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Poetry and Language Skills

Written By Geoff Nixon . April 20, 2017

Poetry can be used to help develop language skills. The length of most stanzas and poems is often less intimidating than a passage or book. However, the content can be just as emotional, relevant, and challenging. Although the school year is winding down, there’s still time to spark your child’s interest in the subject. It may even lead to new insight on an old text or the discovery of a superb talent for writing and storytelling.

Descriptive Language and Understanding

A good writer allows the reader to picture the characters and events, make connections between the text and their own life or knowledge, and have an emotional reaction to its events. The same is true of words shared in conversation or a song played on the radio. Effective writers use their language skills to show rather than tell. They paint a picture with their words.  While mentions of green grass or a blue sky are descriptive and easily understood, references to a town cloaked in sadness or the earth standing still can be difficult for young readers to interpret.

Helping students recognize and comprehend descriptive language can make it easier for them to see beyond the literal meaning when reading. It can also improve expressive and receptive language, as individuals learn to incorporate and respond to more colorful word choices.

Practicing with Poetry

Try starting with one of the types below. The preset structure can remove writer’s block for a frustrated learner and lessen the anxiety that often accompanies creative tasks.

Five Senses Poem

Students describe a noun of their choice using the five senses. Start with something they are very familiar with, like a specific emotion, event, or place. Your child should think of sights, smells, tastes, feelings, or sounds that elicit similar thoughts. For example, an individual who hates licorice might describe disappointment as tasting like a pile of stale black licorice. Students follow the pattern shown in the sample below, using the underlined words to start each line and replacing happiness with their chosen subject.

Structure                                                                   Sample

First line: What color it is:                  Happiness is cotton candy pink.

Second line: What it sounds like:      It sounds like the first note of a favorite song.

Third line: What it tastes like:            It tastes like the fudge center in a chocolate cupcake.

Fourth line: What it smells like:         And smells like fresh bread baking in the oven.

Fifth line: What it looks like:              Happiness looks like a mother smiling at her sleeping child.

Sixth line: How it makes you feel:     It makes you feel warm all over.

Time Poem

The end of the school year is a great time to introduce this poem about change. Students list details about things they’ve done, are doing, and will do in the future following, the format below. The underlined portions should remain the same and each thought should begin with an –ing verb, but the remaining content and length is up to each author.

Yesterday was…

Learning to read

Coloring outside the lines

Jumping in a bouncy house

Asking mom for our first dog

Today is…

Finishing the Harry Potter series

Zip lining at an adventure park.

Taking Rubeus on afternoon walks.

Planting flowers in the garden with mom

Laughing with friends in the cafeteria

Tomorrow will be…

Buying my own car

Choosing a career

Reading to my children

Traveling the world

Catching my breath

A Listing Poem

This final example asks students to list things associated with a subject. The order is simply which thoughts come to mind first. The song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music is an example of this. Select a subject, such as things I’ll Do This Summer, Things That Make Me Laugh, or Lessons I Have Learned. Next, brainstorm a list of words you associate with the subject. Then review the list and add colorful descriptions of what the things on the list look, sound, taste, smell or feel like.


Things I won’t eat: food left uncovered over night;

salty cold or cooked ham;

black licorice;

soggy bread;

dry pastries you have to fight to bite through;






Copyright: pixelsaway / 123RF Stock Photo

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