Teachers Write 7.13.15 Mini-Lesson Monday with Liz Garton Scanlon

Today’s Mini-Lesson Monday is courtesy of guest author Liz Garton Scanlon. Liz is the author of picture books like All the World and Noodle and Lou as well as a brand new middle grade novel, The Great Good Summer. She’s wearing her poet hat for today’s lesson…all about rhyme.

Hi Teacher-Writers! Thanks for letting me join you at Camp today. I want to talk a little bit about rhyme because it’s rich with possibility but oft-misunderstood. Folks either think:

1. It’s super-duper easy (spoiler alert: it’s not) or,

2. It’s way too hard (it’s not that either).

Really, rhyme is a puzzle – tricky but not impossible. So if you’re willing to play along, I’ve got some hints to make writing in rhyme a little more fun and a lot more successful.

1. Rhyme should follow a pattern. If you are going to write a piece of rhyming verse, write pairs of lines that rhyme (couplets: aa/bb/cc/dd/etc) or maybe four lines, wherein every other line rhymes (quatrains: abab/cdcd/efef/etc) or even a whole poem where only every second line rhymes (simple rhymes: ab/cb/db/eb/etc). This pattern is called the rhyme scheme. When you start writing in rhyme, pick a rhyme scheme and stick with it!

2. Rhyme isn’t just about rhyming words – it’s about meter too. If you embed rhyming words in a chunk of text that doesn’t have some predictable rhythmic arrangement, you won’t even hear the rhyme and your work will be for naught! Start by counting the syllables in each line of your rhyming verse. Lines should be fairly regular and should match the rhyme scheme. So, if you’re writing in couplets, each line should have the same syllabic count. If you’re writing in quatrains, each line might be the same, or they might alternate so that the first and third lines match, syllabically, as do the second and fourth. (Note: Counting syllables will get you 80-85% of the way there, rhythmically. If there’s a line that still doesn’t sound right, it’s because the meter is off in one or more words, so even though the number of syllables is right, the emphasis is on the wrong syllable somewhere. The simplest solution for this is choosing a different word!)

3. Rhyme is less important than meaning. Sometimes, because the puzzle of rhyming is so tricky, we say something totally illogical or nonsensical – but darn it, it rhymes! This is really only ok if you’re writing Jabberwocky. In all other cases, you need to find a way to do what the story or poem actually needs. Rhyme is just the vehicle for getting the story told. If you’ve been forced into something that makes no sense, scratch it and start anew. With these hints in mind, here’s today’s assignment:

1. Commit to writing a 12-line rhyming poem or story.

2. Use either 6 couplets (aa/bb/cc/etc) or 3 quatrains (abab/cdcd/efef)

3. After you’ve written the first 2-4 lines, count the syllables. Even them out as necessary and then stick with that count as you finish the piece.

4. Read it over. Does it make sense? Did rhyme force you to do anything you didn’t want to do? Adjust as necessary.

5. Wrap it up. Read it aloud. Read it aloud again. You hear that? You did that!

Nice job, poet!


Note from Kate: Feel like sharing your twelve lines for today? Go ahead & paste in the comments – we promise to be supportive poet-friends!

223 Replies on “Teachers Write 7.13.15 Mini-Lesson Monday with Liz Garton Scanlon

  1. Missing my grandkids right now, especially my grand-daughter. She has called me “Girlfriend or Grandma Girlfriend” since she was two. When here she is my writing buddy. We are actually writing a picture book together. But they moved so I don’t see her and her brother as often. I’m really missing her today so I wrote this for her.


    I miss you since you moved away
    I feel so lost inside.
    I don’t know what to do or say
    a part of me has died.

    Girlfriend you’d shout so loud and clear
    and run into my arms.
    The grandest words that I could hear
    my heart it warms and charms.

    To me a friend you’ll always be
    And oh so much, much more.
    Oh grand-daughter you hold the key
    That opens my heart’s door.

    1. Oh, Sandra…..the emotion of your poem is so strong! I miss Haylee too….and I don’t even know her! How old is she now? I’m so envious that you are writing together. My daughter is a talented artist. I’d love for her to illustrate some of my writings….but alas, she’s busy with the drawings and collages and projects SHE wants to do. That’s OK. I can wait. 🙂 Sending you wishes for a letter, phone call, e-mail from Haylee to you today.

      1. Linda thank you. Haylee is 9. Our picture book came about as I was brushing tangles from her hair. We were trying to decide how the Naughty Knots got into her hair. She said, “Maybe they were using it for a jumprope”. Then she got out her paper and said, “That’s what our book can be about.” She has plotted the whole thing. She keeps a portfolio with her writing ideas and her stories here at my house. I get a “book” for my birthday and Christmas from her. She says she wants to be a teacher and writer like me when she grows up. I want her to be what she wants to be.

        1. What a lovely poem, full of emotion. My grandmother wrote poems in every card and letter she sent, and I treasure those. She called them jingles, but they were full of feeling and beauty, just like your poem to Haylee. Thank you for sharing this. It brought a lot of feeling to me.

    2. Sandra, I love, love, love your poem. I got chills while I was reading it, and I don’t even know you or your granddaughter. She sounds like a very special girl. Thank you for sharing. Happy writing!

    3. Sandra your poem is a gift for all who read it. You”ve captured your relationship and special times with your granddaughter. A. Gift I know she will treasure forever. It evoked many memories about my grandmother. Your words are so powerful.

  2. Liz Scanlon,
    Wow! Thank you for dropping by today. I’m so impressed with the talk The Great Good Summer is getting in the book world. Good reviews from my favs Mr. Shu and Sharpe! Keep writing for our tender, smart, thinking, questioning middle-graders. We NEED you!

    I loved your challenge today. I write stories in verse…mostly free verse. But, I love a challenge for rhyme! I took a course from Renee La Tullipe over the winter: Lyrical Language Lab and I believe it helped my prose AND my poetry. We hit rhyme and meter HARD. I struggled but I think I’m stronger for it.

    Here’s my rhyme contribution for this morning. I tried to tie it to one of my WIPs…the rhymes aren’t perfect and I will keep tinkering with it. But, for a morning exercise, I’m happy.

    THANK YOU again for being here.

    Letters in the Dust 1934

    Nineteen hundred thirty-four
    my name written in the dust
    across my breakfast table
    one finger a guilty brush.

