The restrictions of rhyming have long frustrated poetry students. So learning how to write free verse poetry was a revelation for third-graders at Freeman's Mill Elementary School. Suddenly there was more to poetry than "Roses are red/violets are blue/I hate writing poems/how about you?"
Students studied and wrote free verse poems in their hourlong daily writing workshops. In December, much of their poetry described the holidays. They wrote about hot cocoa, Christmas trees, snow and gingerbread men.
"I think many of them learned to write from the heart, which is how poets write," said teacher Suzanne Keller. "My students enjoy writing, and are anxious for the time of day when we have writing workshop. I think they now think like writers."
Free verse poetry allowed the kids to tap into their imaginations to produce metaphors, personifications and other sophisticated descriptions. No longer confined by the rules of grammar and structured writing, they wrote more creatively.
"In this type of study, we actually encourage students not to try and make their poems rhyme as it often takes away from what they are trying to say," said reading specialist Lisa Eickholdt. "In this way we encourage children to write from their hearts about things that matter to them."
Emma Bridger, 8, had never written poetry before she got to Keller's class. She enjoyed writing and telling stories, and immediately took to poetry. After her teachers commended her for writing "Imagine," a poem about Christmas Eve, she became a bit of a celebrity at school.
"Some of my classmates asked me for my autograph, which felt pretty good," Emma said.
Other students said they enjoyed writing poetry because of how it made them feel.
"I like how there is emotion and sometimes you can feel music in poetry," said 8-year-old Kathryn Brown.
The students may grow up to succeed Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson as great American poets. But if they don't, they will still have learned the poetic lesson that there's no rhyme or reason to always rhyme.
that it is nighttime
snow is lightly falling outside
a breeze is floating throughout the air
all is calm and quiet
that you are sitting by a fire
drinking hot cocoa
soft, peaceful music
is floating throughout the room"
- from "Imagine," a poem by Emma Bridger, age 8