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How to Write Nonsense Verse

How to Write Nonsense Verse by Kenn Nesbitt

Today, we’re going to dive into a super fun and silly type of poetry called “nonsense verse.” Have you ever heard a poem that made you giggle with its silly words and funny sounds? That’s what nonsense verse is all about!

Poets like Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll were masters of this playful poetry. They created poems that twist and turn language in the most delightful ways. Nonsense verse is like a playful dance of words, where anything is possible and everything is amusing. So, let’s jump into this wacky world and discover how to create our own nonsense verse!

What is Nonsense Verse?

Nonsense verse is a type of poetry that’s all about having fun with words and sounds. It doesn’t have to make sense in the way that other poems or stories do. In fact, the more playful and silly it is, the better!

In nonsense verse, poets use made-up words, silly phrases, and funny rhymes to create a world where the imagination can run wild. These poems often sound musical and have a rhythm that makes them fun to say out loud. They can include fantastical creatures, absurd situations, and lots of humor.

Nonsense verse has been brought to life by some incredibly imaginative poets. Here are a few snippets to tickle your funny bone:

Edward Lear, known for his quirky limericks, wrote poems like this:

On the top of the Crumpetty Tree
The Quangle Wangle sat,
But his face you could not see,
On account of his Beaver Hat.
For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide,
With ribbons and bibbons on every side
And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace,
So that nobody ever could see the face
Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.

It’s silly, it’s whimsical, and it makes you wonder about such a crazy creature!

Lewis Carroll gave us the famous “Jabberwocky” and many other nonsense poems in his book Through the Looking-Glass. Here’s a part of it:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Notice how these lines are filled with made-up words that sound fun and create a fantastical image in your mind? Nonsense verse allows poets to play with language in the most creative ways. It’s like opening a door to a world where anything can happen, and usually does!

How to Write Your Own Nonsense Verse

Now it’s your turn to write some silly, whimsical nonsense verse! Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Invent Fun Words: Don’t worry if the words don’t exist; make them up! Think of sounds you like and play around with them. How about ‘flibberflabber’, ‘whizzlewomp’, or ‘gloopityglop’? Then just string them together in a poem, like this:

The flibberflabber from Whizzlewomp
was glooppityglopping along.
He dumbledrummed on his bizzlebomp
while singitysanging a song.

If you need help making up new nonsense words, I’ve got a whole lesson right here on how, when, and why to make up words!

2. Create Silly Characters or Situations: Maybe there’s a cat who loves to tap dance, or a moon that likes to eat cheese. The crazier, the better!

3. Use Rhyme and Rhythm: Try to make your lines rhyme in a funny way, and give your poem a bouncy rhythm. It makes your nonsense verse even more enjoyable to read aloud.

4. Let Your Imagination Run Wild: There are no rules. If you want a purple sky or a talking shoe, go for it! Nonsense verse is all about breaking the boundaries of the ordinary.

5. Have Fun with It: Remember, the goal is to have fun and be creative. Don’t worry about making sense. The more nonsensical, the better! That’s why it’s called nonsense verse.

Here’s a little example to inspire you:

In the town of Giggleswick,
Lived a jolly bumbleflick,
With ears of seven different hues,
And eighteen pairs of talking shoes.

Hop to It!

Now, grab your pen and let those wacky, wonderful ideas flow. Who knows what fantastic nonsense verse you’ll create! Remember, the most important part of this creative journey is to let your imagination soar and to have loads of fun.

Whether your poem is about a flying pancake or a whispering tree, every line you write is a celebration of your creativity. Nonsense verse isn’t just about writing; it’s about enjoying the wild and wonderful side of language and life.

So, keep inventing those zany words and wacky worlds. Share your poems with friends and family, and see how your laughter and joy spread. Every nonsense verse you write is a masterpiece of imagination, and the world is eager to hear your unique and silly voice.

Here’s to your fantastic adventures in the land of nonsense verse! Happy writing!