    Dirt blown in from Oklahoma
    That was supposed to grow the corn
    but boiled and sifted east on winds
    dry as bones, sterile, full of scorn.

    For farmers frantic to plant and sow
    a crop, some food, a bit of life.
    It’s been too long between our letters.
    This is no good way to write.


    1. I really enjoyed this. Made me wonder who she’s writing to. It also perfectly described the setting/time period. You realized just how dry and dusty it was. Great job.

    2. Linda, your poem has a great sense of time and place. Your word choice emphasizes the lifelessness and hopelessness of this time—boiled, dust, dry, sterile, frantic. Nice job!

    3. The last line of this poem is haunting, and I love how it ties back to the guilty brush in the first stanza. You’ve used powerful words (sterile, scorn) that layer meaning, and I love that it makes me want to know more of this person’s story. Who are they? Why is she guilty? Why can’t they write? Beautiful.

    4. Linda, thank you for sharing your poem. Your line, “one finger a guilty brush,” really stuck with me. It evokes a particular feeling and sets the mood. Likewise, the words, “dry as bones, sterile, full of scorn,” are powerful and evocative. I like the simile and personification here. You have intrigued me, and made me want to read more!

  3. Thanks for a great mini-lesson, Liz! I love playing with words and writing free verse poetry. It’s been a long time since I’ve played with rhyming poetry and this task was a challenge, albeit a fun one.

    Yesterday my husband and I walked along the beach and came across a protected nesting area for terns and plovers. We stopped to watch a swaggering bird trying to entice his mate. It was fascinating and inspired this poem today. (I imagine if I’d written it in free verse it would have had a very different tone — perhaps I’ll try that later!)

    Oh–and I must admit, I did not know the word “avicular.” I first used avian, but it didn’t work for me, rhythmically, so I searched for a synonym.

    Here’s my poem:

    A birdie did a courtin’ go
    along the beach one day.
    A fine slim fish he swanked about
    to lure his wary prey.

    He postured on the sun-baked sand,
    spreading his wings aloft.
    He sidled up to get in close,
    his dark eye keen and soft.

    Repeatedly he shook his beak,
    with sparkling fish inside.
    This must be avicular talk
    for “Will you be my bride?”

    1. Wow, Molly, what a connection from going courtin’ to “Will you be my bride?” I often talk to my students about the art of connecting the first line with a poem to the last line. You nailed it!

      Thank you for sharing! Happy writing!

    2. Molly, what a great poem! I love the use of rhythm and syllables. I was able to visualize the bird you saw. 🙂

    3. Just wonderful. I laughed and then went back to read it again, aloud. The rhyme feels natural, and I feel like I can see the whole scene.

    4. Molly, your poem is delightfully playful and sing-songy! I would love to read it to my third graders! How fun that you imagined this from a scene you observed on the beach. Stories really are everywhere! We just need to uncover them, which you did beautifully. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Here’s a poem I came up with this morning. My husband has celiac disease and we have to be steadfast about keeping gluten-containing foods away. I was thinking of expanding this into a children’s book. Feedback is welcome!


    Jumping gluten crumbs can kill
    They would make me feel real ill
    If they got into my food
    I’d be in a dreadful mood.

    You must keep the table clear
    Wipe it down, not just a shmear
    When you dip a knife in jelly
    Do it once or it’ll hurt my belly.

    If you follow rule for rule
    We can eat together, cool?
    Remember: gluten can’t touch,
    Thank you, thank you, very much!

    1. This is something I would use in my classroom. We are always having conversations about why certain kids can’t eat certain things. I think this would make a great picture book.

    2. Awesome, Selene! I agree with Sandra and Molly – this would make a great picture book. I am a lunch monitor that would definitely read it to the students in the cafeteria. Thanks for sharing!

    3. Adorable….but also serious! I think there is probably a growing market for this topic. A collection of poems for how to work with and be considerate of special dietary needs. Keep going!

  5. Hi Liz,
    Thanks for a great Monday morning challenge! I’m also looking forward to reading The Great Good Summer. I love finding new Middle School novels.
    Lately, I’ve been noticing how the laundry has grown as my children have grown. Bigger kids = bigger clothes, so I played with that & with rhyme.
    I posted it to my blog because I really wanted to show the image that goes with it!


    1. Stefanie–I love the topic you chose for your poem as it’s one I can truly relate to and it’s nice to see it approached with humor instead of dread! It’s also a great example of how a small everyday task/moment can be a great idea for writing. Great photo, too!

    2. Wow, I really loved this. The short lines added to the exasperated mood. Plus the image you paired it with is spot on!

    3. It may be time to transition to having them doing their own laundry! 😉 I love how the last stanza is a bit of a surprise ending – funny instead of the poignant direction my head had gone. And the post script even rhymes! Love it!

    4. Stefanie, your poem conjures such a sweet image of teeny, tiny outfits in a neat little row, only to be substituted by the big clothes of bigger people who generate more laundry work. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this poem!

  6. I recently spent time at the beach with my two-year-old god daughter. She grew to love playing and splashing in the waves so this is the poem I wrote to honor our time together.

    \”It\’s coming Lala!\”she yelled
    And the power of water she knew.
    At the wave in fear she quelled,
    but she rose, and in bravery grew.

    Her castles knocked down one by one,
    And it buried her feet in the sand.
    Holding hands in laughter she spun,
    with the grand desire to stand.

    Four hands, two smiles, wet hair.
    Apple cheeks framed by brown curls.
    Not one moment\’s rest to spare
    For two swim-loving salty-eyed girls.

    1. Lilla, your poem is so sweet and took me to the water’s edge with you. I love how you start the poem with your god-daughter calling out to you. Thank you for sharing this special moment!

      1. Thank you both for the kind words! It means so much to have positive feedback on my first post!

  7. Good morning, Ms. Scanlon and TWer’s!

    Thank you, Ms. Scanlon, for this great little lesson and for helping to get the writing juices flowing on a Monday morning. I will be honest when I write that this was a difficult task. Although, I will also write that three of the four kids are off at camp (see poem) so the environment is perfect (almost too quiet) for writing. Here goes:

    Summer Vacation

    A bright new day begins
    No sad frowns, only grins
    The blue sky comes alive
    The house is a buzzing hive

    Kids are running both here and there
    Off to camps, the pool, everywhere
    Packing backpacks, grabbing lunches
    Meeting their friends in big bunches

    A constant smell of sunscreen
    Always piles of shorts to clean
    Playing, running, flip flops to mend
    Wishing the summer would not end

    Thank you again. I’m off to tackle a pile of laundry. Happy Writing!

