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How to Write Acrostic Poems with Your Kids

How to Write Acrostic Poems with Your Kids

An acrostic poem is the kind of poem that looks like this:

Piecing words together
On paper like this
Emits a certain
Memory

Well, that’s just the first thing that came to mind. Do you get what it is now, though? Acrostic is not often used as high literature, but it is a fun way to help kids write poetry.

We use The Good and the Beautiful language arts, level 2. It’s good. It’s beautiful. It’s free. It’s absolutely sufficient for us right now.

Our last lesson was about poetry. My son read two poems out loud and then was supposed to write two acrostic poems. My son is eight years old and he does not like to write. Sometimes this is because he doesn’t like to physically write, and sometimes it’s because he doesn’t want to come up with ideas. On this day, I believe both were at play.

I am a writer. This is the stuff I live for. It’s always a little bit heartbreaking when my son doesn’t like it.

Poetry is not a need, but it does help with so much understanding. It delves deep into humanity. It requires extra thinking. It brings pleasant surprises. It can be a great joy to homeschool life. My kids are little (my oldest is 8 years old), so we mostly read sweet and silly poetry books like A Child’s Garden of Verses and Sing a Song of Popcorn. These children’s poems rely heavily on images and are light in nature. We also read the poetry of A.A. Milne quite a bit. Every once in a while, I pull out my big literature book and we’ll read poems like “After Apple Picking” or “I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud” or whatever flits to me as we go through the seasons of life.

Andrew Simmons wrote in The Atlantic “Yet poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry can give students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected in high school literature classes.” He is speaking of a kind of poetry my kids have not yet seen, but I believe this still applies to a child’s early years.

That is to say, simply, that I understand this lesson on acrostics was not critical to my son’s development. But if I could help him through it, and if we could find some joy together within the lesson, then we would.

First, my son was supposed to write an acrostic of his own name. We read an example in the lesson, but he was still unsure. He thought he couldn’t do one himself. He didn’t know where to start.

I wrote one with his sister’s name, to show him how it’s done (yes, this is on a random piece of scrap paper):

He thought this was silly. I showed him how, even though the word was “Susan” I didn’t write her name into the poem. Instead, I wrote about her, describing her actions. This is not a requirement of the acrostic, but I believe it helps to instill good writing skills and higher thinking.

I wrote his name vertically on a sheet of paper and asked him to first think of some words for each line. This is a first draft, a brainstorm.

Was I surprised that the first word he thought of was “butt”? No. Not really.

He wanted to use “Byron” as the first word. I asked him to think of another word that started with a B that described him. I was thinking “boy” but I kept my mouth shut. He thought of the word “brother” and we went with it.

“Now, what do you want to say about yourself?” I asked.

I tried my hardest not to suggest, but just to ask questions, making him think about his decisions. “What does a yak run like?” I asked. “Do you really need to say, ‘or something’ at the end?”

My son is working through a handwriting program, and he has to write on his own almost daily in other subjects. When I can, and especially when he is creating his own  piecesof writing, I am his hands. This frees him up to think more about what he’s saying than how to form the letters.

Then next poem was about birds.

We went to our sunroom for this one because that is where we can always hear and watch birds flying and singing from all directions. We also did this one as a family, each of us taking different letters to make a poem together. Maybe there are some assignments that should be completely independent, but for our family, I am coming to believe that we all benefit from working together.

 

That was our little journey with acrostics. I hope you enjoyed it. Now, may I encourage you to write poetry with your children? (As I write and publish this, it is National Poetry Month, so get on with it!! Poetry can be so fun!)

Get started with these tips on writing acrostics:

Tips for Writing Acrostics With Kids

  • Start with Something the Child Enjoys
    • Does your child play soccer? The piano? Do they love looking at books about frogs? Choose something they are interested in. This way, they will already have a storage of knowledge and inspiration from which to draw ideas.
  • Look Through Books
    • The dictionary has every word in it, so if you need help coming up with words for the different letters you could start there. Of course, you probably don’t have time to read all the words for every letter, but skimming through a dictionary, or a child’s dictionary, could help. Another resource could be to look through magazine pictures, or a family photo album. If the acrostic is of your child’s name, think of things they like, toys they play with, their hobbies, and their friends. Once you have a couple of letters done, the rest will likely fall into place more easily.
  • Write on Sticky Notes
    • Write every letter on a sticky note. (My kids absolutely love sticky notes. Do yours?) Do this as a family, allowing everyone to contribute their ideas. Take your sticky notes for a walk in your neighborhood, and talk to people you pass, asking them for ideas. Don’t worry if the words go together. Just get some ideas flowing first. After you have several ideas, go back home. Pick your favorites and write a poem from there. Maybe you could write a few different acrostics with the same original word, exploring how the word choices change the tone and theme of th poem.
  • Don’t Complicate It
    • Just one word per letter is a fine place to start. For instance, with BIRDS, we could have written: Beaks/Insect-eaters/Real pretty/Delicious/Singers. After that, if we wanted, we could have written whole sentences, allowing the acrostic poem to make a statement or ask a question.

