What is Poetry? - Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 What Is Poetry?
  • 0:38 Why Does Poetry Matter?
  • 1:24 What Makes a Poem?
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Trenton Judson

Trenton is an assistant English professor with a Master's degree in English.

Expert Contributor
Jenna Clayton

Jenna received her BA in English from Iowa State University in 2015, and she has taught at the secondary level for three years.

Poetry is one of the most interesting ways in which we use language. In this lesson, learn about what poetry actually is and what features can make a poem.

What Is Poetry?

''Roses are red and violets are blue….''

''I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.''

''But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.''

You probably have heard at least one of these or something like it. These are all considered parts of poems. The first comes from a nursery rhyme, the second is from William Henley, and the third comes from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. But what is poetry? And why should we care about it?

Why Does Poetry Matter?

Poetry has been a part of human history since before we could even write things down. Oral traditions of poetry that had rhyme, for instance, helped early civilizations memorize epic poems and histories.

Poetry is a way to elevate language by using words and sounds to express powerful ideas and images. Have you ever heard the expression ''get more bang for your buck''? Or ''do a lot with a little''? That's what poetry does for language. It does a lot with a little.

A poem is a snapshot of a feeling, the same way you might use Snapchat to capture a picture or video of a moment that you really like. Often people write poetry to express deep emotions like love or admiration or to purge feelings of loneliness or depression.

What Makes a Poem?

Poetry is a type of language that uses form. Form in poetry can be structure, meter, rhyme, topic, or an established pattern. You've probably heard the words rhyme, pattern, and topic before, but we'll cover them briefly again and explore some of the other terms you might not be familiar with.

Structure is how a poem looks on a page. A poem could be long or short. It can also have long lines or short lines. It all depends on what mood the poet wants his or her readers to experience. Because of poetry's structure, it can help you feel happy, sad, excited, thoughtful, or even spiritual.

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Additional Activities

Poetry Activities for Kids

Write a Poem

For this activity, you will write one or both of the following types of poems.

Acrostic Poem: An acrostic poem spells out a particular word or phrase using the first letter from each line. For this poem, choose any word that you want. It can be your name, your favorite animal or sport, a holiday, a season, or anything at all. Next, write your word or phrase vertically so that each letter is on its own line. Then, write your poem. For this poem, you don't have to worry about meter or rhyme. You just have to make sure that your lines fit the theme of your chosen word. Below is an example of an acrostic poem.

Carols sung on neighbors' front porch

Hot chocolate near the fireplace

Reindeer on the rooftop

Ice skating at the park

Snowflakes, snowballs, & snowmen

Twinkling lights

Making sugar cookies

Ave Maria

Santa and his helpers

Haiku: Haikus are short Japanese poems normally about nature. There are three lines in total. The first line contains five syllables, the second has seven, and the third line has five again. Make sure to give your haiku a title. Below is an example of a haiku.

A Calm Morning

Calm tranquility

The sun's gentle morning glow

Everything is still

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