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Grade: 3-5

#4714. Create Poetry By Focusing on Word Choice and Cutting Clutter

Reading/Writing, level: 3-5
Posted 04/24/2013 by Sislye Crow (Sislye Crow).
Central Primary School, Washington, IL
Materials Required: Haiku Poetry Book, Chart Paper, I Love You the Purplest
Activity Time: Three 45 minute sessions
Concepts Taught: Word Choice Using Haiku and Cinquain Poetry

1. Read aloud I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse and Mary Whyte.

2. Throughout the first few pages, discuss the word choice of the authors. Introduce the idea of verbal imagery. Point out the specific nouns, powerful verbs, and descriptive adjectives being used to create a picture or image in the reader's mind. Ask students to close their eyes and picture the scenery. Discuss the importance of word choice for creating verbal imagery.

3. Choose a sentence with vivid imagery to write on the board. Talk about a boring way the author could have written these words. Why is the way it is written better than using boring words?

4. Continue reading. At the part when the mother explains the way she loves the boys, discuss figurative language and how the colors are used to personify a feeling. What examples did the mother give to explain how she loves the boys like the colors blue and red? How could we add our own similes or metaphors here?

5. After the story, discuss how the mother compared and contrasted similar events (loving the boys) using different words. The words the author chose painted a picture for our minds and differentiated the experiences of the boys.

6. As a class, choose a color to personify. Brainstorm words that fit this color. Make a word cache and organize the words into subtopics (smells, feelings, objects, sounds).

7. Have students choose a color they would like to personify. Place them in groups based on their color choice to make a group word cache. Once students brainstorm words, encourage them to organize their words into subtopics of their choice.


1. Briefly review yesterday's lesson. Discuss the importance of vivid word choice.

2. Read one or two cinquain poems.

3. Talk about the format of a cinquain poem. Have students identify the various parts of speech.
One word that tells what your poem is about (noun)
Two describing words (adjectives)
Three action --ing words (verbs)
A phrase about the subject (possible figurative language)
One or two words to rename subject (synonym)

4. Using the color brainstorm sheet from yesterday, model writing a cinquain poem for the class. In each poem, the color should be the first noun; however, the writing should emphasize a certain aspect of that color that is revealed in the final subject line. TIP: Show students how to use a thesaurus to alter word choices.

Red Red Red
Hot, wild Happy, cheerful Nervous, frightened
Burning, glowing, dancing Hugging, kissing, smiling Sweating, shaking, panicking
Warms hands and feet Makes the world better Blood rising to face
Fire Love Embarrassment

5. Have students write a cinquain in their writer notebooks. Encourage students to use powerful words to write their own. Remind them they are trying to paint a picture in the reader's mind.

6. After most students have composed one cinquain, demonstrate how to use the same color but change the focus. Demonstrate how word choice can change both meaning and mood.

7. Have children write another cinquain with the same color as before but with a different mood. If time, allow students to illustrate poems.

8. At the end of the lesson, share student poetry. When students read, have them leave off their last synonym to see if class can guess what their final noun is before revealing their subject.


1. Read excerpts from Guyku by Bob Raczka, If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky, or any Haiku poetry book. Encourage students to listen for verbal imagery.

2. Discuss the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Point out that when done well, word choice can create vivid imagery without needing to use very many words. Have students guess the topic of the haiku riddle without even looking at the illustrations to prove the power of verbal imagery.

3. Model writing a haiku poem. You may use the color format from previous lessons OR try something new. TIP: Discuss "natural" figurative language. Make sure similes, metaphors, and personifications make sense!

Wind Red
Rippling through my hair Cooking on the stove
Briefly provides some solace Coils burning, flames alight
From the sun's harsh rays Glowing in its heat

4. Show students the process of writing an initial draft before counting syllables. Then, demonstrate ways to fix syllabication:

a. Use a thesaurus to help choose words with same meaning but different syllables to fit the haiku structure.
b. Add or delete small words (a, to, the, so, in)
c. Rearrange sentence structures

5. Have students explore writing a haiku. They too may stick with the colors theme or brainstorm a new topic. Some ideas for comparisons or traits:
• Dogs: Protectors vs. friends
• Spiders: Helpful vs. scary
• Plants: Flowers vs. Weeds
• Vegetables: Healthy vs. Tasting bad
• Cats: House pets vs. Wild
• March: Lion vs. Lamb

6. As students finish, have them write another haiku on same topic but with a different perspective or trait.

Wind Red
Constant whir bites cheeks Cheeks begin to warm
Though cannot see, you know it's there Emotions hard to control
Threatening what's to come Anger heats me up

7. Share haikus. Have students guess what the writer's topic is based on their vivid imagery.

Adaptations and Extensions:
• If students are having trouble with syllable patterns, have them focus on making the middle line the longest and the top and bottom the shortest instead of specific syllable counts.
• Provide lots of examples of cinquain and haiku poetry for students to reference while working.
• Allow students to work in pairs.
• Create a class book of cinquain/haiku poetry. This can be done my hand or published on a computer.

• Take anecdotal notes while observing students create poetry to monitor progress.
• Use checklist to assess-
o Proper format
o Ability to use interesting word choice and vivid verbal imagery.
o Ability to create different moods using same topic
o Participation
• Have students reflect on their own poems and classmates' poems.