A song in your poem workshop

A poetry workshop for young adults. Using contemporary music as guide, workshop participants learn about rhythm, rhyme, and cadence. At the end of the session participants walk away with one polished poem.

Workshop title

A song in your poem

Genre

Poetry

Age group

8 to 14 years old

Duration

3 hours

Materials needed

  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil 
  • Whiteboard or chalkboard (for instructor) 

Lesson objectives

Participants will learn that songs (including their favorites from the radio) are poems set to music. They’ll learn about rhythm, rhyme, and cadence. Using this knowledge, they’ll craft their own poems using lyrics from their favorite songs. Participants will walk away with one completed poem. Options to hold a reading. 

Summary of tasks

  1. The history of poetry
    • Discuss poetry as one of the earliest art forms. It predates text and people would set the words to a particular rhythm or pattern so it was easier to remember and pass on. Eventually, people added instruments to the background and the poems became songs.
    • Optional: ask participants if they’ve ever had a song stuck in their head? Or if they ever feel happy when a certain song comes on? Point out that music helps cement memories and can boost mood. 
  2. Rhythm 
    • Rhythm is a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound
    • In music, this is the repeated pattern of sounds
    • In poetry, rhythm is the pattern of stressed or unstressed syllables
    • Activity
      • Write out 5 words with 2-3 syllables. Either as a large group or individually, ask participants to identify the stressed and unstressed syllables in each word. 
      • Optional: show participants the symbols for marking stressed and unstressed syllables in writing. Diagram below. 
  1. Rhyme
    • Rhyme is when words with corresponding sounds are close to one another in text or speech
    • In song and poetry, this is most often used at the end of the line
    • Rhymes most often happen on the last syllable. Example: cAT, bAT, sAT. Though rhymes can also occur in the beginning or middle of a word. This is an internal rhyme. Example: nAPping, rAPping, tAPing. 
    • Activity
      • In small groups (2-3 participants) have participants practice creating rhymes with each other. One participant says a word, and the other responds with a word that rhymes. Then switch roles. 
      • Encourage participants to try end rhymes and internal rhymes. 
  2. Cadence
    • Cadence is the flow of sounds in language or song
    • Cadence is used to describe how we speak our poems or songs. Whether that’s the pace, emphasizing certain words, or pausing for effect. 
    • Activity
      • Independent activity. Ask participants to write down one lyric from their favorite song. Once they have the lyric, they should read it aloud to themselves twice. Once as the way they hear it in the song and once as if they’re reading a newspaper article or textbook. 
      • Participants should write the differences they hear between the two readings. Which sounds better? Did the first one use a technique that made it sound better (pausing, pacing, emphasizing, etc.)? 
  3. Final activity 
    • Ask participants to write 5 lyrics from their favorite songs. Lyrics can be from the same song or different ones. 
    • Once they have all their lyrics, start with one as the first sentence of the poem. From there, continue writing the poem and weaving in the other lyrics. Participants can end on a lyric or with a line of their choice.
    • Remind participants to use their knowledge about rhythm and rhyme to construct their poems. 
    • After participants have their poems, split into small groups (2-4 participants) and ask them to share their poems and offer feedback to others. 
      • Remind participants that helpful feedback is something actionable for the writer. Also remind participants to be kind and sensitive when offering feedback. 
    • Participants then have 15-20 minutes to revise and polish their poem.
    • Optional: participants stand up and share their poems aloud. Remind participants to use their knowledge about cadence to enhance their performance. 

Post activity ideas (optional)

You can give these additional activities to participants at the end of the session or you can use them during the session if you need to use up time. 

  1. Write as many lyrics as you can from one song in order. If you’re near a computer, you can also look up the lyrics and write them down. Now look at the lyrics and identify places where: 
    • Rhythm is created with stressed and unstressed syllables
      • Notice any patterns?
    • Rhyme occurs 
    • There are pauses or breaks for emphasis 
  2. Write lyrics from two songs in different genres. For example, a holiday song and a hip-hop song. Or a country song and a rock song. Participants only need 4-6 lyrics in total. With those lyrics they should:
    • Borrow words or phrases to create a poem
    • Look for common themes between the two songs, and use them in their poem

Enjoyed this workshop lesson plan? Check out some of my other workshop ideas in the Teach category. Happy workshopping!

Check out this fun #poetry workshop for young adults from @glcubel_writes.

Lost & Found Poetry Workshop

Brief outline for half-day poetry workshop focused on found poems. As with any lesson plan, feel free to modify as needed to fit your intended audience. Let’s get lost in some words!