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write a Kenning Poem

What is a Kenning?

wave traveler

Imagine you are a secret agent, and instead of saying the name of something directly, you say it in a secret code; you describe it in a clever new way. That’s what a “kenning” does! A kenning is like a little riddle made of two words that describe something without using its name. For example, instead of “ocean,” you might say “whale-road.” Instead of “boat” you might say “wave-traveler.”  Sounds fun, right?

Origins of Kenning Poems

Viking

Kenning poems come from long ago, used by the Vikings and people in Northern Europe. Yes, even Vikings wrote poetry! These poems didn’t just tell a story; they made it exciting with these special word puzzles.

Creating Kennings

To create your own kennings, think about the attributes (qualities or features) and actions (things it does) of your chosen subject. Look for clues to describe your subject in a fun way.

  • Attributes: These are things that describe what your subject is like. If your subject is a tree, its attributes include branches, leaves, a trunk, it’s height, etc. So, you could create kennings like “branch-tower” or “leaf-waver.”
  • Actions: These are things that your subject does. If your subject is a dog, it might “bark,” “run,” or “wag its tail.” From these actions, you could think of kennings like “bark-maker” or “tail-wagger.”

By focusing on both what your subject is like and what it does, you can come up with a whole world of creative kennings. This makes your poem not just a bunch of words, but a lively picture painted with your imagination!

How to Write Your Kenning Poem

1. Choose a Topic: Pick something you like or find interesting. It could be an animal (a cat, a fish, a dinosaur, etc.) a place (your school, the beach, the moon, and so on), or even a person (an artist, a football player, a character from a book or movie, you get the idea).

2. Brainstorm Kennings: Think of descriptive and fun ways to talk about your topic without saying its name. If your topic is a “book,” you might think of “story-haven” or “page-palace.”

3. Put Your Kennings Together: Start putting these kennings into short lines to form a poem. Remember, there’s no need for it to rhyme, and your poem can have as many or as few kennings as you like!

4. Be Creative: The best part about kenning poems is how creative you can be. Mix and match words and see what interesting kennings you can come up with!

Example Kenning Poem

If I choose a cat as my topic, my kenning poem might look like this:

Whisker-painter
Purr-machine
Mouse-chaser
Night-explorer

Or, if I were writing about the ocean, I might create something like this:

Horizon-hugger
Fish-playground
Ship-road
Wave-shaper
Moon-mirror
Tide-cradle

This poem uses kennings to describe various aspects of the ocean, from its interaction with the moon and tides to its role as a habitat for marine life and a path for ships. It paints a picture of the ocean’s vast and dynamic nature.

Give it a Title

Once you are done writing your kenning poem, give it a title. If you want people to know ahead of time what your poem is about, try using the subject as the title. For example, you might simply call your poem “Cat” or “Ocean.”

On the other hand, if you want your poem to be more of a puzzle for readers to figure out, give it a title such as “What Am I?” or “Who Am I?” Then the kennings in your poem are clues to the mystery in the title’s question. Here’s an example. It’s up to you to figure out what this kenning poem is about.

What Am I?

Tentacle-twister
Ink-squirter
Reef-dancer
Camouflage-master
Shape-shifter
Ocean-wonder

Your Turn!

Now it’s your turn to become a kenning poet. Pick a topic, brainstorm your kennings, and put them into a poem. Have fun, and remember, there’s no wrong way to create your kenning poem! It’s all about using your imagination and having fun with words. Happy writing!

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write Lyric and Dramatic Poetry

What Is Lyric Poetry?

You’ve probably heard the word “lyric” before, meaning the words of a song. Today we’re going to be talking about another meaning of the same word. We’re going to talk about lyric poetry.

Because “lyric poetry” and “song lyrics” sound similar, it’s easy to mix them up, but they’re really two different things. Lyrics in a song are just the words that go with the music, whether they describe the singer’s feelings or not. But a “lyric poem” is a special kind of poetry where you express your feelings and thoughts, no music needed.