    1. Andy, your poem conveys the happy frenzy of summer! I was taken back to the years when my son was younger, and these activities were the rhythm of summer. Thanks for putting these images into words, or rather, allowing me to enjoy the images through your words!

  8. Good morning Liz and thank you! I loved this assignment and I love a rhyming challenge! I’m considering rhyme for my children’s book/WIP so this was a helpful exercise. I thought i’d keep it short and sweet and yes, this really did happen to me as I sat down to write this morning. Blue jays can be so mean! Even to a 70 lb German Shepherd! I wish I had their spunk. Here goes:

    Blue jay, you’re nasty
    as you dive bomb at me-
    Making those noises
    from up in that tree!
    You managed to do it –
    you scared my big dog!
    Even made me afraid
    to write in this log!
    I’m going back in now,
    my deck is not safe.
    Thanks for the show,
    filled with wonder…and grief!

    Still some meter to tinker with, it’s not easy!

    P.S. Perfect timing, my two kids just found me hiding out here. Where’s that blue jay when I need him? 😉

    1. Well done, Andrea!
      I will write that after reading your poem that I am scared for you (so much for some quiet reading and writing on the deck). I loved the part – Even made me afraid to write in this log!

      Happy writing! Be safe!:)

    2. I use to live in Kansas City where blue jays did this to me all the times. I have not seen a blue jay in years where I live now. Thanks for bringing back memories! They are such beautiful but nasty birds.

    3. Andrea, your poem screams to be accompanied by illustrations in a book for children! I really can picture the blue jay mocking you and your big dog from above, planning it’s next attack. The rhyme and rhythm of your poem contribute to the mood. Love it!

    4. Blue jay, uncertain
      Defending her brood
      Are you friend or foe?
      Prone to ill or the good?

      Poor mamma is blind
      to the motives of all
      So she’s far less than kind
      to the sum of you all.

  9. Today’s exercise really stretched me. Thank you! My poem, while far from perfect, really was fun to puzzle out. I ended up with an ABBA scheme–hope that works!

    The passage of time, upon first thought,
    Seems easy to understand.
    Like an arrow moving but one way
    It is straightforward. Or is it not?

    You are born, you grow, time marches on,
    It is easy to take this stance.
    Yet Faulkner said, and I do believe,
    The past is never truly dead and gone.

    He said all of us labor in webs,
    Spun long before we were born.
    Those tangles of gossamer silk,
    Do create our life’s flows and our ebbs.

    1. Well done, Sonja!
      I love the reference to Faulkner. What a creative idea!
      Happy writing!

  10. Thank you, Liz, for this writing challenge. I have always enjoyed rhyme but have never attempted it. Your advice on meter, counting syllables and then perhaps changing the word, is something my students have struggled with but I couldn’t put my finger on until now. Here is my attempt:

    The sun, it shines
    The birds, they sing
    I hear your voice
    So I come in

    Coffee is on
    The paper in hand
    You call to me
    So I come in

    Your chair empty
    But I take mine
    My heart is heavy
    We miss you, friend.

  11. I gave this a try. We jsut spent a few beautiful days in Quebec, so that is what has been on my mind.

    Old city, once fortified

    by soldiers on thick fortress walls

    Now children laugh and play up high

    As the street performer calls

    Neighborhoods stately old homes

    On narrow, winding streets

    Many now bed and breakfast inns

    With travelers to greet

    Terrace by the river beckons

    wooden slats, warmed by the sun

    tourists and the ghosts of guests

    battles lost and won

  12. Try again with spaces! This is very new to me.

    Old city once fortified
    by soldiers on thick fortress walls
    Now children laugh and play up high
    As the street performer calls

    Neighborhoods of stately old homes
    On narrow winding streets
    Many now bed and breakfast inns
    With travelers to greet

    Terrace by the river beckons
    wooden slats, warmed by the sun
    tourists and the ghosts of guests
    battles lost and won

    1. A lovely portrait poem of one of my all-time favourite cities. Are you there now? Isn’t it beautiful?

    2. What a great idea for a poem! I’m traveling soon and you’ve inspired me to attempt some poetry during my wanderings! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Thanks, Liz. Any suggestions for rhyming words? Specifically, how close do they have to be? In a song, they can be very vaguely rhyming and the way it’s sung can carry the rhyme. Do you feel that works for poetry too?

    Thanks for contributing your time. I’ll be writing later.

    1. Hi David…. You’re talking about near rhymes and slant rhymes which I, personally, LOVE in poems. In picture books, editors mostly look for perfect rhymes but I say there are no rules here today! Enjoy

  14. In the dark, I park my car
    I haul in my lunch, and coffee, and tote
    Wave at my friend from afar
    Think…“Gee, I thought she had strep throat?”

    Flip the lights, write on the board
    Ask myself, “What’s the plan for today?”
    “Hmmm. That’s ambitious, am I out of my gourd?”
    Glance at the clock, and I’m on my way.

    Open the door, the noise pours in
    Smiling, mad, some ready, others not
    Welcome them, let the show begin
    Pray some remember what I’ve taught!

    1. I was thinking about the chaos of a school day morning. My teaching partner had strep throat several times this past year, and it certainly added to the craziness!

  15. Thanks for the prompt! I teach second grade and struggle with poetry because some students get stuck on rhyming- even if I tell them not to try to rhyme at all! So we end up with strange, nonsensical word combinations, just because they rhyme! For me, my WIP is a grown-up novel, but the setting is my neighborhood, and one of our units in second grade is about neighborhood, so I spent some time thinking about how to use this in my classroom, while reflecting (in a fun way!) about the setting of my WIP. My baby is waking, but I’ll be back to read and respond to some other poems!

    My Nieghborhood

    Cully is where the sidewalk ends
    With gravel roads that twist and bend

    A piece of the city that used to be
    A place where berry fields were all you could see

    Now apartments tall and houses small
    A brand-new park where kids play ball

    A changing place as the signs soon tell
    Farmer’s market, fancy restaurants, houses to sell

    Other Portland neighborhoods murmur warning
    Too fast change sends some mourning

    Cully as you freshen up, don’t forget your modest start
    So your Brown, your Black, your poor residents can still take part.

