Teaching Forms of Poetry with Examples from Famous Poets

Kids learn forms of poetry better with examples from famous poets. Read on for ideas for teaching rhyming, limerick, diamante, haiku, cinquain, concrete, and acrostic poems.

Ms. Sneed Teaches Forms of Poetry with Examples

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat in the conference room with her co-teacher. “Today,” she said, “we’ll pull together ideas for teaching forms of poetry with examples.”

“We already have simple examples of each type of poetry,” said Mr. Frank. “Now we’ll take a look at the work of famous poets.

Forms of Poetry with Examples of Rhythm and Rhyme

“Alright, let’s get going,” said Ms. Sneed. “I researched forms of poetry with examples of rhythm and rhyme.”

Rhyming Poetry

As she spoke, Ms. Sneed pulled out a few pages. “To introduce rhyming poems, we agreed to use two children’s verses. First, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ will provide an example of couplets. Then second, we can use ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ to show alternate verse.

“I browsed some anthologies and found a good rhyming piece by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1885.” As she slid the page toward Mr. Frank, she also read the first verse aloud:

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

When teaching forms of poetry with examples, "From a Railway Carriage" illustrates rhyming poems.

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“Actually, I wasn’t sure about using more couplets, but it works well for fourth and fifth grade students.”

Mr. Grow nodded his head. “I like it.”


“Next up,” Ms. Sneed continued, “limericks. For this form of poetry, I reused an example from our elements of poems unit. Without a doubt, Edward Lear reigns as the king of this genre. After browsing through his anthology, I chose this one, which was published in 1846:

There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said, ‘It was just as I feared!

Two Owls and a Hen,

Four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard!”


“Let me review the format,” said Mr. Frank. “Five lines. The first, second, and fifth have three beats and rhyme with one another. The third and fourth verses have two beats and rhyme.”

When teaching forms of poetry, Edward Lear's poems make good examples of limericks.

Distracted, Ms. Sneed chuckled. “When I looked at Lear’s picture, I noticed his beard. In a funny sense, I have to wonder if this poem is autobiographical.”

Examples with Counted Syllables

Mr. Frank smiled and pulled out his own stack of papers. “Okay, I’ll go next. Let’s work on forms of poetry examples with counted syllables.”


Before he began, Mr. Frank sighed deeply. “With haiku,” he said, “I struggled. Naturally, a Japanese poet illustrates the genre best. Unfortunately, though, the syllables don’t translate well. As you know, these three-line poems demand five, seven, and five syllables, respectively.”

Again, he sighed. “In the end, history won. I chose a piece that Matsuo Basho wrote in the seventeenth century:

An old pond!

A frog jumps in −

the sound of water.

When teaching forms of poems with examples, Japanese haiku does not provide the correct amount of syllables. Instead, the format is lost in the translation.

“As I said, the syllables didn’t translate. But I just wanted them to gain historical perspective. After all, this poem is almost 500 years old.”

“I agree,” said Ms. Sneed. “Besides, we have an example of contemporary haiku to use as well.”

Again, Mr. Frank sighed. But this time, contentedly.


Next, he placed another poem between them. “Cinquain was a no-brainer. Adelaide Crapsey popularized the 22-syllable format in the United States. As a matter of fact, Amazon even calls her the ‘First Lady of Cinquain.’ In her book, Verse, which was  published posthumously in 1870, ‘Niagara’ appeared:

How frail

Above the bulk

Of crashing water hangs,

Autumnal, evanescent, wan,

The moon.”

When teaching forms of poetry with examples, use the work of Adelaide Crapsey for cinquain.

“Beautiful imagery,” Ms. Sneed murmured. “Great choice.”

Examples of Shape Poems

Next, the pair moved on to poems with specific shapes: diamante, concrete, and acrostic.


“Additionally, I said I’d look around for some diamante,” said Mr. Frank. “However, when I researched it, I found that it’s only been around since 1969. As a matter of fact, an author named Iris Tiedt published the format in a book for teachers. Therefore, I couldn’t really find any public domain examples. Therefore, I simply grabbed a poem written by a student last year.”

“Haha!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed. “That’s perfect. It shows that new forms of poetry exist – and that kids are poets too.”

Because diamante is a newer form of poetry, few examples exist.

“Once again, I need to go over the format,” said Mr. Grow. He pulled out a reference guide and read aloud:

  1. one noun
  2. two adjectives that describe the noun
  3. three -ing verbs that describe the noun
  4. four nouns that transition from synonyms of the noun to antonyms
  5. three -ing verbs that describe the antonym
  6. two adjectives that describe the antonym
  7. one noun – the antonym

“With this template, I should be good to go.”


“Now it’s my turn again,” said Ms. Sneed. “Yes, I found a great example from a classic author for this form of poetry. ‘A Mouse’s Tail’ by Lewis Carroll appeared in his 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Even our young kids should be familiar with that.”

Mr. Grow looked at the poem Ms. Sneed held in her hand. “You bet. Nothing like connecting to past experiences.”

“Furthermore, I’m sure they’ve already created shape poems in lower grades. Yeah, concrete poetry will be fun and easy for our students.”

"A Mouse's Tail" by Lewis Carroll is a great example of concrete (shape) poetry.

“Speaking of fun and easy,” said Mr. Grow, “our last form of poetry is acrostic. Obviously, the kids have already tried this too. I found a poem from Edgar Allan Poe as an example. Ironically, the title is ‘An Acrostic’.”

Both teachers grinned.

“However, the word he spells is actually Elizabeth,” Mr. Grow continued.

"An Acrostic" by Edgar Allan Poe provides a historic example of acrostic poetry.

“When we spoke before, we agreed to have kids write using a different variation,” said Ms. Sneed.

“Right, it’s called mesostitch. They’ll spell the word down the middle of the poem instead of the beginning.”

“So. Seven forms of poetry with examples. And seven writing projects. Are you up for it?

“You bet.”

Enjoy Teaching

Through the years, Ms. Sneed and Mr. Grow learned the secrets to enjoying teaching. Of course, they needed to stay organized and limit unnecessary work. But more than anything, when they planned meaningful lessons, their jobs became more fulfilling. And that’s what it’s all about.

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