While some kinds of poems tell stories, or describe things, In a lyric poem, you share your emotions, moods, and feelings. Whether you’re super excited, kind of sad, maybe a bit angry, or even if you’re just marveling at the beauty of a sunset, lyric poems capture these moments and put them into words.

Because lyric poems express the poet’s emotions, they are usually written from the poet’s point, using words like “I” and “my” rather than talking about something or someone else. In other words, you might say, “I am feeling happy” rather than “Hannah’s feeling happy.” Got it?

Lyre

And, lastly, lyric poems are usually short and often rhyme because, in ancient times, they were meant to be sung and accompanied by a musical instrument, such as a lyre, a small instrument like a tiny harp. In fact, the word lyric comes from “lyre.” Pretty cool, right?

What About “Dramatic” Poetry?

Some lyric poems are also “dramatic poems.” A dramatic poem is a lyric poem that describes emotions about a situation in a way that’s very expressive, almost like you’re acting on a stage. They’re not just about your feelings; they’re meant to be read aloud, maybe even acted out before an audience.

In other words, all dramatic poems are lyric poems, but not all lyric poems are dramatic poems. Make sense?

A Few Fun Examples

In each of these lyric poems, the poet is expressing their emotions about something:

  • In the shape poem “Pizza, Pizza, I Love You” the poet shares their feelings of love with their favorite food.
  • In the poem “Zoom Gloom” the poet complains about how bored they are with remote learning.
  • And in “Whenever It’s December” the poet describes the joy of remembering the year past and looking forward to the new one.

Now, let’s get you writing your own lyric poem! Here are several ways to start…

Choose a Feeling

Think of a feeling you want to write about. It could be happiness, sadness, excitement, or even wonder. Write it down, and maybe add a detail or two, like this:

I’m angry! I’m angry! I just want to scream!

or

I’ve never been as happy as the way I’m feeling now.

Then continue your poem, telling the world what it is that you are angry or happy or excited about.

Pick a Moment

Or pick a moment that was filled with emotion, like the first time you played in the snow, or a particularly disgusting food you had to eat, and get started. But rather than describe it in the past, place yourself in the moment, as if it’s happening to you now. Maybe your poem begins like this:

I can’t believe I didn’t know,
I love, I love, I love the snow!

or maybe this:

This Brussels sprout that’s on my plate
is something that I truly hate.

Write About Something You Like or Don’t Like

If you can’t think of a moment or a feeling, maybe just think of something you like or don’t like. Love your Xbox? Write about that. Can’t wait for the end of the school year? Tell the world about it! Wish that your cat would stop attacking you? There’s even a lyric poem in that.

One of my favorite lyric poem that describes something the poet doesn’t like is “Homework! Oh, Homework!” by Jack Prelutsky, which begins like this:

Homework! Oh, Homework!
I hate you! You stink!
I wish I could wash you away in the sink,
if only a bomb
would explode you to bits.
Homework! Oh, homework!
You’re giving me fits.

Useful Tips for Writing Lyric Poetry

Now that you know how to get started writing a lyric poem, here are a few more tips to help you as you write:

Use Descriptive Words: To make your poem vivid, use descriptive words. For example, if you’re writing about you feel when you visit the beach, you can talk about the ‘sparkling blue waves’ or the ‘soaring white seagulls.’ These descriptions help your readers picture and feel what you’re saying.

Create Short Lines: Lyric poems usually have short lines and often rhyme, though they don’t have to. Instead of writing long sentences or paragraphs, try writing short lines with just a few words, and maybe rhyming just a bit. Look at the examples above to see what I mean.

Read Lyric Poems Written by Other Poets: The more lyric poems you read that were written by others, the more ideas and inspiration you will get. Reading lots of poems will show you many different ways to go about expressing your own emotions in poetry. (Just remember not to copy other poets’ words, but to use your own instead.)