    1. I love your description of Cully…especially the first 6 lines of the poem! I also love the first line’s allusion to a Shel Silverstein poem (not sure if this was intentional or not, but I love it!)

  16. Great lesson! I always have trouble with meter, so the suggestion to count syllables after writing the first few lines, and then sticking with that count, was particularly helpful (even though I still didn’t get it just right!).

    One Last Time

    One last time you held my hand
    With your own, so soft and strong.
    But like an hourglass dripping sand,
    I knew we didn’t have long.

    One last time you sang a song,
    One you had known from days long past.
    For a moment, a smile erased the wrong,
    A moment that couldn’t last.

    One last time you took a breath,
    And I held onto mine.
    I watched you slip away with death,
    And said “I love you” one last time.

    1. This is so tender — thank you for sharing something so dear to you. And as for the meter — counting syllables doesn’t ensure that the meter will be QUITE right because there will still be words with the emphasis on the wrong syllable. But you’ll be so close and then you can futz with those last couple of beats that don’t feel quite right.

    2. Beautiful! This poem really touched my heart as I read it! I always tell my students that the best poems make you feel something, and this one definitely did!!

  17. I am so happy to get back to TW this week, and what a way to start with Liz! I loved her new book, and always enjoy a poetry challenge. So, my poem got deep, fast. It’s a very personal commentary and observation on recent events. My little sister got married a few weeks ago, and our grandmother decided not to attend because of conflicts in the family. It hurt my sister and us all deeply…this is my reflection on her missing the wedding. Thanks for reading.

    We tried not to notice
    the thing that was not there
    We tried not to linger
    or seem to really care

    We walked down the aisle
    all dressed in shades of green
    Not one seat left open
    the gaping hole unseen

    We hoped it would not weigh
    on all our minds to mourn
    We thought the day was whole
    without her. We were torn.

  18. Thanks for the poetry push. I struggled with the “a” in line four because it messed with my syllables but in the end decided to take poetic license and let it stay.
    A crib, a twin and now a queen
    So much has happened in between
    First grade, high school, college, now work
    “I’m grown up Mom,” says he with a smirk

    “Can I borrow the car Mom?” Please
    Oh to have you sit on my knees
    Booties, Nikes, cleats, now oxfords
    The time has come to cut those cords

    Your car sped away, you waved goodbye
    My tears slid down, I cannot lie
    I’m proud of the man you’ve become
    But prouder still to be your mum.

    A crib, a twin and now a queen
    So much has happened in between
    First grade, high school, college, now work
    “I’m grown up Mom,” says he with a smirk

    “Can I borrow the car Mom?” Please
    Oh to have you sit on my knees
    Booties, Nikes, cleats, now oxfords
    The time has come to cut those cords

    Your car sped away, you waved goodbye
    My tears slid down, I cannot lie
    I’m proud of the man you’ve become
    But prouder still to be your mum.

  19. S’more, my dog, his body is white
    He often barks with all his might
    He stands almost one foot tall
    Chasing after his orange ball

    He pictures himself much grander
    In his dreams he’s a pit bull commander
    Guarding our house all day and night
    Often giving the postman great fright

    Yet at the end of each evening
    A cuddle in my lap is pleasing
    Although he’s small, my favorite part
    Is his massive colossal heart!

    Thanks for this fun prompt. If you would like to read more, please see my blog at mortonwy/blogspot.com

    I am loving reading everyone’s poems today!

  20. Hi Liz! What a fun way to start a week! OK, so I may be over-dramatizing here a bit, but some days of summer vacation might look a little bit like this. Maybe.

    I really AM about to go crazy!
    Watching my teens be incredibly lazy!

    Episodes of the Office drone on, never-ending.
    If they don’t turn this off, consequences are pending!

    Outside it’s summer! Inside they languish–
    teen corpses on couches…causing me anguish!

    But “watching”? It’s a term I use very loosely
    ’cause really they’re staring at phone screens profusely.

    Their eyes barely waver, all attention is caught
    “Invite some friends over,” I encourage– for naught.

    “Mom, you’re missing the boat, don’t you understand that
    I AM with my friends! We’re all on SnapChat!”

    1. Glad I am not the only one dealing teenagers! Love this….perfect description “teen corpses on couches”. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Great poem! I was laughing and shaking my head as I recognized this scene! I love the phrase “corpses on couches” and you have more great word choice throughout (drone, languish, anguish). Fun!

  21. Here\’s one about our ever-hopeful, ever-helpful dachshund, Sable.


    Little mini-doxie Sable
    Waiting underneath the table
    Hoping for a bite of scraps
    Careless crumbs brushed from our laps.

    Tail wagging, eyes implore,
    “Please drop something on the floor.”
    Ever hopeful, ever there,
    Sable goes from chair to chair.

    Guests ignore her, Mom says, “No!”
    Sable droops and turns to go.
    Then a scramble, milk is spilling,
    Who will clean up? Sable’s willing!

    Sable knows she is the winner,
    Oh, the joys of kids at dinner!

    1. I enjoyed your poem. It reminds of my visits to my son’s house where his dod, Stella, begs for food at the dinner table.

    2. What a fun poem! We have three dogs in our house, and despite our best efforts, there always seems to be at least one under a chair at dinner time. Probably they’re waiting for those exciting accidents!

  22. Okay, I am going to need all the support in the world for this one. I have always dreaded writing poetry, but I did it today! I don’t think much about this, and, unfortunately, I had to ignore Liz’s excellent advice on putting meaning first, because I have no idea where this is going. However, I worked on the rhyme, and am putting on my brave hat and sharing. Into the dark and out of the light
    She ran through the hills with all her might
    Chasing away the last trace of home
    The land was now hers to fully roam
    She never thought this moment would come
    Alive with senses that once were numb
    Stopping at last and turning around
    It dawned on her the wonder she found
    For far in the distance, sounds emerged
    Voices, melodies, and cries converged
    She knew at that moment time had come
    Destiny waited, she would succumb

    1. Are you kidding? This is fabulous! For not putting much thought into it, you ended up with a poem full of meaning!

    2. Um, WOW???!!! I can’t believe this, from someone feeling so nervous about rhyme. It’s lovely — AND, you must have been following an inner logic, an implicit meaning, because there’s definitely no nonsense here. Thanks so much for sharing!

