Poetry workshops inspire participants to engage in creative storytelling while utilizing poetic structures and rhythms.  Workshops are designed for all age groups and skill levels. Participants will create haikus, quatrains, cinquains, sonnets, fill-in-the-blank poems, ransom note poems, acrostic, theme-based, rhyme-based and songs/raps.

Workshop participants will work on sentence structure, parts of speech, expanding vocabulary, poetic composition, rhythm and rhyme. Participants will also utilize critical thinking, creative problem-solving methods and be encouraged to take literary risks.

Poetry Workshops are designed to take place in multiple sessions. The following session breakdown is an example of the workshop structure. It may be added to or subtracted from or may also run consecutively with other projects.


Class One: The Writing Process


Introductions, Stretches etc, Name Game, Discussion of Program, Class  

Expectations/Respect (10 min)

What Is Poetry? Brief discussion (10 min)

  • Poetry should make sense/tell a story (Pick a subject and go!)
  • Poetry may or may not rhyme
  • Poetry may or may not have a form/structure
  • Poetry is from the heart

Journaling: Getting to What’s Beneath the Surface

(Supplies: paper/pencils; 5 min)

  • Students receive supplies and given instructions with a brief discussion of the importance of journaling
  • Free writing, doodling, etc.

Activity: Magnetic Poetry: How to write with random words (20 min)

                  Balloon Thoughts (Supplies: note cards, pencils, balloons)

Class will write words on sheets of paper. Paper will be folded and inserted into balloons. Groups of 5-6 will juggle balloons to symbolize the thought process of writing. Groups will pop balloons and remove words.

Poem 1: Group Poem: Groups will formulate a free verse poem as a group with the words found within the balloons.

Poem 2: Individuals will formulate a free verse poem using words found within the balloons. (If we run out of class time, can students copy words into journals to complete the individual poem for next class period.)

Closing: Review, Stretches etc. (5 min)


Class Two: Uncovering the Self


Welcome, Stretches, etc. (5 min)

Journaling: Free Writing (5 min)

Activity: Uncovering the Self 

(Supplies: Lined paper, pencils) (35 min)

Students will complete three exercises utilizing pre-formatted poems. Time will also be given to students who choose to complete or revise poems from the previous class.

Example: “Ego Trippin’” by Nikki Giovanni

Closing: Review, Stretches etc. (5 min)


Exercise One: My Name Is…

Our names don’t always do a good job of describing who we really are. All the people we know have different ideas about who we are and they sometimes see us differently than we see ourselves. Not only that, who we are constantly changes. Using the following poem as an example, fill in the blanks below to come up with your own poem that describes all the different “names” that describe who you are.

Today my name is:

Yesterday my name was:

Tomorrow my name will be:

My friends think my name is:

The teachers think my name is:

My parents think my name is:

Secretly I know my name is:


Exercise Two: Autobiographical Poem

Line 1: Your first name.

Line 2: Four adjectives that describe you.

Line 3: Son/daughter of…, Brother/sister of…

Line 4: Lover of (three people or ideas or a combination)

Line 5: Who feels (three sensations or emotions)

Line 6: Who finds happiness in (3 things)

Line 7: Who needs (three things)

Line 8: Who gives (three things)

Line 9: Who fears (three things)

Line 10: Who would like to see (three things)

Line 11: Who enjoys (three things)

Line 12: Who likes to wear (three colors and/or things)

Line 13: Add something you want to say

Line 14: Your last name


Exercise Three: Portrait Poem

Poetry deals with the emotions, just as music. An autobiographical poem is personal—it reveals something about the person writing the poem. It does not have to rhyme. Below is a simple plan to write your own autobiographical poem. Just follow the steps and—before you know it—it’s done.

1)    The first line is “Who Am I?”

2)    Then skip a line and write “I am…”

3)    On the next five lines write down family relationships (see example).

4)    Then skip a line and write “I am…”

5)    On the next four lines write down “job titles” that describe you (see example).

6)    Then skip a line and write “I am…”

7)    On the next three lines write a word that physically describes you.

8)    Then skip a line and write “I am…”

9)    On the next two lines write down a characteristic of yours (see example).

10)  Then skip a line and write “I am…”

11)  And finally the word “me.”


Class Three: Expression within Form


Welcome, Stretches, etc. (5 min)

Journaling: Free Writing (5 min)

Activity: Autobiographical Form Poems (30 min)

Students will be introduced to five different forms of poetry and will write a poem using the adjectives and storylines from the brainstorming sheet provided. Students will work within whichever poetic form best suits them.

1.     Haikus
2.     Couplets
3.     Quatrains
4.     Cinquains
5.     Free Verse

Example: “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou

Closing: Review, Stretches etc. (5-10 min)


Exercise One: Autobiographical Poem Brainstorming

1. What is your favorite memory?

2. What is your least favorite memory?

3. What is most important to you?

4. What words would you use to describe yourself? (3 at least)

5. What is your greatest wish?

6. If you were your own super hero/heroine who would you be?

7. How would you describe your life?

8. What would you change about your life?

9. Describe what you life will be like in 10 years.

10. How do you see the world today?

11. What would you do if you could change anything in the world?


Class Four: Revision of the Word


Welcome, Stretches, etc. (5 min)

Journaling: Free Writing (5 min)

Activity: Revision (30 min)

Students will choose one poem they have written over the course of the program. Poems will be discussed in small groups in a guided “workshop” setting. Students will be responsible for rewording and reformatting in preparation for publishing and performance.

Closing: Farewells and Stretches, etc. (5-10 min)


Poetry Rules:

Wait Until You Are Done Writing to Edit

Save Your “Unfinished” Work

Don’t Worry About Spelling and Punctuation

Don’t Criticize Yourself

You Don’t Have to Know How it Ends Before You Start