Share Your Feelings: Don’t be shy about putting your feelings into words. After all, that is the whole point of lyric poems. If a walk in the woods made you feel peaceful, write about that peaceful feeling. If it excited you, let that excitement show in your words.

Read it Aloud: Once you’ve written your poem, read it out loud. Lyric poetry is about expressing emotion, and hearing the words can help you feel if the emotion is coming through.

And remember…

There’s No Right or Wrong: In poetry, your feelings and how you express them are always right.

Practice Makes Perfect: The more you write, the better you’ll get at expressing yourself.

Have Fun: Writing poetry is like painting with words. So enjoy the process of creating something new and expressive!

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write a Triolet

How to Write a Triolet

Have you ever wanted to try your hand at a type of poem with a unique pattern? Let’s dive into the magical world of the triolet (pronounced “tree-oh-lay”). The triolet is a short and fun poem that comes with its very own set of rules. Let’s explore how to write one!

What is a Triolet?

A triolet is an 8-line poem that has a specific rhyme scheme and repeats some of its lines.

It is a cool type of poem was invented in France a long, long time ago (way back in the 13th century!). Its name sort of sounds like “triple,” which makes sense because the poem repeats its first line three times.

People in France loved using the triolet for songs and short poems. Later on, this style of poem traveled to England, where famous poets like Robert Bridges and Thomas Hardy played with its fun pattern. They liked how it was short, but still had a special rhythm and repeating lines.

So, the triolet is a poem that’s been loved by many for hundreds of years, all because of its neat style!

The Rules

Like all poetic forms, triolets have their own set of rules. The most important rules

  • Rhyme Scheme: The triolet follows this rhyme pattern: ABaAabAB. The capital letters mean those lines are repeated. The lower case letters mean those lines rhyme with the upper case ones, but aren’t repeated lines. If you aren’t familiar with rhyme schemes, this lesson plan explains them.
  • Repetition: Lines 1, 4, and 7 are the same. Lines 2 and 8 are the same too!
  • Line Length: While there’s no strict rule for how long each line should be, it’s good to keep them similar in length. You can count the number of syllables or the number of feet to make sure your lines are the same length.
  • Rhythm: Just like the line length, triolets don’t have to have a certain rhythm. However, it’s best if all your lines have the same rhythm as one another.

Here’s an example triolet by the poet Laura Purdie Salas:

Bees of Winter

Winter bees beat wings of snow (A)
to form a storm—a blizzard swarm— (B)
when frosty Arctic breezes blow. (a)
Winter bees beat wings of snow, (A)
dancing high and diving low. (a)
The wind’s the stage where they perform. (b)
Winter bees beat wings of snow (A)
to form a storm–a blizzard swarm. (B)

—Copyright © Laura Purdie Salas. All Rights Reserved

See? Lines 1, 4, and 7 are identical, as are lines 2 and 8! In other words, the (A) and (B) lines are repeated. You’ll also notice that the (a) lines rhyme with the (A) lines, and the (b) line rhyme with the (B) lines. And, if you count them, you’ll see that all the lines in this poem are about the same length, each having seven or eight syllables.

Tips for Ideas

  • Nature: Just like our sample poem about bees in winter, nature can inspire countless poems. Think about the sun, rain, trees, or animals.
  • Emotions: How do you feel today? Happy, sad, excited, or maybe curious? Write about it!
  • Everyday Life: Something as simple as your breakfast, a game you played, or a chat with a friend can become a great poem.
  • Dreams & Fantasies: Dragons, mermaids, spaceships – let your imagination run wild!

Everyone, even the greatest poets, started with their first poem. Don’t worry if your triolet isn’t perfect on the first try. What’s important is to have fun and express yourself. Remember, poetry is a way to play with words, and there’s no right or wrong. So, grab a pen and paper, and let your creative spirit shine!

