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Tutor Tip of the Month

Using Form Poetry To Get Learners Writing

(Adapted from Project Read of San Francisco, Fall 2005 Newsletter)

Many of us find that when we are learning how to do something, having a model or structure to follow can make the task feel less intimidating and more manageable. For adult learners beginning to work on their writing may benefit from begin given a very precise structure into which to place their written thoughts. One way to provide them with this structure is to use form poetry.

Here are a couple types of form poems. You can find more examples in poetry texts at the library or on online, both of which are great activities to do with your learner.

Alphabet Poems: Learners can use this form to write about themselves, a friend, a family member, or even a pet. To begin, he or she would write the letters of the person’s name, with each letter on a separate line. Then, the learner writes a word or phrase beginning with each letter that describes the person. It can also be used to describe a place or any other noun. For example:

Reader of novels
A lover of music
New home-owner
Daily commuter
Young at heart

Cinquains: These are five-line poems. They follow this pattern:

Line 1 – A one-word title or name of something or someone (noun)
Line 2 – Two words describing the subject in line 1 (adjectives)
Line 3 – Three words describing the action of the subject (verbs)
Line 4 – A sentence expressing a feeling you have about the subject
Line 5 – One word that repeats, or renames, the subject in line 1

For example:

ugly noisy
drumming sawing praying
sad and regretfully lonely

As you can see, this is also a fun way to review and apply the parts of a sentence!

For both of these forms, it might take some brainstorming to come up with the right words, which means learners can expand their vocabularies through exploring synonyms.


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