Writing Poetry with ELLs
April is National Poetry Month, which makes it a great time for writing poetry. Any point in the year is also a great time to have students write poems.
For English Language Learners, writing poetry can be a welcome change from other forms of writing. Many of the traditional writing conventions are not as strictly enforced in poems. Students can use fewer words to convey powerful messages. Poems are a fun way to play around with language. Here are some ideas for writing poems with your ELLs.
Build a poem
Students take words, phrases, sentences, or titles and create their own poem. The words are already written down, so students are not slowed down by worrying about how they are spelled.
You can have students build a poem by using magnetic poetry tiles. The kids kit comes with an assortment of words all on white tiles. The opposites kit comes with words that students flip over to show the antonym. These kits will work best for ELLs that already know many basic vocabulary words, since they do not have pictures.
For beginning ELL, print out or write down words that they know on cardstock or index cards. Next cut them into tiles. Then they can take part in the same activity.
They can also use hardback picture books to create a poem. Have students go on a scavenger hunt for interesting titles in the library or from a selection of books that you select. Then they stack the books to create a free verse poem.
Make a list
Another way to generate ideas before writing a poem is to have students make a list of words. They can think of the topic or you can assign it to them. I have developed poetry writing task cards to help introduce students to rhyming, alliteration, imagery, and onomatopoeia.
Use Poetry Frames
With a poetry frame, the student does not have to come up with the body of the poem. Similar to a sentence frame, they fill in missing words or are given the beginning of each line of poetry. ReadWriteThink has some free poetry frame templates.
Reading poetry is one of the best ways to help ELLs get started writing their own poems. The poems act as mentor texts. You can even take a poem and have students create their own version that is similar. You can also get ideas for poetry frames after reading a published poem. Here are some diverse poetry books to check out.