Despite have been born in and growing up in Israel, my six-year-old speaks, reads, and writes English better than she does Hebrew. In fact, I think she also writes and reads (and maybe speaks) better Russian than Hebrew, thanks to her mother’s efforts.
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned in passing, our little girl is well aware that I write poems for this blog of mine; and she’s taken to rhyming words all day long herself. Sometimes she’ll unintentionally make off-rhymes, pause thoughtfully, sound them out to herself aloud, and then say, “well, that’s just an off-rhyme, but we could still use it in a poem.”
Now, I have done all sorts of fun writing exercises with her in English, and my mother in America has also taken to writing snippets of short stories back-and-forth with her on Facebook Messenger. Her grammar and punctuation aren’t perfect, but she’s learning very quickly. Just recently, for example, she asked me to show her how to write lowercase letters by hand because she knows that her penmanship needs work too.
Several days ago, out of the blue, she asked to write some poems with me on my computer (we used Microsoft Word) and was very intent about having me share them on my blog. She even asked me, “So what tags are you going to assign them? When will you decide? When will other people read them?”
Our three poems are below, in case you’re curious; but I am actually drafting this blog post primarily because I want your feedback: how do I teach her to write poetry?
Here’s where she’s at right now:
- As I mentioned above, she is very comfortable with rhyme
- For example, for one of the poems below, she suggested the word ‘coffee’ instead of ‘tea’ because she realized that the second syllable of ‘coffee’ rhymes with ‘tea’, and we had already used the word ‘tea’ in the previous poem.
- She is less comfortable with rhythm and counting syllables per line, although I tried demonstrating those concepts to her while we were writing the short poems below. This is something that I don’t quite know how to get across to her.
- I tried explaining these concepts by counting the syllables aloud with her and tapping my fingers on the table, while saying, “bum, bum, bum-bum, bum.”
- Still, she tends to write lines of inconsistent lengths and rhythms if left to her own devices, as long as they include (and especially end with) rhyming words.
- Also, I am having difficulty with teaching her about creative imagery and devices like alliteration, assonance, etc. She’s very bright so when I manage to explain things well, she usually gets them, but it’s not so easy for me to convert and upload my thoughts into her child brain.
- To her credit, she was able to understand what I meant by ‘metaphor’ when I explained my last nature haiku to her and pointed out that the language of the poem was making a comparison between plants and poetry with its use of the word ‘seeding’.
- Lastly, since she’s so focused on rhyming, she doesn’t quite understand how to write non-rhyming poetry. She has finally accepted that such a concept exists, but it remains fairly hard for her to grasp. How would she go about writing a non-rhyming poem, she wonders?
Three poems, a collaboration
by David (41) and Liorah (6)
The dog found a log that fell from a tree She sat on the log, happy as can be Then there was a fog ‘twas too hard to see She sobbed in the fog, wishing she could flee She got off the log, squinting hopefully Wind blew away the fog; dog whistled happily
Then there was a squirrel, sipping a cup of tea Squirrel saw a girl swimming in the sea Then the waters whirled very dangerously Quickly, ran the squirrel, reaching desperately Stretched out her hand, poor girl, begging – please save me! They ate ice cream swirls once he pulled her free
The cat found a hat and thought, “This is for me!” Then came out a bat and offered her coffee On her head she sat stirring daintily Then came out a rat Sniffing greedily They said, “GET AWAY, RAT!” and he cried tearfully When they noticed that, they felt so, so sorry!