  23. What a great way to start a rainy day Monday! I love cowboy poetry. When I retire I want to visit the festivals and maybe I’ll get the courage to perform some that I’ve written. Thanks! Jennifer Choate
    Rainy Day Monday
    Rain kept me from sleeping peacefully.
    Late start Monday morning.
    Checked the prompt- great for me!
    I love cowgirl poetry!
    Joy slides grumpily out of the closet.
    Boo’s always ready to go.
    Merle and patchwork spotty catahoulas
    Anything moves- they know!
    Ramble outside to check the horses.
    Muddy manes- such a mess!
    We’ll be workin’ those tangles out today.
    Pasture’s been so blessed!

  24. Such a fun mini lesson! I love working with rhyme! I always struggled with poetry when I was in school until I realized that poetry and prose is the time where you can throw away some of those jaunting grammar rules. When I started this little poem, I originally was going in a different direction. Alas! The story took such a bit of a darker turn.

    There! An invisible storm hides
    behind the hope of breaking skies
    The whispers of a bristled broom
    hastily whisked on to costume

    The upcoming disturbance that-
    if you were going to chip at-
    would find secrets of hushed despair
    and a Truth – locked – ready to snare

    but the Wise One waits for the cue-
    although she is equipped chew-
    as the Tempest builds broad and grows
    Soon facts and flaws will juxtapose

  25. Never thought of myself as a poet but since we have the students writing poetry, I need to stretch myself as a learner. This is based on my twin daughters.

    Sixteen Summer

    Staying up late and sleeping in
    Texting with a friend
    Lazy, lazy summer days
    We wish would never end.

    Decisions about our future selves
    What we’ll do or who we’ll be
    Postponed until the school year
    For now we are carefree.

    Our choices are much simpler now
    Movies, Concerts, Sleepovers and fun
    Swim at the beach or in the pool
    Until the summer’s done.

    1. I love this. I don’t yet have a teenager, but a late tween and the end of 6th grade was drama filled. Summer has been so much easier. You captured this so well.

  26. Thank you for such a fun prompt today, Liz! I started out thinking about one of the elderly characters in my WIP when I started this poem this morning. But as its evolved today, the poem, it turns out, is speaking to me. I am the “you” in the poem. It is a realization that all my family genealogy research and questions of my elders are not sufficient to “know” them, I need to just be with them and love. Oh, and I cheated and made it 14 lines (a sonnet). Sorry, to not follow directions.


    Am I just tide marks on an ancient shore?
    Are you Anning unearthing the debris,
    proof of past life deposited in ore,
    packed full of precious elements to free?

    Hoping to reconstruct my history
    you chisel and dust around my dry bones
    and hammer only empty cavities
    never attaining the marrow that groans.

    Alas, my soul cannot be held by stone
    in the earth’s quarry for you to appraise,
    picking out the most well-preserved bones,
    mud-drowned, leaking tracery of my days.

    Now, put down your chisel and hold my hand.
    Being heart to heart shows you who I am.

  27. Liz – Thank you for the lesson on poetry. I love bringing this genre into the classroom. I will be using this as a lesson, so again THANKS! I plan to add this into a WIP. This will be written by an 8-year-old girl who reads dictionaries and encyclopedias “just for the fun of it”.


    You are a mysterious beetle bug
    That is soft like a small quick hug.

    You thrive in a dark, warm wet place.
    You are of a very special race.

    By day, you wonder the ground
    By night you light and fly around

    You are spectacular to see,
    When you lurk around a tree.

    Your light is your thought and word
    That only your mate has heard

    You glow a bright chartreuse green
    And are the firefly that’s seen.

  28. Thank you so much Ms. Scanlon for this lesson and push of inspiration! I have recently thoroughly enjoyed My Great Good Summer and happily suffered the affects of a book hangover for several weeks, wishing I could see Paul and Ivy again!
    Here is my early attempt:

    A Surprise for the Teacher

    First a sparkle in his eye,
    A tiny blush, a grin so shy,

    Fuchsia smears don’t try to hide,
    Next to his sticky smile so wide.

    Skinny arms outstretched to me,
    Finally, I now can see,

    within the worn plastic lidded case,
    a pink frosted cupcake disgrace

    Outward, a coo of thanks for one so sweet,
    Inside, a wink at this non-treat.

    A prize to carry with me to lunch,
    but not with an intent to munch.

    The teachers share a knowing smile,
    and point me toward the garbage pile.

  29. I used to be fairly good at writing little rhymes, but lately most of my poetry has been free verse. I think today’s exercise really stretched me, so thank you. The poem was inspired by a child’s shoe I noticed by the side of the trail as I was walking my dog. I tried to imagine its story.

    The Lost Shoe

    Mom was deep in conversation
    As she jogged along the trail.
    With Joey settled in his cart
    She didn’t see me sail.

    A gentle kick from Joey
    Sent me flipping through the air.
    A double bounce…and suddenly
    No more was I a pair.

    I hope that soon I will be found,
    Reunited at long last
    With Joey and his little foot –
    My adventure in the past.

    1. This is charming! I love the shoe \”sailing\”. My oldest daughter often returned shoeless from a stroller ride.

    2. Charming is indeed the word for this poem! I loved the natural rhymes. Also, how clever to write from the shoe’s perspective! Thanks for sharing.

  30. Thanks for the great mini-lesson! My poem was inspired by a trip to St. Louis last week to see my daughter perform at The Muny outdoor theatre. The weather was not on our side, and we ended up only seeing the first act – two nights in a row.

    She sings, she dances
    She’s living her dream.
    It has taken her
    over the world, it seems.

    Each setting is new
    Each stage is unique.
    On a ship for nine months,
    Or outside for a week.

    I could watch her all day
    It will never get old.
    Even through rain
    she shines, dazzling and bold.

  31. What a fun exercise! I love playing with rhyme and often make up poems about my students for various activities. I also write verses for birthday cards and going away songs, etc. I love the variety of poetry shared hear today. I wrote my piece quickly, trying to get across my feelings about sharing my writing publicly. This is only the third piece I’ve shared here on Teachers Write.

