Mar 1, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Writing Poetry with Kids

I recently spent some time with some very special children—Jacob and Lauren, fourth graders who live in Fort Worth, Texas. During our visit, they asked me lots of questions about my writing, so I spent some time talking with them about different projects I am working on and then read a few things to them.

I had SO much fun talking about writing with these two smart, sweet kids! After we’d talked awhile, Jacob brought me a drawing he’d made. “Will you write a story about my robot?” he asked. “How about if we write something together?” I suggested. “Sure!” both kids replied. 

So we went through the entire writing process together—and had a blast!      
First, we BRAINSTORMED. The kids decided that they wanted to write a rhyming poem about their robot. They thought of a name, and then we listed all of their robot's characteristics:
  • Name: Mechanical John
  • Friendly
  • Independent
  • Klutzy
  • Building expert—very, very smart
  • Has a pet
  • Mastermind
  • Lives in a junkyard where he takes parts from broken things and makes things that work
  • What happens in our story?
  • What does our main character make?
  • Do we want a surprise ending? (YES! At the end our readers will discover that Mechanical John is a robot!)

Next, we began writing our DRAFT (when I taught third grade, my kids liked to call this a "sloppy copy"), asking and answering questions as we wrote:
  • What about that pet?
  • Can we think of more interesting word choices?
  • Do our words really rhyme, or are we using near-rhymes?
  • What is the rhyme scheme? (I took this opportunity to talk about different rhyme schemes, and we decided that our poem would follow an A B A B pattern.)    

When we were just about done we decided to take a break, and made plans to meet again later that evening to finish our poem and edit for content, mistakes, and word choices. “Be thinking about what we can come up with for that ending,” I suggested.            
Several hours later, Lauren, Jacob, and I sat down again. We came up with our surprise ending, and then went through the process of EDITING the poem, checking for errors in spelling, punctuation, and rhyme scheme. (Since I’d done the typing this was a quick edit, but I included this in our writing time because it is an important part of the process.) When we were finished, we took turns reading the poem aloud, and I made sure to get a good photo of Mechanical John to include in this post.
“Did you have fun?” I asked when we were done. “Yes!” both kids answered enthusiastically. “See,” I said, “writing is fun! You were learning and didn’t even realize it!”

And we DID have fun—all three of us! As a writer and former teacher, I got a little thrill seeing how excited Jacob and Lauren were about this writing time together. It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm, and to see them become so engaged in the writing process. This was on a weekend, after all, when kids are commonly playing outside, watching t.v., or ensnared in the electronic grasp of video game consoles, ipods, e-readers (playing on the e-readers, not reading), etc. I thought it was remarkable that they wanted to spend this time writing!

The final step in the writing process is PUBLICATION. So, as I promised Jacob and Lauren, our poem will make its debut right here on my blog! We hope you like it!  

by Jacob, Lauren, and Becky
I know a guy named Mechanical John,
He lives in the junkyard next door. 
When he’s at home and I his see lights on,
I go visit him and explore.

Mechanical John is friendly and tall,
And whenever he works, he sings.
He gathers odd parts from junk big and small,
And he makes such incredible things!
One day he built me a thing-a-ma-jig,
That cleans up a room in a flash!
And his masterpiece is a mechanical pig
That makes quarters and nickels and cash.

But the best thing about this smart, handy guy
Is so crazy its hard to believe.
Mechanical John is a robot—no lie—
And whatever he tries, he achieves!

 “Mechanical John” by Jacob
I want to say a very special "THANK YOU" to Lauren and Jacob for their help with this post. You are both full of great ideas, and I can't wait to see what you come up with next!


  1. Great poem, Jacob, Lauren, and Becky! And Jacob, this is a great portrait of Mechanical John! I enjoyed walking through the writing process with you three!

  2. Dear Becky, Jacob, and Lauren,
    What a cool poem you wrote! I like the writing process you used and described in your blog post. I also liked the drawing. Who did the drawing? Did all three of you do it? Good job!
    Celebrate you and your gift of writing!

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Thanks, Joan! Jacob drew the picture of Mechanical John. He is a really good artist!

  3. Wow! What a great poem Jacob and Lauren have written. These are very creative kids!

    1. Thanks, Sissy! Yes, they are brilliant, aren't they? = )

  4. Great post, Becky. I'm sure Jacob and Lauren will treasure the time they spent with you and the poem you all created. Isn't poetry fun?

    1. Thank you, Joy! We really did have a great time writing together. I have tried writing with my own boys a few times and will do it again soon. I think the best part of this was that it was completely spontaneous! = )

  5. Wow. You should patent this! Brilliant kids and a great resulting poem.

    1. Thanks, Mirka! I have been enjoying your posts, too!

  6. What a grand experiemce! thanks for sharing.

  7. Becky, Jacob and Lauren,
    Reading this poem is like embarking on a little adventure with Mechanical John. It is fun and creative and the ending is inspirational. The drawing is also fabulous! Becky, thanks for posting the process you guys went through. It is a great lesson in itself.
    Karen T.

  8. Hi Becky, I'm new to the blue boards and thought I'd drop by with some cheers. Nice work, Becky, Jacob and Lauren! I love Mechanical John and your collaboration process.


    1. Thanks, Claudine! And welcome to the blue boards--it is such a wonderful place for writers/illustrators!

  9. Jacob and Lauren,

    It was great fun to read the process of how you put a poem together with Miss Becky, that would go with the picture of your robot. The poem itself is fun to read, with great images that I can see in my mind. I like the title very much, and I especially like that you've been able to portray what all kids fantasize about - a robot that can clean up their room!! I hope you do more writing in the future and consider sharing that as well.

    It was great fun sharing this time with you. Thank you for sharing 'Mechanical John' with me and with others. That's what writing is all about!

    All the Best!

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Claire! Wouldn't we all like a Mechanical John to help us clean? = )

  10. Becky, Lauren & Jacob,

    I loved reading about your writing adventure and very much enjoyed the poem you created together. I would love to have a "Mechanical John" to help around my house! Thank you for sharing your exciting journey with words with the rest of us and CONGRATULATIONS to Lauren & Jacob on becoming published poets!



Thanks so much for visiting my blog!

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