Worksheet

Kenn Nesbitt
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Interactive Livestreams for 2023-24

Kenn Nesbitt Online Virtual School Author Visit Zoom Meet Skype Teams

Throughout the school year, I visit many, many schools around the world virtually through Zoom, Meet, Teams, Skype, etc. In other words, I can visit your class or your school online whenever it’s convenient for you, for a fee.

However, if your class or school would like to visit with me, but you don’t have a budget for virtual field trips, I also provide webinars in conjunction with Streamable Learning, the leading provider of interactive livestreams in the K-12 market in the US and Canada. Through quality educational content and an easy-to-use platform, Streamable Learning aims to in introduce interactive livestreams as a valuable supplemental tool for classrooms and families seeking to inspire and educate their K-12 students.

During the 2023-24 school year, I will be doing more than a dozen online webinars, including interactive poetry-writing lessons and programs on famous children’s poets from Dr. Seuss to Shel Silverstein. Schools are invited to join any of these sessions for free as my guest.

Streamable Learning and Zoom

Streamable Learning LivestreamStreamable Learning offers a convenient, cost-effective, and comprehensive calendar of interactive livestreams delivered by subject matter experts and designed to supplement your existing and future lesson plans. To discover hundreds of engaging, educational programs, have a look a their Livestream Calendar.

I have been offering interactive poetry livestreams through Streamable Learning for several years now, and I hope you’ll be able to join me this year. You can register and participate in as many of these upcoming sessions as you like.

If you would like to attend one of my programs, please see the list of registration links shown below. When you click on the link, you will need to fill out just a few items and once you have finished the form, you will then receive an email with the livestream link. If you do not, please check your spam folder. It is possible that the livestream link will end up there. To join the program, you will need to download the Zoom app. You can download this free app at www.zoom.us/download and click on “Zoom Client for Meetings.” If you have any difficulty, contact efriedman@streamablelearning.com.

2023-24 Livestream Schedule

September 25, 2023

March 1, 2024

March 21, 2024

April 1, 2024

April 17, 2024

May 9, 2024

June 3, 2024

If you would prefer to arrange a private interactive videoconference for your class or school only, simply click here to schedule an online author visit. I look forward to seeing your students online!

Can You Make Up Words?

Made-Up Words

Hey there young poets and word wizards! Today, I want to talk to you about a super fun part of writing: making up words! Have you ever wondered if it’s okay to create your own words? The answer is a big, booming YES! But there’s a little secret to it. Let’s dive in.

Why Make Up Words?

Imagine a world where there are no boundaries to your imagination, a place where you can create anything you like. This is what happens when you make up words! It’s like painting with colors that no one else has ever seen.

The Rules

Here’s the thing: just like with any kind of magic, there are some guidelines. If you decide to make up words, they should have a purpose. That means we don’t just throw letters together like spaghetti on a wall. Instead, we craft them like a sculptor, making sure every new word has a reason to exist in our story or poem.

Dr. Seuss: The Word Magician

Let’s talk about one of the most famous word inventors—Dr. Seuss. Have you ever heard of a “Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz” or “Truffula trees” or even a “nerd?” Dr. Seuss loved to create words that were fun to say and added sparkle to his stories. But if you notice, every made-up word in his books fits perfectly with the world he’s creating. They have a rhyme, a rhythm, and a reason.

Roald Dahl and His Whimsical Words

Then there’s Roald Dahl—the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—another wizard of words! Words like “whizzpopping” and “snozzcumber” make his stories come alive in a zany, unique way. What’s super cool about Dahl is that some of his fanciful words weren’t entirely made up! He borrowed playful words like “hornswoggle” and “whangdoodle.” These words sound silly to us, but they were actually old-timey talk in America. So, while they sound new and fantastical in Dahl’s British stories, they were a wink to older, playful language from across the pond!

