Ur a Poet & U Didn't Know It

5. Poetic Exploration: Independent Writing

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To plan, draft and publish a piece of poetry, using relevant structure and language features
  • To experiment with text structures and language features

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can plan, draft and publish a piece of poetry
  • I can explore the way that text structures and language features affect the meaning of my poem
  • Tableau examples
  • Poetry stimulus: current social issue (suggestions below)
  • Poetry Planner: docx PDF
  • Brainstorm template: docx PDF
  • Web-based resources for mini-lessons (lesson dependent)
  • Drafting and refining your poem: docx PDF
  • Cliché activity: docx PDF
  • List poem template: docx PDF
  • Diamante poem template: docx PDF

In this stage of the sequence the focus is on the independent construction of texts, enabling students to create their own poem whilst building skill through engagement in mini-lessons.

It is recommended that students have engaged in prior learning about poetic structure and poetic language - including the co-construction of a poem - before embarking on independent construction.

It is strongly recommended that teachers review all suggested stimulus texts prior to their use to ensure their appropriateness and to enable rich, respectful discussion. For guidance on text selection refer to the Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

Students form small groups of up to four. Ask students to create a tableau (a still portrait with no words) demonstrating the big themes or common subjects they think poetry might regularly cover. Allow time for groups to brainstorm and record what their tableau might look like. Provide examples and briefly identify and discuss the way in which an emotion has been communicated (e.g. boredom).

Once brainstorming has occurred, invite groups to present their tableau and ask observers to respond to key questions about its composition.

Suggested prompts:

  • What did you notice about the tableau?
  • What positions were the members of the group in? High? Low? Far apart? Grouped together? Touching?
  • What idea or emotion was the group trying to convey? What makes you say this?

Summarise the key themes that have emerged through the tableaus and present a poetry stimulus like ‘If They Can Pronounce Shakespeare’ or ‘This Is What A Feminist Looks Like’ from the Bankstown Poetry Slam or ‘Clicktivism’ to showcase work that is about current social issues, strong emotions or significant life events.

It is strongly recommended that you tailor the stimulus to the interests and needs of your class.

Discuss student responses to the poetry stimulus, focusing on poetic techniques as well as the potential of poetry to explore and represent contentious issues. Elicit further thematic areas of interest, for example ‘climate change’ or ‘friendship’ and record them on an anchor chart or on a digital class page.

1. Brainstorm

Ask students to engage in a brainstorm about issues that are relevant to them. Provide some examples of current issues for additional support. A template is available in the Materials and texts section above.

Students choose a poetic form, either a form that has been introduced previously, or a new form that is of interest to them. Ensure that students are aware of the rules related to their chosen poetic forms if they opt not to use free verse. An extensive list of poetic forms can be found here.

Utilising students’ prior knowledge about the structural and linguistic features of poetry, collaborate to create a planning checklist for students to complete prior to writing. The checklist may remind students to consider:

  • Use of figurative language (including but not limited to imagery, simile, metaphor, alliteration, onomatopoeia)
  • Lineation (use of enjambment and/or end stops)
  • Rhyme and rhythm
  • Form (e.g. free verse, haiku, sonnet).
  • Audience and tone.

Support students to decide on a poetic form that appeals to them and ask them to:

  • conduct a brainstorm to explore ideas for their poem
  • investigate other poems on the same topic or look at alternative poetic forms addressing the same issue
  • decide upon the form and structure of their poem
  • use the class’s collaboratively created checklist and a graphic organiser like the Poetry Planner to plan, draft and edit their work.

Enable students to engage with the independent construction of a poem by supplying a scaffold. Consider offering an accessible poetic form such as an acrostic poem, a list poem or a diamante poem. Offer students the opportunity to illustrate poems to enhance their meaning. Templates for scaffolding list and diamante poems can be found in the Materials and texts section.

Extend students by encouraging experimentation with poetic forms like pantoum, double tetractys or quatrain and by encouraging students to consider recording or animating their work.

Discuss assessment considerations with the students. Consider co-constructing an assessment rubric with your students to complement your poetry planning checklist. There are digital tools available for this purpose.


While students work independently to plan, draft and publish their poetry, provide explicit teaching and individual feedback using the writing workshop model.

The duration of mini-lessons can be adapted based on the available time. Possible mini lessons include:

Using line breaks: In a whole or small group, work on a lineation activity in order to consider the effect of line breaks and to practise the ways they can be used to different effect. A lineation activity based on Eileen Chong’s poem ‘Mid-Autumn Mooncakes’ would work well and can be adapted to different group sizes. Encourage students to read poems aloud to highlight the impact of enjambment and end-stops.

Avoiding cliché : Provide students with a selection of prompts that illustrate cliché. Invite students to rephrase the prompts using more creative and original language. Encourage students to consider the impact of concise language use, offering Mauree Applegate’s poem ‘Be Specific’ as an example. The Red Room Company’s ‘Overcoming Clichés and Using Specific Imagery Exercises’ is a useful resource for this mini-lesson, and further exercises can be in the 'Poetry Object' The ‘Avoiding Cliché Like the Plague‘ handout may also support students with the drafting of their work.

