Teen Poetry Workshop


Poetry writing workshop.

Intended Audience

Ages 12 to 18; 5 to 15 attendees.

Program Duration

2 to 4 hours in one or two sessions.


Create posters and bulletin boards about the program which invite participants to call to pre-register.

Place the posters in your library, in local book and music stores, and in coffee houses or similar places frequented by young adults.

Publicize the program in local newspapers, radio stations, and schools.

Mail registrants an information sheet about the workshop. Call a day or two in advance of the event to remind them of the date, time, and location.

Call the presenter a week before the workshop to re-confirm the dates and times of the program and the equipment and materials that the library will provide. Required equipment may include an overhead projector and/or a dry erase board.

In advance of the workshop, prepare and copy handouts on the following pages.

Provide pencils and paper for attendees.

Program Description

Hire a poet, an English teacher from a local school or university, or a member of a poetry club to present this program. As an alternative, library staff may present the workshop. Although poetry workshops may differ in format, most include short explanations of various types of poetry and creative, idea-generating exercises. They also provide several opportunities for attendees to begin writing poetry. Poetry may be written as “homework” which will be refined at a following meeting if the workshop is to have multiple sessions. An outline of a poetry workshop is provided below.

Ask attendees to allow the library to post a few of the poems composed during the workshop on a library bulletin board, on the library’s young adult web page, and/or in a teen newsletter.

Poetry Workshop - Outline

I. Introduction - Discuss the following terms and their definitions and provide examples of some of them from well-know poems or popular music.

  • Poem -- An expression of feelings or ideas using rhythm and elements such as metaphor, meter, and rhyme.
  • Metaphor -- A comparison in which one word or phrase which literally means one object is used to describe another object.
  • Simile -- A comparison using the words “like” or “as.”
  • Meter -- A measured, patterned arrangement of syllables, primarily according to stress or length.
  • Rhyme -- words with ending sounds that are similar or identical.

II. Three basic types of poems – Explain the three basic categories of poems.

Lyrical Poems are the most frequently used of poetry forms. In them, the speaker expresses a single thought or concept.

One type of lyrical poem is the long elegy or poem of lament, usually over the death of a particular person. It may be a meditative poem in a sorrowful mood. An example of a poem is Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. An example of a song is Candle In the Wind by Elton John which is on the album, The Very Best of Elton John.

Another type of lyrical poem is the ode that is a rich, intense expression of elevated thought, often an expression of praise to a person or object. An example of a lyrical poem is John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale.

Narrative Poems narrate events or stories that stress details of plot and action. A ballad is a popular, short narrative poem that typically has stanzas of two or four lines and often has a refrain or recurring chorus. Folk song ballads are included in this category as well as popular songs such as Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the theme song to the TV series, which is on Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince by DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Dramatic Poem – portrays a story of life or character and usually involves conflict and emotions. It includes a plot that unfolds with action and dialog. An example is “Barbara Fritchie” by John Greenleaf Whittier and “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

III. Form Poems. Discuss the following types of poems that are good for beginning writing. Make transparencies of examples and/or work with the group to write one of each on a chalk board, easel, or dry erase board.

Color Poems are rhyming or non-rhyming poems expressing feelings about a favorite color. Here is an example of a color poem.


Silver is like grandma’s beautiful hair

Silver is the coin in my pocket

Silver is the lining on the clouds so high

Silver is the ring my mother on my finger


The Never-Ending I Wish Poems consists of any number of five-line stanzas beginning and ending with “I wish…” Here is an example:

I Wish…

I wish for a big, green field

Filled with trees and jungle gyms and baseball fields

Where children could play without fear.

I Wish …

Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry containing seventeen syllables in 3 lines. Each of the three lines have a specific number of syllables: line 1 has five syllables, line 2 has seven syllables, and line 3 has five syllables. A haiku usually deals with one scene from nature and is most often set in a specific season. Here is an example.

Spring Waters

by Tyran McCall, Harker Heights Public Library Teen


Blue spring waters sit,

And watch the blue skies wander,

Leading plants to drink.

Tanka is a classic Japanese form of poetry producing an image of a single event or feeling. It consists of five unrhymed lines of specific numbers of syllables. Line 1 has five syllables; line 2 has seven syllables; line 3 has five syllables, line 4 has seven syllables, and line 5 has seven syllables.

Do you remember

an endless summer night when

stars whispered softly

and you dreamed and gazed and wished

so free happy wild.

In Acrostic poems, the first letters of each line are aligned to form a word. Here is an example:

Tall and wise

Regal and majestic

Ever silent

Enveloped by society

A Diamonte poem forms the shape of a diamond and has the following requirements:

Line 1 is a noun or subject; line 2 has two adjectives; line 3 has three gerunds; line 4 is four words about the subject, line 5 has three gerunds, line 6 has two adjectives, and line 7 is synonym for the subject. Or, line 1 is a noun or subject; line 2 has two adjectives; Line 3 has three gerunds; line 4 has four words about the subject (two for subject, two for antonym); line 5 has three gerunds (about the antonym); Line 6 has two adjectives (about the antonym); and line 7 has an antonym for the subject. Here is an example.


True, Pure

Keeping, Caring, Staying

Sought Forever; Often Found

Creeping, Lying, Possessing

Untrue, impure


A Limerick is a rhyming poem that combines a couplet with a triplet. Lines 1,2, and 5 are rhyming (or nearly rhyming) lines of three down beats; lines 3 and 4 are rhyming (or nearly rhyming) lines of two down beats. Here is an example.

There was a young girl named Marian

Who traveled to lands rich to barren

She did not fly,

Nor walk, nor ride

Instead she became a librarian.

Getting started

The presenter may begin the poetry-writing exercises by discussing and practicing several techniques to generate ideas for poems, such as brainstorming and webbing, and then ask students to write a poem in any of the above formats.


Present a workshop series that includes writing prose, songs, and drawing comics, or host a “poetry slam” or open mike at the library.

Young Adult Resources

  • Another e.e. cummings by e.e. cummings and edited by Richard Kostelanetz.
  • Back to Class: Poems by Mel Glenn by Mel Glenn.
  • Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States edited by Lori Carlson.
  • Earth-shattering Poems edited by Liz Rosenberg.
  • The Invisible Ladder: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers edited by Liz Rosenberg.
  • My Own True Name: New and Selected Poems for Young Adults, 1984-1999 by Pat Mora.
  • Split Image: A Story in Poems by Mel Glenn.
  • The Moon in the Pines: Zen Haiku selected and translated by Jonathan Clements.
  • Things I Have to Tell You: Poems and Writing by Teenage Girls edited by Betsy Franco
  • What Have You Lost? selected by Noami Shihab Nye.
  • Write Where You Are: How to Use Writing to Make Sense of Your Life: A Guide for Teens by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Elizabeth Verdick, and Darsi Drever.
  • You Hear Me? Poems and Writings by Teenage Boys edited by Betsy Franco.

Web Sites

Glossary of Poetic Terms compiled and edited by Robert G. Shubinski


Haiku Habitat by Tom Brinck


This Poetry: A Practical Guide to Writing Poetry


Professional Resources

The Basic Young Adult Services Handbook: A Programming and Training Manual edited by Lisa C. Wemett of the Youth Services Section of the New York Library Association.

Main Manual | Teen Talk Book Discussion

Page last modified: March 2, 2011