In fact, there’s even a Roald Dahl Dictionary that lists all of his invented words and even tells you what they mean. So if you need to know the difference between a “trogglehumper” and a “gobstopper,” or what it means to be “biffsquiggled,” (or if you just love reading about made-up words like I do!) this might be just the book for you.

The Power of a Single Word 

Speaking of inventing words, have you ever heard of the book “Frindle” by Andrew Clements? In this captivating story, a boy named Nick Allen comes up with a new word for a pen: “frindle.” What starts as a simple act of creativity becomes a sensation when he convinces his friends to use it. The magic of this tale? The word catches on so much that it eventually finds its way into the dictionary! It just goes to show that with imagination, persistence, and a little bit of fun, a single made-up word can leave a lasting mark on the world.

The Magic of ‘Jabberwocky’ and Lewis Carroll’s Wordplay

Lewis Carroll, the mastermind behind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, even gifted us with the nonsense poem “Jabberwocky.” This poem, found in the sequel Through the Looking-Glass, is filled with playful and puzzling words like “slithy,” “mimsy,” “toves,” and “borogoves.” These invented words might seem confusing at first, but they paint a vivid picture in our minds, even if we don’t know their exact meanings. Carroll’s genius lay in his ability to craft words that sounded just right for the creatures and scenes they described. In fact, some of the words he invented for this poem, including “chortle” and “galumph,” can now be found in any English-language dictionary. Carroll invented them, and they became “real” words, just like Nick Allen’s “frindle.”

The Art of Crafting Words in Poetry

When writing poetry, you can make up words just like Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll did, but you have be careful. Poetry is like music, and every word has to hit the right note. Sometimes, poets might feel the urge to invent a word just because they can’t find the perfect rhyme. This is a pitfall we call a “forced rhyme,” and it can make your poem feel, well, forced! It’s like putting a square peg in a round hole; it just doesn’t fit. Dr. Seuss, for instance, didn’t make up words just to rhyme. He did it with intention, crafting each word to fit perfectly into his poetic landscape.

And guess what? I’ve done it, and you can do it too. In my poem “Today I Decided to Make up a Word” I invented dozens of new words. I didn’t create them because I was stuck; I did it purposefully to add magic to the poem. When making up words in poems, always ask: is this word here for a genuine reason or just as a quick fix? If it’s there for a reason, rhyme on with pride! If it’s just because you can’t think of a real word, maybe try a little harder.

New Words Around Us

And guess what? Many words we use every day are pretty new to our language! Every year, people come up with cool new words for things or ideas that didn’t have names before. Just like how you might invent games or secret codes with your friends, grown-ups have been creating words like “selfie,” “emoji,” and “meme” in recent years. It’s like a never-ending word party, and everyone’s invited!

One of my personal favorites is the word “blog.” “Blog” came from the words “web log.” The word “weblog” was coined by Jorn Barger on December 17, 1997 to mean an internet diary or journal. Later, in 1999, Peter Merholz jokingly broke the word “weblog” into the phrase “we blog” on his own site, Peterme.com. From there, “blog” emerged as a term for both the action (“to blog” meaning “to update one’s weblog”) and for the online journals themselves.

You Can Do It Too!

So, here’s your challenge. The next time you’re writing, try making up a word. But remember:

1. Purpose: Think about why this word exists in your story. Does it describe something new? Does it set a mood?
2. Sound: Say it out loud. Does it sound fun? Does it fit the feeling of your poem or story?
3. Meaning: Even if it’s a made-up word, readers should get a hint about what it means from the way you use it.

To all the budding poets and writers out there, remember that words are your tools and toys. Play with them, reshape them, and invent some of your own! After all, today’s made-up word might just become tomorrow’s newest addition to the dictionary.

Kenn Nesbitt
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Introducing “The Elephant Repairman” – Now in Paperback!

The Elephant Repairman by Kenn Nesbitt

Hey there, dear readers, parents, and teachers!

I am absolutely thrilled to announce the release of the paperback edition of The Elephant Repairman, my latest collection of hilarious poems!