    With pen in hand, I sit and wait,
    I know that writing is my fate.

    My thoughts pour out upon the page,
    Released, like birds from open cage.

    My memories, my deepest dreams,
    My secrets and my childhood schemes,

    Lie there before me, black on white,
    My hand starts trembling at the sight.

    How can I bare my soul to all?
    Must I heed my muse’s call?

    I stop, then start, then stop again.
    But, write I must, or go insane!

    1. Debbie – I relate to these feelings! I can tell from reading a few of the posts that so many of us do. I too wrote about my relationship with writing. The image of the birds flying out of the cage is poignant. Thank you for sharing it!

      1. Thank you, Dawn! I really enjoyed this exercise. Why are we so nervous about sharing our writing? I’m so impressed with the high quality of the pieces we’re sharing. Hopefully, this camp will help us to overcome our nerves!

  32. It’s just a silly little rhyme:

    My Cat

    I’m always saying, “Oh, you silly cat!”
    But I wonder, where’s the truth in that?

    My cat is smart, not silly at all-
    Happy chasing a spot of light on the wall,

    Completely content basking in the sun
    Or in full motion on a tearing run.

    My cat can be so independent, but
    When he wants attention, he’s insistent.

    It may be silly how he sometimes acts,
    But he gets my love when he curls on my lap.

    That cat worked his way into my heart-
    What do you think? Isn’t that smart?

    1. Having three such cats who did the same to me, I love this poem. Thanks for sharing it!

    2. Your poem spoke to me. I didn’t want our cat when we got her, but Miss Cleo has worked her way into my heart. She is smart!

  33. Wow! This was difficult. I started this morning, but left it alone while I had a team meeting. Coming back was good, but it was still difficult!
    Here’s is my attempt:
    They are daughters three
    who long to be free
    They all are precious
    yet so ferocious

    The first is mature
    confident that’s for sure.
    She loves to perform
    and read until morn.

    Anxiousness is next.
    She is so complex.
    Animals and art
    Calm her annoyed heart.

    Last is the small child.
    Oh is she so wild.
    Sports make her smile
    with her very own style

    1. Anna – This line caught me -“anxious is next” and I was drawn into the poem. It’s the line that let me know each part was about one child. What a wonderful idea.

  34. I just don’t do poetry

    Please don’t make me write in verse
    Or force me to create a rhyme
    Writing in school’s been a curse
    That I flub up every last time

    I’d rather write a story
    With funny kids and potty jokes
    Or something really gory
    For kids, and not you teacher folks

    I don’t enjoy your red ink
    That fills margins overflowing
    It only says how much I stink
    And stops my love from growing

    1. Greg – I love this. I had a feeling someone besides me would struggle with this! And then I found yours right above my post. I really appreciate your voice in this poem. The line about writing for kids, not you teacher folks is so telling. thank you for adding a smile to my day. And I’m guessing your red ink never makes kids feel bad!

      1. Thanks for the kind words. I actually enjoy writing poems (and sometimes adding rhymes), but tried to do theis one from the pov of a student. Also decided to no spend too much time tweaking, but allow the poem to just be.

    2. Greg–I love how you found a topic for a poem in not wanting to write one. And I disagree with your statement that you don’t “do” poetry–You just did! This would be a great experience/process to share with your students. Thanks for stepping up to the plate and for sharing your fine effort.

    3. ha ha — this is so great, and so true. poetry is so daunting to so many writers. share this poem with your students before your poetry unit this year — they’ll love it!

    4. I could not write a poem
      And if you asked me I wouldn’t show ’em.
      I do not like this poetry!
      I’d rather be attacked by fleas.

      Sorry–your poem reminded me of Green Eggs and Ham and I was inspired. Nice job, GA.

  35. Hi All! Thank you Liz for the challenge. I’ve never felt super confident about any writing, and especially not poetry. So I used this poem to express just that. It’s a reflection of me, not of TW or the assignment!

    I did not want to write this poem today
    It’s intimidating me. Why? you say
    I find this form of writing very hard
    My hackles came up so high, I’m on guard
    Writing has become a frenemy now
    Spending my time with her, then ouch. And how!
    I cannot find right ideas, or even words
    They came one time but ran away in herds
    With me, my son spent time, wrote poetry
    We used music, now it’s no help for me
    I’ll do it, for today I want to soar
    But deep inside, so afraid I’m a bore

    1. Dawn – you made me laugh! Loved this so much, especially how much your voice shines through!

  36. Liz, thank you for this informative and fun lesson! I feel that it has helped me learn some keys to teaching poetry to my third graders. I appreciated your explanations on how to choose rhymes, and also how to attend to the meter of your poem. I especially liked your point about choosing rhymes that make no sense. This happens often when writing rhyming poetry with third graders, so I will appreciate sharing this wisdom with them!

    I had fun with this and chose a topic that is related to one of my big missions this summer- to declutter my house. The title of my poem is the title of the book that I reference in the poem (the one that set me on this mission!).

    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

    I have KonMari fever!
    The house is pulled apart.
    I am a big believer,
    that my clutter must depart!

    The book I read was magic.
    Bags and bags have left my house.
    But, my husband thinks it’s tragic,
    even though he does not grouse.

    Still, he cannot help but wonder,
    Will there be an end to this?
    What is this spell she’s under?
    She keeps saying this is bliss!

  37. Rinse, repeat, cliche-driven phrases
    Plague the mind in its summertime lazes,
    In “Teacher’s Write!” when results are for real,
    This writer lives on a banana peel.

    So why in the world am I stuck in a box,
    When my mind is convinced that my best writing rocks?
    Does vanity stand in the place of true fact,
    Or is it belief in myself that he lack?

    One thing that’s now known: it’s no time like today
    To start on a path to decide either way.
    A person will know if he’s got what it takes
    in cliche-addled dreamland, if he starts, then he wakes…

    To committing himself to the joy of the chase,
    Who knows? Yes, perhaps he will find his own pace
    And actually write a brief passage that matters
    To own some small proof and replace baseless chatters.

    The proof, as they say, in pudding is found,
    And pudding I’ll make, perhaps by the pound.
    And when this time ends, and it’s reckoning day,
    Will a phrase or a paragraph live? Who can say?

