Teaching Acrostic Poetry – ABC Poems for Kids

Acrostic poetry spells one or more word vertically. While this usually occurs with the first letter of each verse, it can also happen in the middle or at the end. Furthermore, kids can spell their names or put the letters of the alphabet in order.

Ms. Sneed Prepares for Teaching Acrostic Poetry

Our favorite fourth grade teacher tapped her pencil on the table. “Okay,” she said to her student teacher, “time to teach our final type of poetry, acrostic.”

“The poem that spells a word vertically?” Mr. Grow asked.

“You got it. Like concrete, this genre offers some flexibility.”

Conventional Acrostic Poetry

As usual, Ms. Sneed had a set of papers ready to go.

“First,” she said, “let’s take a look at a traditional poem.” She slid the top paper closer to Mr. Grow so he could follow along.

“For this lesson, I suggest beginning with ‘The Acrostic’ by Edgar Allan Poe.”

As Mr. Grow’s eyes scanned the poem, he commented. “Unfortunately, I don’t think our kids will be excited about this. Too mushy.”

“Agreed. But we’ll rev it up from here. From Poe’s work, I just want them to see two things. First, the name spelled by the first letter of each verse.”

“Elizabeth.”

“Yes, I want them to see that. And second, they should study other elements of poetry. Specifically, Poe uses couplets. This illustrates that some poets use ABC poetry with traditional rhythm and rhyme schemes.”

When teaching acrostic poetry, refer to this poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The first letter of each verse spells "Elizabeth."

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Next, Ms. Sneed slid another page toward her student teacher. “After you establish those two things, you can move on to this modern-day poem.”

“Baseball,” said Mr. Grow.

“Yep. Similar but much simpler – and more with the times. This poem uses A-B-A-B rhyming.”

“Much more engaging for our students,” said Mr. Grow. “Would it be okay if I spent more time on this one?”

“Of course!”

When teaching conventional acrostic poetry to fourth and fifth grade kids, use this poem, which spells "baseball" with the first letters of each line.

Abecedarian, or ABC Poems

Evidently, Ms. Sneed wasn’t finished. Now she slid one more sheet of paper toward Mr. Grow. “Let’s add a few variations,” she said. “This poem, for example, uses true a true ABC pattern. In it, the first letter of each line uses the alphabet – in consecutive order. It’s called abecedarian format.”

“Appropriate,” Mr. Grow said. “I notice this is more like haiku or cinquain.”

“It can be. However, that is not necessary. And actually, that’s a point worth making. Kids should know that acrostic poetry comes in a wide variety of formats.

“In addition, you can discuss word choice and imagery.”

“Like ‘hovering’?” asked the student teacher.

“Yes. When poets use certain vocabulary – like ‘hovering’ – it evokes an image, or a feeling.”

Abecedarian, or ABC, poems begin each line with consecutive letters of the alphabet.

Mesostitch Acrostic Poetry

Finally, Ms. Sneed presented one more poem. “In mesostitch acrostic,” she said, “the word moves down the middle: weekend.”

“Ah. Additionally, I see that doesn’t mean centered.”

“Right. Our kids can move the verses to fit the format. That makes it much easier.”

Mr. Grow studied the poem. “Furthermore, I can discuss onomatopoeia. You know, ‘tick tock.”

“Good thinking. What else?”

“Word choice again. For example, ‘mind-numbing.'” For a moment, he studied the verses again. “Oh, and repetition. Lots of repetition!”

Shake up your acrostic poems! This version, mesostitch, spells one or more words down the middle.

Enjoy Teaching

At that moment, that famous teacher smile spread across Ms. Sneed’s face. “You’ve got it!” she said. Most days, Ms. Sneed enjoyed teaching. But when she saw a mentee blossom like this, she absolutely loved it.

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