Welcome to week one of the ten-week Poetry for Kids course!
We’re going to start out this week talking to the kids about cliches — the downfall of many poets and poems.
Ask the kids if they know what a cliche is. Explain that a cliche is an overused phrase or idea, and that cliches make stories and poems seem amateur.
Here are some examples of cliches:
- He broke her heart.
- The night was as black as coal.
- They were as different as night and day.
- It was as cold as ice.
- It was a dark and stormy night.
Ask the kids to think up their own examples of cliches.
As a family, make a list of cliches you can think of. Remember, these are ideas or phrases that have been used so much that they’re predictable and usual.
Now talk about ways to make the same cliches fresh. Tell the kids that one sign of a good poem is that the poet says things in a way that is unexpected but makes perfect sense. For instance, everybody says “he broke her heart” but are hearts really broken? How else could a poet describe the feeling of being “heartbroken” with new imagery?
Brainstorm together (another cliche!) about other ways you could express it, such as, “He shredded her heart.”
Also talk about the way words in a poem should do “double duty.” A good descriptive word will not only describe the subject but also help set a mood and make the reader think a certain way. For instance, if you want to describe black hair, you could describe a tough girl’s hair as “black as a cast iron pan” and give a very different feeling than if you described her hair as “black as an oil slick” or “black as patent leather shoes.” Each of these makes the reader think of the girl in a slightly different way.
Now give the kids a list of phrases and analogies to finish in new, fresh ways. Kids can write their answers on a sheet of paper or families can do it as a group effort. Encourage the kids to be as unique as possible (while still making sense). Here are some possible phrases to complete:
- As black as _________
- As blue as _________
- As soft as __________
- As cold as __________
- Eyes like ____________
- Rough like ____________
- As white as ___________
- ________ night
- ________ tears
- ________ ending
- ________ days
Tell the kids that they can also use nouns as adjectives in poetry. For instance, they could say “watermelon days” and the reader would get all sorts of images of what sort of days they’re describing. Tell the kids that one of the great things about poetry is that there really are no rules! That’s part of what makes it fun.
Read each other’s analogies and talk about your favorites.
Our kids came up with phrases like:
- As black as Minnesota dirt
- As blue as a punk rocker’s hair
- Pokemon tears (we’re not sure what this one means, but it sounded kind of neat!)
- Take a look at this list of phrases that we got from Shakespeare. Talk with the kids about how these were all new, fresh ways to say things when Shakespeare wrote them and how they have become part of our everyday language. A good writer can create phrases like these instead of relying on what another writer invented.
- Read poetry as a family together each day or night. Use any poetry books you have around the house or get some books from the library. They can be poems written for kids or adults. Talk about instances you notice when the poet used fresh ideas instead of cliches.
- Encourage the kids to be on the lookout for cliches in advertisements, books, poems, TV shows and even conversations.
- Have the kids continue to think about new, fresh ways to express those ideas.
- Start a family list somewhere public (on the refrigerator, on a white board, etc.) of cliche-busters that family members think of — phrases that say things in brand new ways.
Note: This post is part of my free 10 week poetry for kids course. You can view all 10 weeks of the course with a description of each week and the links here.