  38. Finding inspiration for a poem in decluttering is sheer genius–or madness! You should send a copy of your poem to the author–I bet he/she would love it! This really is a fabulous example of finding a writing topic in mundane, everyday life. Thanks for sharing!

  39. (this is to go with my WAP, in which there is a conversation going on between the teacher and the student throughout).

    Really, Mrs. Doyle, a rhyming poem? Isn’t this a bit juvenile? I mean, come on, we did rhyming poems back in 3rd and 4th grade. Not sure how this is going to help you to get to know us any better, but here goes. This is actually not my experience, but my older cousin, Kelly has told me about this and it sounds so delightful. I only wish I had been born sooner so I could have been part of it. ~Krisanna

    Looking for Deer

    In summer, spring, and early fall we’d pile in cars to look,
    For deer in fields, and meadows of grass, or pausing by a brook.
    Just as the sun started to set and stars began to show.
    Parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins would surely all want to go.

    We’d pack into the wagon with Daddy behind the wheel,
    With 12 or 13 of us inside, we knew how sardines feel.
    I would sit way in back, looking out the dirty window,
    But soon as Daddy rolled it down we would watch the shadows grow.

    “A quarter for the sharpest eyes, the first to spy a deer!”
    Uncle Red would always offer us, and soon one gave a cheer,
    “There’s a deer, I’m sure of it – right there, by the maple tree,”
    The car would slow so all could see, while the winner grinned in glee.

    The deer would lift its head and flick its tail to show concern,
    “That one’s a buck,” somebody would say, and all would want a turn,
    Binoculars would make the rounds from young to older hand,
    Those times were joyous, and so surreal, those memories so grand.

  40. Red galoshes on your feet
    Umbrella close at hand
    Watery pools on the street
    Drenched and soggy land.

    Jump into the biggest one,
    Hurry! Take a leap.
    Splashing, stomping. So much fun!
    Find one that\’s really deep.

    Summer rain on a July day
    No reason to be blue
    Puddle-hopping makes good play
    Once the storm blows through.

  41. I am new to this group so this is my first writing assignment. Very excited!

    Green Veggies

    Broccoli is my favorite,
    spinach my #2.
    When it come to veggies,
    only green will do!

    I crunch and munch,
    eat them cooked or raw.
    When I’m home alone,
    I eat them all!

    My health is good.
    Of course you say.
    We all should eat
    green veggies each day!

    Thank you for the great exercise Liz!

    1. I enjoyed your poem. You made me want to go eat some green vegetables even though it is close to 8 at night.

  42. Hi, Liz.
    I’m not much of a poet, and when I do attempt to write, it’s always free verse. Rhyming is not my forte, but I did give it a go.

    On Display

    The circle widens as more people come
    A crowd such as this I would not find at home

    Children are screaming and running amuck
    America passes by along the sidewalk

    The rumble and roar of Harleys overpowers
    The weather report does not call for showers

    “Lemonade!” the girls shout from their homemade stand
    Salesmen stroll by with light up toys in hand

    No mosquitoes but June bugs hover ‘round trees
    Overhead brown bats swoop in for a free meal

    Then all grows still ‘cept for ahs and ooos
    As fireworks burst forth into glorious blooms

  43. Bluegrass Train

    It’s travel time stepping back
    Heading for the railroad track
    Bluegrass country green and neat
    Ticket for an old train seat
    Conductor waves to hail
    At all the folks without fail
    Blasting horn not too subtle
    Now, tardy stragglers hustle
    All aboard the Bluegrass Train
    Hot and muggy but no rain
    This train travels really slow
    Clickity Clack, Here we go!

  44. This prompt was such a stretch for me. I finally just wrote what I was feeling about writing a rhyming poem. I now have better understanding of what my students go through when they try to force a rhyme. Thank you.

    Writing Poetry

    Writing poetry is hard for me
    But rhyming poetry is the absolute pits.
    I can’t think of anything to write
    Except for a few little bits.

    I don’t have the quick wit of Dr. Seuss
    And I’m not good with puns
    So writing rhyming poetry
    For me is no fun.

    I wish my poetry was like friends
    Either silver or gold
    But when I write in verse
    There’s no beauty to behold.

  45. What a great way to end my day. I spent the day in my hometown after attending a funeral there for an old family friend. It brought back a lot of memories, and using the rhyming assignment helped me to process a bit of the day.

    Stepped back into childhood this afternoon.
    Started off with a trip through five –
    Visited streets and schools where my sister and I planted roots.
    Now apartments grow where playgrounds once thrived.

    Relived 10 at an old favorite restaurant.
    Shared family style platters with two boys, now men
    while trading stories about jobs and kids
    that would have passed for tall tales back then.

    And lastly, on to the home where I spent my teens.
    Drove by slowly, gawking at the strangely familiar from the car.
    If I could, I’d tell the girl who lived behind that window
    that she’ll make it through and one day glance back from afar.

    I hope to play around with it more in the future and maybe add a few more stanzas with more specific imagery of the places I visited down memory lane today.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

  46. I didn’t think I would be able to do this, because sometimes it can take forever to find the right rhyme. But this is what I came up with, inspired by my after dinner activity!

    Pull and pick, pick and pull,
    These stinkers have to go.
    They’re taking up the space
    Where real plants want to grow.

    Another and another,
    I twist and yank some more.
    Ripping out the weeds
    ‘Till my fingers are quite sore.

    I stand back to admire,
    my tidy garden bed,
    full of re-discovered colors
    in purple, pink and red.

    As I lean a little closer,
    My pride is tinged with gloom,
    Because one sunny yellow flower
    is a cheeky weed in bloom.

    Thanks for the challenge! I don’t know if anyone else found this helpful, but there is an online rhyme dictionary where you can type in a word to get its rhymes. It’s been useful for me with many poetry attempts (especially writing poems for my class). Here’s the link:


  47. The best part of getting this in so late is the amazing posts ahead of mine! So fun! What a challenge.

    Here goes!


    Distracted by Buzzfeed and Facebook,
    we don’t give our own past a good look.
    Real stories are hiding in plain sight,
    If we only log off, reunite
    with the ones with the stories to tell
    of the people who here used to dwell.
    Thous’nd words an old photo is worth
    but backstories they cannot unearth.
    So sit down with your parents and ask
    ‘bout the stories that make up their past,
    Or the tales of your roots will be gone
    then to what will your children hold on?

