


Lie Poems (Kenneth Koch) Tell a lie.


Crossed Fingers
by Breann


I always

Eat all my dinner.


I always

Save my money.


I always

Brush my hair.


I always

Dust the house.


I always

Go to bed on time.


My family believes me.

(But theyíre gullible!)

In The House

By Ben


I always

Clean my dirty room


I always

Eat my yummy vegetables


I always

Brush my disgusting teeth


I always

Wash my muddy dog


I always

Walk my crazy dog.


Arenít I the perfect son?

Lie Poem                  
by Kolton

I always

Clean the windows

I always

Wash the dishes

I always

Wash the floor

I never

Clean my room

I never

Do my homework.

Because Iím a sweetie pie.

Lie Poem                     


I always

Do the dishes


I never

Play with toys


I donít ever

Bug my mom


I never

Play games


Can I be your son?



My Third Eye (Kenneth Koch) Pretend you have another eye that can see things your other two eyes can't

My Third Eye               
by Lindsey

My third eye

Can see the universe spinning

Like a whirlpool in space.

My third eye can see

The stars shining like

Diamonds in the sky.

My third eye can see

My heart pumping

The blood through my body.

My third eye can see

The earth spinning

Round and round like a top.

My third eye can see

God helping people.


My Third Eye               
by Andrew

My third eye

Can see my teeth shining

Inside my mouth.

My third eye

Can see the north pole freezing cold.

My third eye

Can see my gushy eyeballs inside my head.

My third eye

Can see the hot equator all around the world.

My third eye

Can see the inside of my shiny white bones.

My third eye

Can see right through a swimming whale in the sea.

My Third Eye                 

My third eye can see Mars

In the sky spinning.

My third eye can see a big hole

That black little rabbits are sleeping in

To have a rest.

My third eye can see small holes

That pink worms dig into the ground.

My third eye can see wind

Blowing away leaves.

My third eye can see palm trees

In Mexico.

My third eye can see Jupiter

Doing nothing.

My third eye can see the white, bright moon

Lighting up the sky.


Make up words (Kitty)

Did You Ever See A Fly? 
by Jason


Did you ever see a fly?


Theyíre       mushy





Theyíre       yucky





Theyíre       jumpy





Theyíre       gutsy





Theyíre very, very gross!


Punctuation is used properly in most writing, but played with in poetry
Poems can be justified on the left, or right, or centered.
Put the lines into stanzas, or pairs, or not
Make the words big, or small, capitals, or all lower case
The point is to make it interesting, and accentuate the meaning




Other Kenneth Koch poem ideas
Comparisons (My mom is like a pig turning pink in the sun....)
Dreams (I dream I'm on stage/with Barbra Streisand....)
If  (If I were the snow/ I'd freeze your nose...)
Poems Written to Music
Swan of Bees (someday I'll see a swan of bees/ a cloud of pansies/   a storm of wasps)


Why not poems?
shopping lists, letters, recipes, For Sales, advertisements, signs, tongue twisters, counting, months, maps, picture books, addresses, phone messages
report cards, mix languages, upside down, angle, scrambled, be silly, make up words, body parts, conversations, plays, labels, book marks
directions, message pads, wanted posters, stories.



For great Theme Poems, check out The Fly Website

Back to Kitty Cochrane's Home Page