Teaching Poetry When You’re No Poet


Poetry. I like to read it–once in a while. I like to recite it, especially when a line is just perfect for something I’m experiencing.

Until eighteen months ago, I didn’t like to write it.

But in the summer of 2015, I was in a writing seminar at Millersville University. As a part of that seminar, I wrote a couple poems. Feeble attempts, perhaps. But I enjoyed the experience. And when I returned to the classroom as an English teacher this fall, I was determined to have my students write some poetry with me.

But how do you teach poetry when you’re really no poet?

Enter Sara Holbrook’s excellent book, Practical Poetry. I used the exercises in the book to guide my class through a number of delightful poetry-writing experiences. Of course some of the poems they wrote were better than mine, which I didn’t mind at all.


As Holbrook suggests, I wrote a verb poem:


is a little chap,

has red curls and a sailor cap.

Rolls on the floor

and laughs till he cries,

a mischievous twinkle

in his eyes.

My kids wrote verb poems as well. Some were fun, but some were serious, like this one entitled “Cut.”

I also did Holbrook’s lesson on poems for two voices. The two voices I chose for my poem are marriage and singleness. Read it here: day7mylifeisgift2.

I’ll definitely return to Holbrook’s great book again when it’s time to teach poetry!





Where I’m From



I used George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From” poem with my students (as I had suggested in this post). Their poems were great. You can enjoy some of them here and here and here.

I finally wrote one of my own as well:

I am from the kitchen table.

From red-checked oilcloths and imitation blue willow plates.

I am from the trailer paneled in brown and carpeted in ’70s green,

Frayed, cozy, and smelling like fresh bread.

I am from paths through the towering weeds

Worn by my bare feet on my daily trek to the neighbor’s.

I’m from Beiler days and four-part harmony,

From Grossmommy Glick and Grandma Stoltzfus.

I’m from the work hard and do it right,

From the “turn the other cheek” and “don’t pity yourself.”

I’m from family devotions, Daddy reading Bible stories, and all of us kneeling in a row by the couch for bedtime prayers.

I’m from Germany and Switzerland,

Fresh-dug potatoes, garden green beans,

From the blue jays Grossmommy shot,

The car my little brother drove into her house.

In my mind I hold these memories,

The seeds of who I am today.

Jesus is truly so good. 

From one of my students who is standing on the Rock!

Streams of Grace

Tonight, my faith was tested. But without a doubt, I was still able to say God is good. Without a worry, I am able so Jesus is holding me in the palm of his hands. || I was at youth center. The kids had gone home. The clean up was done. We had just finished thanking the Lord for such a good night. We, as in us staff, sat around and carried on with conversation. I mentioned something about being content to one of my friends. “Con-ten-T?” One of my other friends had asked. ”Yeah? Is there something about the word content? He replied, “No, but we’re human. Is there even such a thing as being content?” Well, I mean, of course, there is; the Bible tells us to be content, but in all honesty, I am truly content. I went on saying, “this summer, I came up with a…

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Is Your Child Getting a Good Writing Education? Four Questions to Ask Your Child

Great questions for any writing teacher as well!

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

by Ken Lindblom

You want to make sure your child is getting an excellent education in writing. But if you’re not an expert, how do you really know? Here are four simple questions to ask your children about the writing that they are doing in their classes to determine if they are receiving an education in writing that is based on research and that reflects best practices for authentic writing.

Question 1: How many different genres are you writing in school?

The more genres your child is writing, the better.

Academic writing definitely matters. You want your child to be learning to write academic essays, literary analyses, and writing that will work for exams. But academic writing is just one color in the vast writing rainbow!

You want your child to be comfortable writing in many genres, and you want this for at least two reasons:

  1. Each genre of writing…

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Popcorn and Peter Elbow: Ways to Help Your Kids with Their Writing

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

by Laura J. Davies

It was 7:30 pm, otherwise known as the witching hour in my household. My 10-year-old son, Mac, was sitting at the computer desk and staring at a blank Word document, his arms crossed defiantly, his eyebrows furrowed.

“I can’t do it!” He stomped his foot and pounded the desk with his fist.

“I don’t get it!” He scowled at his baby sister, who was toddling around the corner with her little grocery cart filled with plastic fruits and veggies.

“This is too hard!” He shuffled the papers in front of him, and in a dramatic show of pre-teen angst, flung the whole stack onto the floor.

Hmmm, I thought. Perhaps it’s time for some parental intervention.

My first instinct was to gather the papers, put them back on the desk, and let Mac know in no uncertain terms that the blame for not starting…

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