Using figurative language: Provide examples of poems where the author has used a range of figurative language. Remind students of the purpose of figurative language and discuss its impact or effect. Highlight the use of imagery, simile, metaphor, alliteration and onomatopoeia in a text or texts and collaborate with students using an organiser like a cluster web to record their use and effect.

In pairs, invite students to describe an object. Ask students to brainstorm the words that might be most commonly used to describe their object, and then to add them to a ‘banned words’ list. Invite students to write simple descriptive statements about their object without using any of the ‘banned words’ they have identified. For example, if the subject was a lemon some of the banned words might be ‘yellow’, ‘sour’, ‘citrus’, and ‘juice’. Ask students to swap statements and to provide feedback on their partner’s use of figurative language. The objects used can be physically present or imagined.

Experimenting with rhythm: Screen ‘The Pleasure of Poetic Pattern’ for students, focussing on rhythm and repetition. Discuss the proposal that rhythm can ‘lift or lull the listener, amplify or diminish the line’, making sure to clarify key terms where appropriate. Work together to come up with a definition of ‘rhythm’. Classical music like Beethoven’s '5th Symphony' can also be used to engage students in a discussion about the pleasure of rhythm.

Consider familiarising your students with the concepts of repetition, assonance, consonance and alliteration before watching ‘The Pleasure of Poetic Pattern’.

Select a variety of poems, including songs, that demonstrate effective or interesting use of rhythm, and read or play them aloud. Include a variety of types of rhyme and rhyming schemes and ensure that consideration of rhythm is not confined to discussions about rhyme. Introduce students to different types of rhyme such as perfect, imperfect and internal rhyme. Some texts that may be useful for this purpose are ‘Embrace our Differences’ by Solli Raphael,  ‘Change Starts with YOU’ by Narabeen Lakes Public School, ‘Needles’ by Grand Salvo, and 'Black Girl Magik' by Sampa the Great.

Ask students to clap along with a chosen poem or song and introduce the concept of meter (stressed and unstressed syllables). Explain that unlike rhythm in music, which is created with instruments, rhythm in a poem is created by the “stresses” or “accents” within words. For example, note the difference between the stressed letters in ‘A man, a plan, a canal, and Panama’. Invite students to experiment with the stressed or unstressed syllables in a selected poem to focus attention on the way that rhythm is constructed.

Creating an animated video: Screen a selection of animated poetry videos for your class, inviting students to take note of the visual techniques used. ‘A poetic experiment: Walt Whitman, interpreted by three animators’,  ‘Two ways to animate slam poetry’ and Neil Gaiman’s ‘Hate for Sale’, are all useful resources. Discuss the considerations that would need to be included in the planning process, including possible visual representations of tone and theme and creating a visual map. Collaborate or work in small groups to create a storyboard for a poem.

Alternatively, students may wish to illustrate a poem, in which case the New York Times 'A picture and a poem' series is a useful resource. A series of illustrated poems about Science and nature can also be found here and The Red Room company’s illustrated Toilet Doors Poetry here.

It is strongly recommended that teachers view and vet both video and illustrated resources before inviting students to engage with the material. For guidance on text selection refer to the Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

Selected poems from the ’A picture and a poem’ series and ‘Toilet Doors Poetry’ series should be curated for students beforehand.

Editing: Invite students to explore the editing process of a variety of poets, like those on the New York Times ‘Poetry in Action’ Using a simple poetic form like a list poem, collaborate as a class to draft a poem together with a focus on experimenting with language and structure to alter and refine meaning. Offer students the ‘Drafting and Refining Your Poetry’ guide (see the Materials and texts section) to support them to edit their work or invite students to contribute to the creation of a drafting checklist. Encourage peer-to-peer feedback; digital tools like Peergrade can be used to assist with this process.

As students are working on their independent writing tasks, provide individual feedback and support during guided student-teacher conferences. Additional instruction and support could be provided to students with similar needs during a guided writing group.

Promote a collaborative approach to writing in the classroom by providing many opportunities for students to:

  • Share their writing daily and engage in group discussion about the writing process.
  • Comment on each other’s strengths.
  • Identify areas of the draft they had difficulty understanding or that they feel could be improved.
  • Read their poetry to the class or engage in paired or collaborative readings

Invite students to share their poetry drafts and celebrate their completed work. Assess student work against any agreed assessment rubrics or checklists. Allow opportunities for students to revise and improve their work.

Use feedback protocols throughout the writing sessions to identify student learning needs and teaching foci. For example, the 3 -2 -1 protocol provides an opportunity for students to communicate their successes and questions.

Encourage students to complete a self-reflection when they have completed their published piece.

It is strongly recommended that opportunities for students to publish or exhibit their work are made available. For example, students could create illustrations or installations to accompany their poems, enter poetry competitions like the Poetry Object, create a class poetry compendium or hold their own poetry slam.

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Australian Poetry Slam, 2019. Solli Raphael – Australian poetry slam champion 2017 – Youth – Embrace our Differences. [Online]
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BankstownPoetrySlam, 2018. This is what a feminist looks like – Iman Etri: Grand Slam. [Online]
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