CHRISTMAS themes make writing activities a whole lot merrier! If you’re looking for a poetry lesson with a holiday twist, then gather the kids for an hour of writing Christmas shape poems.
Last month we spotlighted rhyming poetry activities. Today we’re excited about writing free verse poetry. Free verse has no set requirements for the number of lines, syllables, or rhymes. Instead, free verse relies on lyrical phrases that trip lightly off the tongue when read aloud.
For your child’s free verse poem, choose a simple Christmas shape such as a tree, star, or snowman. This will determine the shape of the poem. A strong-willed writer will need few guidelines to build her poem into a recognizable shape. If your child prefers specific directions, however, you should draw an outline on a blank sheet of paper. Use a ruler to fill in the outline with 8-10 straight lines. When these blank lines are filled, the poem is finished.
Help your child brainstorm different aspects of his Christmas shape. If your son chose the snowman, he might think of cold weather, colorful mittens, and imaginary friends. Now he has three possible topics for his Christmas shape poem. Using our winter word bank, he could expand with words like cozy hat, snow bank, or bare branches.
For poems with a specific Christmas theme, direct your children toward two different word banks, one focused on Jesus’ birth and the meaning of Christmas, and the other filled with words about Old St. Nick, holiday feasts, and trimming the tree.
Example: “A Mountain of Pine”
Strung with lights
A mountain of pine needles
Fills our home with forest fragrance
Children gaze at the angel above
Cats snuggle in piles of presents below
Without relying on rhymes, writers can enhance their free verse poems using a few other tricks of the trade. Help your child understand and apply the three poetic devices below:
Ask your kids to include at least one or two instances of alliteration in their shape poems. Adjacent nouns can create alliteration (“piles of presents”), or a noun and an adjective can achieve a similar effect (“forest fragrance”). If a completed poem contains no alliteration, help your child go back and find alliterative synonyms for existing words.
Through careful word choices, free verse poetry can leave strong impressions on the reader. Help young writers create a memorable poem with careful contrast:
- Contrast light and dark colors (flaming star / ebony sky)
- Contrast small and large items (pea-sized button / floppy felt hat)
- Contrast opposite actions (sag / dance; gaze above / snuggle below)
Sound words can make any piece of writing come alive! Encourage your children to insert onomatopoeia into their free verse poems whenever possible. When it comes to a snowy gust of wind, a shy forest animal, or a melting icicle, sound words are a wonderful way to “show—don’t tell.”
I hope you and your children enjoy creating your Christmas shape poems! Who knows … maybe one will end up on next year’s family Christmas card.
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella also blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.