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Poetry for Children: Choosing the Format

By Charles Ghigna

A guide to writing poetry with children:

writing poetry with children

Writing Poetry with Children, by Jo Ellen Moore

A guide for teachers and parents to helping children learn forms from couplets to cinquains.

A guide to writing different poetic forms:

Writing Metrical Poetry jacket image

Writing Metrical Poetry, by William Baer

This is a basic introduction for adults to writing sonnets, quatrains, and other forms of verse.

A children's book with more poetic forms:

The Phantom Tollbooth

A Kick in the Head: an Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms

This collection was selected by Paul Janeczko, and includes examples of 29 forms, from simple to complex.

Where to send poetry:

Poet's Market cover image

Poet's Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer

This is a thorough guide to the market for poetry.

Click the links above to go to Amazon for information about the book, or to buy them. Purchase of these books helps to fund this site: find out more.

Walk by any playground and you will be instantly struck by how much children love rhythm and rhyme.

Listen to their games of jump rope, hopscotch, one-potato-two-potato, and Red Rover and you will hear a lyrical litany of joyful patterns of poetic rhythm and rhyme. Those sounds are a natural part of a child's world and of their early celebrations of life.

It is no wonder, then, why children prefer poetry that contains those musical elements. From nursery rhymes to the longer ballads, patterns of rhythm, meter and rhyme are essential ingredients in children's favorite poems.

One of the most popular patterns is the couplet. Couplets have two lines that rhyme. Here are five couplets from poems in Tickle Day: Poems from Father Goose by Charles Ghigna.

from Little Daddy Longlegs

Little Daddy Longlegs played in the sun,
Climbing up the front steps just for fun.

from Turtle Trouble

Tell me if you think you know
How to make a turtle go.

from Tomorrow's My Birthday

Tomorrow's my birthday and I'll be four
And I won't have to stay home anymore.

from Nature's Shows

Nature puts on little shows
Every time it rains or snows.

from It's Snow Wonder

It's snow wonder that we cheer
Snowflakes when they fall each year.

Here is a poem that has four couplets from my Halloween Night.

Pumpkins on Guard

Look at all the pumpkin faces
Lighting up so many places.

On the porch and in the yard,
Pumpkin faces standing guard.

Looking friendly, looking mean,
With a smile or with a scream.

Orange faces burning bright
In the cool October night.

Tercets are another popular pattern. Tercets have three lines. Here is a poem with two tercets from Halloween Night.

Witch Way

With warts on her nose
And sharp pointy toes,
She flies through the night on her broom.

With covers pulled tight
In the shadows of night,
I hide in the dark of my room.

The ballad stanza is also one of the most popular forms of poetry for children. A ballad stanza is a group of four lines. That group is called a stanza. The ballad stanza has a rhyme at the end of line number two and line number four. Here are three poems that have ballad stanzas. The first poem has three ballad stanzas. The last two poems have two. The first two poems are from Tickle Day, the last poem is from Halloween Night.

The Bee Poem

A poem is a busy bee
Buzzing in your head.
His hive is full of hidden thoughts
Waiting to be said.

His honey comes from your ideas
That he makes into rhyme.
He flies around looking for
What goes on in your mind.

When it's time to let him out
To make some poetry,
He gathers up your secret thoughts
And then he sets them free.

A Poem Is a Little Path

A poem is a little path
That leads you through the trees.
It takes you to the cliffs and shores,
To anywhere you please.

Follow it and trust your way
With mind and heart as one,
And when the journey's over,
You'll find you've just begun.

Happy Halloween!

I'd rather be foolish than ghoulish,
I'd rather dress up as a clown;
I'd rather wear clothes with polka dot bows,
I'd much rather smile than frown.

I'd rather be kooky than spooky,
I'd rather be friendly than mean;
I'd rather go greeting than tricking and treating,
I'd rather have fun Halloween!

The if-you-were poem is a simple, fun poem that everyone can write. It invites you to compare (metaphor) yourself to something and to compare your friend to something else. Here are three if-you-were poems from my book If You Were My Valentine.

If you were a shining star
And I were your midnight,
I'd let you shine above me,
You'd be my only light.

If you were a grand piano
And I were a sweet love song,
I'd let your keys tickle and tease
My melody all day long.

If you were the pages of a book
And I were reading you,
I'd read as slow as I could go
So I never would get through.

Kids love riddles and riddles love kids! Riddle rhymes are poems that have a riddle. The answer to the riddle is at the end of the poem. These riddle poems are created by using the ballad stanza. Here are three of my riddle rhymes.

High Flyer

I fly above the tallest trees.
I'm not a bird or plane.
I have no wings or feathered things.
I do not like the rain.
I play among the passing clouds.
I like to rise and sail.
I am a friend who loves the wind.
I'm big and have a tail.
I like the gusty month of March.
I soar way out of sight.
My shape is like a diamond.
I am a brand-new kite.

The Everlasting Light

I shine forever free.
I do not cost a cent.
I need no bulb or battery.
My light is permanent.
You'll find me way up in the sky,
When each new day's begun,
But do not look me in the eye --
I am the shining sun.

Your Highness

I am a free and open field
That's never out of bounds,
Where kites and planes and boomerangs
Can do their ups and downs.
I am the biggest yard of all,
Where birds begin their play
Of hide-n-seek among the clouds
At each new break of day.
I am the place called outer space,
Where nothing is too high.
I am the home of all the stars --
I am the endless sky.

Charles Ghigna ("Father Goose") is the author of more than thirty books of poetry for children and adults, and an all-around good guy.

Copyright by Charles Ghigna. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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