How to write a cinquain poem

Kids love learning how to write a cinquain. Made up of just 11 words and 5 lines, this compact poem is loaded with description!

cinquain (SIN-cain): an unrhymed poem consisting of five lines arranged in a special way.

Graceful, ringed
Spinning, whirling, twirling
Dances with neighbor Jupiter

A cinquain is an example of shape poetry. Because of the exact number of words required for each line of this poem, a unique, symmetrical shape is created from interesting, descriptive words.

The word cinquain comes from the Latin root for “five.” Notice that the cinquain has five lines that follow this sequence:

Line A: One vague or general one-word subject or topic
Line B: Two vivid adjectives that describe the topic
Line C: Three interesting -ing action verbs that fit the topic
Line D: Four-word phrase that captures feeling about the topic
Line E: A very specific term that explains Line A

Here’s another example:

Hidden, hungry
Preening, searching, stalking
Waits as if praying

Brainstorm First

Use the tips below to brainstorm on blank paper for different ideas. Then follow the directions to learn how to write a cinquain poem of your own. When possible, try to use poetic devices like alliteration, onomatopoeia, or personification. Because the poem has a limited number of words, choose each word carefully!

Word Pair Ideas: General topic / specific topic

  • bird / parrot (crow, canary, dove)
  • fruit / apple (pear, banana, watermelon, peach, etc.)
  • season / spring (summer, fall, autumn, winter)
  • winter / January (spring / April, summer / July, autumn / October)
  • candy / jawbreaker (Snickers, jelly beans, licorice)
  • storm / tornado (hurricane, blizzard, squall)
  • water / river (ocean, lake, stream, creek)
  • grandparent / Nana (Grandma, Papa, Pops)

Line A: Name a general topic (see suggestions above for ideas).
Line E: Rename your topic, being more specific. This will be the last line of your cinquain.
Line B: Brainstorm 5-6 vivid, concrete adjectives to describe the topic on Line E. Do not choose words that end in “-ing.”
Line C: Brainstorm 5-6 descriptive participles (verbs ending in
-ing) that fit the topic on Line E.
Line D: Brainstorm several four-word phrases that capture some feeling about the topic on Line E. Follow these tips to develop an effective phrase:

  • Do not use any “to be” verbs or vague words.
  • Do not repeat any words used elsewhere in the cinquain.
  • If you can’t think of something, try a combination of adjective + noun + verb + adverb to achieve the most concrete phrase possible.
  • Your cinquain should have 5 lines.
  • The finished poem should only have 11 words.

Write Your Cinquain 

  1. Pick out your most descriptive words from your brainstorming and put your cinquain together.
  2. When you are satisfied, recopy the poem onto clean notebook paper.
  3. Center your cinquain on the paper.
  4. Begin each line with a capital letter, and remember your commas. Do not use ending punctuation.
  5. When finished, double-check for concreteness!

Line A. _______
Line B. _______  ,   _______
Line C. _______  ,   _______,  _______
Line D. _______ _______ _______ _______
Line E. _______

If your kids like creating cinquain poems, why not try some of these?

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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Public domain image courtesy of NASA
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#1 flowerzz on 02.05.09 at 12:28 pm

i really like this website

#2 Louis on 02.05.09 at 5:27 pm

It helped me with my son’s homework. He understood better what a cinquain is.

#3 Kim on 02.05.09 at 6:13 pm

So glad you’re all enjoying this activity. It’s simple, fun, and doesn’t take much time.

#4 Jacob on 05.18.09 at 4:38 pm

heres mine

Bright, shiny
Crunching, bursting, dripping
Smooth to the touch

#5 Kim on 05.19.09 at 4:28 pm

Thanks for posting yours, Jacob!

#6 LinaBeana on 05.27.09 at 5:39 pm

This gave me a spark of an idea because I was stuck on a poetry assignment i had to do and this helped! Thanks!
Can’t wait to share my poem in my classroom!

Thanks again! =]

#7 LinaBeana on 05.27.09 at 5:58 pm

Here I am… Again…. (don’t judge me =P )
Anywho, I made a new cinquain poem:

A White Wonderland:
As it falls down.
Like steps of passing ghosts.
Dropping by unknown.

Yay! I think this is the one i’ll read to my class!

#8 Nikki on 05.22.11 at 5:04 pm

I need help writing my water poem, all I need is 2 more verbs and one adjective. But here is one I made earlier!

Colorful, Rubbery
Drifting, Running, Laughing
Dancing across the sky

Thanks, hoped you liked it!

#9 Kim on 05.22.11 at 7:02 pm

I like your balloon cinquain, Nikki!