3 Free Verse Poetry Teaching Ideas

I love teaching poetry!  It is one of my favorite units for seeing student creativity.  When students work on a structured poem like Haiku or diamante, the directions and structure of the writing block are very similar.  Students have a model and a graphic organizer.  They write it, revise it, and type it.  However, when we get to free verse poetry, things look a little different.  It can be challenging to move from very structured poems to poems where there are basically no rules.  Still, my students impress me every year with everything from their ideas to their final products.  Today I would like to share three steps I take to help students maximize the quality of their free verse poems.

Free Verse Poetry Examples and Strategies for kids

Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are at the center of just about everything I teach.  It is important for students to easily access the information they need to make the writing the best it can be.  The first chart below includes the step-by-step directions students follow to write their poem.  The second anchor chart includes the poetry moves that the young authors can make to transform their writing.

Anchor chart for how to write a free verse poem
Directions for Writing Free Verse Poetry
Awesome poetry moves for kids anchor chart
Anchor chart for revising free verse poems

Free Verse Poetry Examples through Modeling

Everyday, I model a poem and follow the steps on the first anchor chart.  I usually have a basic poem to revise as a class as well.  Introducing the poetry moves one at a time can help make sure your students will understand each one and continue to use them.  Although I have students write their poems first, I show mine on slides so it is easier for them to see.  Students will eventually type their poems.  I like for them to see examples of final products so they can begin with the end in mind.  

My lessons generally start with a compliment or connection, go to the teaching point, and include modeling & guided practice.  The lesson ends with specific directions for writing workshop.  When students are finished, we gather together to share.  Admittedly, I sometimes get carried away with conferences and group work which makes me run out of time for the share.  However, I really make an effort to get sharing in most days.  

If you would like to see one of my lessons, you can click here to make a copy of the slides I used for teaching specific language.  Feel free to edit and make it your own if you’d like.  

Mentor Texts

Great Mentor Text for writing free verse poetry
These free verse poems are told from a dog's point of view.
A great mentor text for writing free verse poems
This mentor text is great for poems with feelings. It is perfect for a poetry jam!

The two books above are by far two of my favorite books for sharing examples of free verse poetry.  Once I Ate a Pie includes poems written from a dog’s point of view.  Your students will love hearing poems about how dogs follow, “borrow”, and love.  This book is especially strong in modeling different ways to format free verse poems.  It features different sized words and a variety of different ways to place words on the page.  Below is one of my favorite poems from this book that always make my students smile.

Free verse poetry example with great word placement
An excellent free verse poetry example, modeling word placement and style

Hey You! C’mere is another great mentor text full of inspiring free verse poetry examples.  This book features word choice that allows the readers to feel a strong feeling in every poem.  It also features word style, similes, lots of onomatopoeia, and repeated words.  The poem below is very relatable which help make these teaching points very understandable to your young writers.

A great mentor text full of free verse poetry examples with strong feelings and great word choice
This poem does a great job modeling repeated words, onomatopoeia, and word style.

Free verse poems are an engaging way to light your students’ creativity on fire.  I’d love to hear about  any strategies or mentor texts that you use when teaching free verse poetry.  

Of course, other types of more structured poems can be fun and inspiring as well.  If you would like to check out my post on writing Haiku, you can do that here.

Thank you!

Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.