The Elephant Repairman is jam-packed with 70 delightful poems that will have kids (and even their parents and teachers) giggling and laughing out loud.

In this book, you’ll find magical toilets, tyrannosaurus teachers, supersonic sloths, pranks to play on parents, and much, much more. Each poem is full of whimsical rhythms, lively rhymes, and priceless punchlines that keep kids coming back for more.

The Elephant Repairman is perfect for reading aloud during family time, as well as for teachers to share with their students in the classroom. It’s a fantastic way to spark kids’ imaginations and encourage their love for reading and poetry.

You can now get your hands on a copy of The Elephant Repairman in its brand-new paperback edition on Amazon right now, and soon at your favorite local bookseller. Don’t miss out on this fun new collection that is sure to keep you laughing!

Happy reading!

How to Host a Poetry Slam

How to Host a Poetry Slam

What Is a Poetry Slam?

A poetry slam is similar to an open-mic poetry party, with a key difference: Poetry slams are competitive events in which poets perform their work in front of an audience and judges. Poetry slams are known for their lively, energetic atmosphere and often feature poets performing original works.

During a poetry slam, poets take the stage one at a time to perform their work. They are often given a time limit, usually three to five minutes, to perform their poem. After each poet performs, the judges score their performance based on criteria such as originality, creativity, delivery, and overall impact.

At the end of the event, the scores are totaled and the poet with the highest score is declared the winner. Poetry slams are often held at schools, community centers, and other public venues and can be a fun and engaging way for young poets to share their work and for audiences to discover new and exciting voices.

How to Host a Poetry Slam

A poetry slam is a great way for students in an elementary school to express themselves creatively and build confidence in public speaking. This is especially true if students are sharing funny poems or poems with engaging narratives. There is almost nothing better than the applause of your peers for overcoming a fear of public speaking and becoming a more confident presenter.

If you would like to host a poetry slam at your school, here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Choose a theme: Decide on a theme for the poetry slam. This could be something broad like “self-expression” or something more specific like “nature.” The theme will give the students a focus for their poems and help them come up with ideas.
  2. Recruit judges: Find a group of teachers, parents, or other community members who are willing to serve as judges for the poetry slam. Choose judges who are open-minded and willing to listen to a variety of styles and viewpoints.
  3. Encourage participation: Let students know about the poetry slam and encourage them to participate. You can do this through announcements, flyers, or by setting up a sign-up sheet.
  4. Maybe start a poetry club: Consider starting a poetry club for interested students, where you can hold workshops or after-school sessions to help students write and polish their poems. These workshops can be led by teachers, students, or even local poets.
  5. Set rules: Establish some basic rules for the poetry slam. For example, students should be encouraged to write their own poems and to avoid using profanity or other inappropriate language.
  6. Prepare: Encourage students to select and rehearse their poems before the event. This will help them feel more comfortable and confident when it’s time to perform. Below, I have included several tips on how to help students prepare.
  7. Host the event: On the day of the poetry slam, set up a stage or designated area where the students can perform. Have the judges sit at a table in front of the stage, and provide a microphone and sound system for the students.
  8. Judge the performances: Have the judges score each performance based on criteria such as originality, creativity, delivery, and overall impact. The student with the highest score wins the poetry slam. You can also have a grand prize winner as well as second and third-prize winners.
  9. Celebrate the winners: After the poetry slam, celebrate the winners and all of the participants. You can do this with a small ceremony, perhaps with a ribbon, medal, or certificate, and possibly by displaying the winning poems around the school.

