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.