 

[Featured Image: Photo by Taylor Ann Wright on Unsplash]

Burnt Toast, Handwriting Lessons, and Drawing Close to Hope

Burnt Toast, Handwriting Lessons, and Drawing Close to Hope

Mornings are hard.

I know I’ve written about this before. I’m not complaining (though, admittedly, I have complained about it in the past.) I’m simply stating it out of recognition. There is a difference between complaining and recognizing.

Complaining says “Oh man, I am upset about the way this morning is going, and I’m going to choose to stay upset about it.”

Recognizing says, “Mornings are hard.” Then, maybe, “How might they get better?”

One way to make a hard thing worse is to wallow in the hardship. One of my sons did this today. I’ll get to that later.

This morning, I woke up when my husband’s alarm went off. I thought about how my kids would be up soon. I thought about getting up before them, and showering in peace. I thought about the dark, quiet morning and how wonderful that is. Then I thought about how I could just stay in bed and sleep.

I heard someone get up and go to the bathroom. My 8-year-old walked into my bedroom and I told him that he could read in bed for a while. I showered while the house was still mostly quiet.

I know of many moms who choose to wake up before their kids, and I admit that when I do this, I feel much refreshment. But I like to stay up late, and I simply can’t do both.

After I showered and dressed and brushed my hair, both the boys followed me downstairs. They ate some zucchini bread. I poured a cup of coffee, had a banana, and read by myself. Then the baby was up. I got her out of bed. I fed her a banana. The boys read Dog Man and Harry Potter and then did a math lesson.

Fast forward about an hour. All my kids were making toast. I was perusing Literary Mama’s Calls for Submissions. They’ve only sent me rejections, but I’m still trying, i.e., I’m not living in the hardship, but going for hope.

Suddenly, I heard someone say, “Smoke!”

The toaster was smoking something fierce. A thick grey took over the house. The bread was completely burnt, and its essence was spreading into all our breathing air. I’m thanking God that nothing caught on fire.

Apparently, my 6-year-old son had wanted his toast to stay hot, but he wasn’t ready to eat it. After one toasting cycle, he pushed the toast back down into the hot metal grates for one more go. I was upset, and trying to make him understand the severity of his actions. I allow my kids to make toast, but not to play with the toaster. I was trying not to overreact. I understand why he did this. Hot toast is better than cold toast. He didn’t know that it would smoke like that.

We opened all the doors and windows. We turned on all the fans. That was five hours ago and my house still smells like smoke.

We moved on with our daily lessons. Handwriting was next.

My 6-year-old started crying. He said he didn’t want to do his handwriting. He didn’t want to write or draw. I still don’t know why. He usually loves handwriting and drawing. I told him that he needed to tell me more. I told him that just saying, “I don’t want to” is not helpful. That doesn’t tell me anything. I told him something I’ve been saying to both my boys lately:

BE A PROBLEM SOLVER, NOT A PROBLEM MAKER.

Living in a state of grumpiness is a problem. Talking about it, moving on, is a solution.

I get sad, too. I get angry. There are lots of things that I don’t like to do. But I do not allow my children to just tell me, “I don’t want to.” They must tell me more. If I were to allow my children to only do what they wanted, all our lives would be miserable. This is an exercise in communication, and one thing that I never anticipated when we decided to homeschool. Because we are a family (because we are human), we are constantly finding ourselves engulfed in selfishness. I encouraged my son to look deeper into why he didn’t want to do this lesson.

I took my 6-year-old into the sunroom. I sat him on the couch. I tried to explain to him that he was not to live in grumpiness. I told him that this is a house of peace. I urged him to say, “I receive peace.” He just sat, wailing, as if in terrible pain.

Maybe he was in terrible pain. I don’t know. Maybe he was still hurt by the burnt toast episode. I don’t pledge to be a superstar mom, or to tell you that you should do what I do. This is my story, and I believe that life encouragement is buried in this story.

I wrapped my son in a blanket. I left him alone. I heard him saying, “I want mommy,” tears falling from his eyes like a waterfall. At first, when he was just a little upset, he sat gently wallowing in his rill of misery. But that rill got bigger. Then he was helpless, free-falling off of emotional waterfalls.

I grabbed a book called, “God’s Gifts.” This is a Little Jewel Book, one of many from that set that were given to my family a few years ago. They are just sweet little, easy readers. In this moment, I thought it couldn’t hurt to remind ourselves of some goodness. I started to read it and my son started to calm down. Then we read two other books, giggling and snuggling close.

It wasn’t about the books, but about the closeness.

We stayed in the sunroom, a cool breeze blowing into our lungs. We finished our lessons there.

My 8-year-old son’s language arts assignment today was to read poetry and write two acrostic poems. He loves to read, but really does not like to write. This is hard for me because I love to write. Still, I know that he is a kid, so I try to help him. Stay tuned for a post about the beauty of acrostic poems and how to actually help your kids (or yourself) write one that has a little bit of literary value!

 

[Featured Image: Photo by Patrick Selin on Unsplash]