Wacky Wednesday: Why Teach Acrostic Poems? And How?
November 25, 2009 in Creative Writing activities, Elementary Educators, High School Teachers, Picture Book, poetry, Preschool to 1st grade teachers, Shared Writing, six traits of writing, Wacky Wednesday, Writing Skills Tags: acrostic poems, Animal Acrostics, Creative Writing, poetry, Writing process
Around the holidays, you may have a writing activity such as this for your students or children: write the word, Thanksgiving, vertically on the left-hand side of your paper. Then write an acrostic poem–the first letter of each line should be a letter in Thanksgiving AND each line should focus on Thanksgiving.
When you read the poems after kids have finished writing them, you will have a variety of interesting acrostic poems–many of them having nothing to do with the topic. That’s where the problem seems to occur. Kids can usually think of words that begin with certain letters–they can even use a dictionary to find a word if they couldn’t think of one on their own, but the words or sentences or phrases aren’t always on topic.
Acrostic poems are a wonderful tool to use for creative writing skills, poetry skills, word choice, and even fluency. You can also use acrostic poems to assess a student’s knowledge on a certain subject such as space (students write an acrostic poem about Mercury) or history (an acrostic poem about Local Government).
I think the problem occurs when we expect these poems to be written the afternoon before holiday break as a quick writing activity to display on the wall. Acrostic poems are actually not easy. They are difficult, require a lot of playing around with language and word choice, and a good vocabulary (or dictionary skills). When expecting children to write an acrostic poem, give them enough time to take it through the writing process (prewriting, first draft and so on). Let them work with a peer to brainstorm ideas. Give them a few days to write their rough drafts. Challenge them to come up with unique lines that focus on the topic.
Here’s a really great picture book, Animal Acrostics, that can show students some good examples of acrostic poems!
So, why teach acrostic poems? They are fun, help get creative juices flowing, and work on a number of writing skills. And how? Give kids a chance to explore this type of poetry! It’s not as easy as it looks.
photo by kristain D www.flickr.com