Brief outline for half-day poetry workshop. As with any lesson plan, feel free to modify as needed to fit your intended audience. Let’s get lost in some words!

Writing Genre

Poetry

Age group

8-18 years old

Workshop Activities

Reading models, structured exercises, editing/revision period, and group readings

Supplies and Materials

Text materials (old magazines, old books, brochures, manuals, newspapers–anything you don’t mind writing on or cutting out), paper, pencils, pens, markers/colored pencils, highlighters, scissors, construction paper, glue.

Objectives

Students learn to recognize the words readily available in our everyday routines and how to use those words to craft poems about the everyday. They’ll also be able to define found poetry and identify the difference between strong and weak words.

Define Found Poetry and Examples

Group discussion

What do you think is important when using someone else’s work to create a poem?

  • Allow class to brainstorm, however guide them towards the following points:
    • Don’t rewrite the poem word for word
    • Think about what the original poem is saying–can you expand upon that? Or create an entirely new meaning?
    • Give the original author credit if able

Difference between strong and weak words

  • Strong words = verbs, nouns, and adjectives
  • Weak words =  articles, prepositions, adverbs

Exercises

Random Texts

  • Each student will be given a sheet of text (magazine article, brochure, instruction manual, text page, etc.) and asked to highlight or mark any word that interests them.
  • After 5-10 minutes, students will write their own poem using the highlighted word. Students are encouraged to keep the words in order but play with spacing, breaking words apart, etc.

Different views

  • Every student will be given the same text material and asked to highlight or underline words that interest them. Keeping the words in order, students will create a poem.
  • Once complete, students will swap their poem with a partner and identify ways in which their neighbor used the text similarly or differently than they did.
  • Discuss as a group if there were any trends in how the words from the text were used. What could this potentially mean?

Multimedia Project

  • Students will be given text materials (magazines, newspapers, brochures, text book pages, etc.), scissors, glue, and coloring pencils/markers
  • Students will cut out words from the text materials and glue them onto construction or computer paper in a poem.
  • Students are encouraged to swap words with neighbors, cut and paste pictures, or draw their own pictures.

Magical Poetry Workshop

Brief outline for half-day poetry workshop. Grab your wands…pens, and join us for some magical poetry!

Brief outline for half-day poetry workshop. As with any lesson plan, feel free to modify as needed to fit your intended audience. So grab your wands…pens, and join us for some magical poetry!

Writing Genre

Poetry

Age group

Middle School

Workshop Activities

Reading models, structured exercises, editing/revision period, and group readings

Supplies and Materials

Printed handouts, paper, pencils, pens, markers/colored pencils, stage

Objectives

Students walk away inspired by the extraordinary and able to define magical realism and fantasy. Students are also encouraged to incorporate magic or fantasy elements into their poems as metaphors for real life experiences.

Group discussion

What do we like about magic or fantasy?

  • What do you specifically like about your favorite fairy tale/fantasy story?
  • What types of magical elements do you think are cool?
  • How do you feel after reading/watching a story with magical elements?

Difference between Magical Realism and Fantasy

  • Magical realism = a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements.
  • Fantasy =  fiction set in a fictional universe, often without any locations, events, or people referencing the real world.

Exercises

The Witch Wife or Belief in Magic

  • Read the poem out loud and discuss how it embodies every day acts (making dinner, gardening,) and makes them magical
  • Class will brainstorm 2-3 everyday tasks and then students will write a poem that turns that every day task into something magical
  • If students are stuck, encourage them to break down the everyday task into steps and write about each step as if it were extraordinary. E.g., tying your shoes. These long sleek snakes that tangle themselves around a bow.

Fairy Tale Logic

  • Read the poem out loud and discuss how it uses classic Fairy Tale elements to highlight real struggles.
    • Point out that it’s in Sonnet form
  • Students will choose a fairytale/fantasy story (can be the one they said at the beginning of the class or a different one) and write a list of the magical elements
    • E.g., Beauty and the Beast. Rose, talking candlestick, beast, enchantress, magic mirror, etc.
  • Once we have our list of elements, on the other side of the page brainstorm some problems from everyday life
    • E.g., bullies, trouble with homework, getting lost, etc.
  • Craft a poem that incorporates 2-3 magic elements from the list and 1-2 problems from your other list.

The Witch Has Told You a Story

  • Discuss how the poem takes a fairy tale and retells it in a unique way. This is from the witch speaking. Discuss how telling a familiar story in a unique way leads to deeper insights.
  • Choose favorite story and retell it as a poem
    • Consider changing the point of view, adding new magical elements, setting it in a different place/time period, adding a new or different problem/resolution.