  48. Wow! Rhyming is NOT easy! After trying several poems that didn’t work at all, I decided to write a poem about the character from the story I’m working on:
    She’s got curly brown hair that’s hard to tame,
    And a tag-along cat with an unusual name.
    Always bare-footed and ready for fun,
    Toting a fishin’ pole and her daddy’s shotgun.
    Raising chickens and ducks and nibbling goats,
    She loves to ride horses and tip over boats.
    She fights back when the red rooster attacks
    And is ready to help when the hay bales need stacked.
    Skinned knees and bruises don’t stop her at all,
    Watch out ’cause she won’t back down from a brawl.
    Don’t underestimate what she can do.
    You think girls can’t do that? You haven’t a clue.

    1. Great idea, Holly! (And you squeezed yours in just under the wire–better than me ;-{ ) You captured so much of your character’s spunk and spirit. Are you doing to tell us what book it is?

    2. This is rich with details telling me so much about the grit and spunk of your character! I’d read about this girl anytime! My students would love her also!

    3. OOh! I think I’m going to like this girl! Loved the line, “And a tag-along cat with an unusual name.”

  49. I walk along the sandy shore,
    Eyes scan the horizon once more.
    The gentle waves lap at my feet
    In and out, never miss a beat.

    Longing for carefree days of old,
    When my bones felt no hint of cold.
    Wispy clouds floating through the sky,
    On tippy toes, I stretch high.

    And once more soar on eagles’ wings,
    Anticipating greater things.
    But for now I bask in the sun,
    Biding my time, till my work’s done.

    1. My favorite part is when your idea spans the second and third stanza and continues. I wonder if you even need a period at the end of the second stanza. Very cool.

  50. It’s been a while since I’ve written such structured poetry. If I write, it tends to be more a/b/c/b. But here was my effort.

    Reading While it Rains

    The rain on the roofs
    Clomps like horse’s hoofs.
    An idyllic day
    Being held at bay.

    Do I sit and stare?
    Do I grimace or glare
    At this thief of sun
    For chasing my fun?

    No! I cuddle in
    And over the din
    I’m lost for an age
    With each turn of the page.

    1. I loved each line, and especially some of your descriptors. Comparing rain to the clomping from a horse is brilliant! Describing the rain as “a thief of sun chasing your fun” was perfect!

  51. One of our favorite read alouds is ZORGAMAZOO. Written entirely in rhyme, it is a humorous sci-fi for MG students that feels like a Seussian novel. A real treat to read!

  52. Inspired by my son and the only stuffed toy my son loves, Sheepie, who really does travel with us on any trip we take…
    A new adventure,

     A new place to see.

    We’re gonna travel the world,

    My boy and me.

    Dig our toes in some sand

    Swim and splash in the sea.

    We’re gonna travel the world,

    My boy and me.

    Cuddle and doze on an airplane

    Fly as high as can be.

    We’re gonna travel the world,

    My boy and me.

    Meet a mouse at a castle 

    Have some lunch with Winnie.

    We’re gonna travel the world,

    My boy and me.

    Wherever the next journey 

    Takes him,

    Right there I’ll be. 

    We’re gonna travel the world, 

    My boy and me. 

  53. So much incredible, beautiful, fun poetry here! Here’s my little, silly contribution:

    It’s so hard for me to write a poem
    When given a command
    It makes me think about my kiddos
    E’ry time I make demands

    Do their hearts beat fast?
    Do their palms sweat?
    Are their brains swirling?
    Are their pits all wet?

    Next time I promise I’ll think it through
    When I’m the one in charge
    Some compassion and lots of patience
    To keep them on full charge!

  54. Thank you for the mini-lesson, Liz! I am a day late, but thought I would go ahead and post my attempt at the assignment. I decided to re-work an acrostic poem I wrote as a classroom model into a rhyming poem. Here is what I came up with:

    Hummingbird, Thrumming Bird

    He flies, buzzes, and disappears
    A vibrant green gem
    That whirrs near my ears
    Then stops to rest on a stem.

    He darts, he dashes and thrums
    Beat by wingbeat
    He works as he hums.
    He glides, so swift and so fleet.

    He flashes, hovers, and flits
    He wraps up his search
    For the juicy bits
    Then mutely lands on a perch.

  55. Late to the party, but this was HARD!
    In The News

    Every day for 90 years
    The papers arrived in threes.
    The Examiner, Times, and The WSJ,
    Littered by his knees.

    He pored o’er every article,
    Reciting facts within.
    Only to finish late at night,
    And tomorrow, start again.

    The joy he took in reading
    Inspired me from the start.
    I’d mine the ink in articles,
    To feed my curious heart.

    Together we prowled the pages,
    Stalked politics and sports,
    Stocks and bonds, and local news
    And the comics, too, of course!

    The paper made him brilliant.
    He could speak on anything.
    Like Vietnam and baseball,
    And Spain’s most recent king.

    Juan Carlos is no longer.
    And time has marched along.
    And Daddy now is older.
    No longer big and strong.

    He still enjoys his paper
    But three’s too much to read
    Still, daily he pores over
    Each line with wanton greed

    On the downside, he’s forgetting.
    In fact, he’s gotten weak.
    On the upside, he’s been reading,
    Sunday’s paper here all week.

  56. I know I’m super late but this is what I wrote as I reflected on my summer of teaching teachers across the US this summer. I’ve been inspired by so many of my students from the past seven years.
    It’s not about my Name
    Gone for a month, I’m out.
    That plane sweeps me away.
    There are faces I’ll miss no doubt
    But I must go; I cannot stay.

    I have a story to tell,
    Split second blips of fame,
    Lessons I learned and how I fell.
    I know it’s not about my name.

    It’s those faces I miss.
    They propel me to speak.
    Their voices replace my silence,
    giving me courage to reach this peak.

  57. Summer In Maine

    Summer sun scales the sky
    Choir birds sing on high
    Canoe glides in water blue
    Over loons darting through

    Skunks trundle through cool nights
    Owls swoop from soaring heights
    Dew collects on grassy tips
    Crickets hop and take their sips

    Buoys mark the trapping spots
    Lobsters fill the whistling pots
    On the beaches folks lay low
    Forgetting all the winter snow