Professional Development

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Poetry—No Rules, Just Right! Four Modern Poetry Styles to Get Youth Writing

Poetry can be a tough literary form for youth to naturally gravitate toward, seeing as a lot of messages can be open to vast interpretation.

Lesa Sexton, Director of Youth Development for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, shares her favorite ways to make poetry approachable for youth.

I dislike poetry



Even when recited delightfully



It makes me feel fidgety



I would rather watch water drip, slowly



Than subject my thoughts to such tedious verbosity

yea really



Let's be honest. Poetry is not exactly the favorite literary form of kids today. And who can blame them? In a society where we tend to say what we mean, poetry does just the opposite. Poems use allegories and metaphors to communicate hidden messages, and even after analyzing a stanza for a half hour we may STILL walk away scratching our heads about what we just read!


(And don't even get me started on iambic pentameterthanks a lot, Shakespeare!)


But precisely because it isn't straightforward, poetry opens itself up to a variety of meanings and interpretations. Ever heard someone say, "There are no right answers"? Well, that's poetry in a nutshell! There's not usually a way to know what the author really meant, so you can interpret their poem however you please—everyone can be right!


Poetry is also great because there's no "one" way to write it. Sometimes there's punctuation, sometimes there isn't. Sometimes it's structured, sometimes it's free verse. Sometimes there are complete thoughts, sometimes it's full of run-on sentences. In other words (and to quote a delicious steakhouse chain)—no rules, just right!


Poetry is a perfect option for youth who like to think outside the box, who prefer not to be confined by grammatical rules, and who have something to express—but want to do it on their terms. While poetry might seem a daunting art form stuck in the olden days, there are a lot of ways to modernize it and make it approachable for youth. Try out some of the poetic styles below and let us know how they go!


A poem where the first letters of each line spell out a word or phrase. A super easy warm-up activity!

Put some words

On each line

Easy if you

Make it rhyme

I Am Poem

A template that can be used to describe a person-whether the author or a character from a movie or story. This could be used as an introductory activity or an add-on to a reading module. Get the template here!

Concrete Poems aka Shape Poems

Simply put, a poem in the shape of the topic. Here's a fun one!


Spoken Word

A performance art where poetry is recited aloud. Sometimes called poetry readings or poetry slams, it's a great chance for youth to share their work! One of my personal favorites is Prince Ea, a spoken word artist with a lot of great videos on YouTube. One that always gives me goosebumps whenever I watch it:

LesaSexton-HeadshotContributed by Lesa Sexton, Director, Youth Development, Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

This article has been republished with permission and originally appeared on the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Club Experience Blog.