How to Prepare

In addition to planning for the poetry slam itself, students will need to prepare for the event too. There are several ways that students can practice and prepare to participate in a poetry slam:

  1. Write, write, write: Encourage students to write as many poems as they can. The more they write, the more comfortable they’ll become with the writing process and the more likely they are to come up with a poem they’re proud to perform. They can find lots of poetry writing lessons here.
  2. Look for inspiration: Encourage students to find inspiration for their poems from their own experiences, observations, and emotions. They can also be inspired by the poetry of others or by current events and issues. One of the easiest things to write about is something you really like or enjoy. For example, if your favorite thing is playing hockey, consider writing a poem about hockey. If you’d rather play Pokémon, try writing about that.
  3. Workshops: Consider holding workshops or after-school sessions to help students write and polish their poems. These workshops can be led by teachers, students, or local poets and can be a great way for students to get feedback on their work and to learn new writing techniques.
  4. Practice reading aloud: Encourage students to rehearse performing their poems aloud to get a feel for the rhythm and flow of their words. This will help them deliver their poem with confidence and clarity. For ideas on how to rehearse, have a look at this article I wrote on How to Recite a Poem Like an Expert.

Hosting a poetry slam can be a fun and rewarding experience for both the students and the school community. By following these steps, you can create a successful and memorable event.

Poetry’s Impact on Childhood Literacy

Kenn Nesbitt Poet

Hi, All! It’s a new year and, hopefully, we are all a little bit wiser, as well as another year older. I began writing poetry for children in 1994, which means that 2023 is my 30th year as a poet. Over these past three decades, I have learned quite a lot about poetry and, more importantly, its effect on kids. I have seen firsthand how poetry turns “reluctant readers” into voracious readers. So, as this new year begins, I thought I would take a moment to share some of the insights I have gained into poetry’s impact on childhood literacy.

Poetry is an important tool for improving childhood literacy for several reasons. First and foremost, poems for children tend to be short, typically just one or two pages, which can make reading a poem seem less daunting for young readers than, say, an entire book. Children who might shy away from a 200-page novel, are often much more interested in reading bite-sized chunks of poetry.

At the same time, though, a good poem typically evokes an emotional response from the reader, despite its brevity. Whether it’s a laugh, a smile, goosebumps, or even tears (I still can’t read Eugene Field‘s poem “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” without choking up a little), that small feeling encourages kids to turn the page and read another.

All the while, poetry is helping to develop a child’s vocabulary and language skills. Through the use of descriptive language and figurative speech, poetry exposes children to a wide range of words, phrases, and concepts that they may not encounter in everyday conversation. This, in turn, helps to expand their understanding of the English language and improve their overall literacy.

Additionally, poetry can also help to develop a child’s reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Poetry sometimes requires readers to interpret and analyze the text in order to fully understand its meaning. This can help children to become more attentive and engaged readers, as they must actively think about the words on the page in order to make sense of the poem.

Poetry can also serve as a gateway to other forms of literature. Many children are initially drawn to poetry because of its rhythm and rhyme, which can make it more enjoyable and easier to read than other types of writing. Once a child has developed an interest in poetry, they may be more inclined to explore other forms of literature, such as novels and short stories, which can further improve their literacy skills.

Moreover, poetry can also help to foster a love of language and literature in children. Many children are naturally drawn to the beauty and musicality of poetry, and this can inspire them to develop a lifelong love of reading and writing. This, in turn, can lead to a stronger foundation in literacy and a greater likelihood of academic and professional success in the future.

In short, poetry is an important tool for improving childhood literacy. Through its use of descriptive language, figurative speech, and critical thinking, poetry helps to develop a child’s vocabulary, reading comprehension, and overall love of language and literature. As such, it should be an integral part of any literacy program for young children.

On Poetry4kids, I have tried to make incorporating poetry in the classroom as easy as possible. As of this writing, there are more than 900 poems and nursery rhymes of mine on the site, plus classic children’s poems, writing lessons, activities, videos, and lots more. Feel free to use them in the classroom, as homework assignments, as bedtime reading, or any other way you like. And please tell your kids I said, “Hi!” and that I hope they have fun reading (and writing) poetry

Kenn Nesbitt with My Dog Likes to Disco