High School Student Generated Writing Prompts for National Poetry Month (Amy)

“Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.”
― Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

ErikIn anticipation of National Poetry Month my creative writing students at Gwinn High School spent the two weeks before spring break contemplating activities that could engage other writers and stimulate poetry. In January I started a health food blog entitled, Produce, and as leader for Weight Watchers I shared a challenge that I involved my WW members in for the month of March. The March Madness Challenge invited participants to complete at least one healthy activity each day and record it on a calendar.

Taking inspiration from my WW challenge, and in celebration of NPM, my students came up with a plethora of prompts that would help free writer’s block and encourage writer’s of all ages to write poetry. Our hope is that other teachers will find our prompts useful and encourage themselves and their students to fill their notebooks with a month of writing. While I did handout a calendar to my students, we will be extending our challenge into May, since April was interrupted by our spring holiday. I also hope to use this activity with my 9th grade English classes at the end of the year when we study poetry.

Here is the calendar that I printed out for my students: April-2013-Calendar Poetry Month The purpose of the calendar is to keep track of what number prompt they wrote to on that particular day. As a teacher, I think it would be a great way to feed classroom discussion and examine the wide-range of places and experiences where poetry can take root.

As my students were brainstorming prompts I asked them to consider all different learning needs, writing styles, and to invoke their ultimate creativity. I am pleased with the results and am thrilled to share their ingenuity.

Poetry MonthPrompts Generated by Gwinn High School Creative Writing Students:

  1. Make up words and write a poem using at least two of the words.
  2. Go to a thrift store and buy the ugliest shirt you can find and wear it for a day, go to a public place and write a poem while wearing the shirt.
  3. Build a snowman and write from his/her perspective (if you don’t have snow, build a snowman out of brown sugar or dirt, or make an imaginary snowman).
  4. Write a poem while taking an ice bath (or just a normal bath).
  5. For the whole day (on the weekend, at home) don’t say any words at all, and only communicate through poetry you write.
  6. Have a tea party with stuffed animals and write poems.
  7. Watch Despicable Me (or any kid’s movie) and write a poem from the perspective of one of the characters.
  8. Drink a cup of coffee different from what you normally do (more sugar, less cream, black, or just drink a cup of coffee if you never do) and write a poem while drinking it.
  9. Talk to your pet and write a poem, from your pet’s perspective about how much they love you.
  10. If you’re right handed, write a poem with your left hand, and if you’re left handed, write a poem with your right hand.
  11. Write a poem with the first line “my unicorn…”
  12. Finish this sentence and write a poem about it:”my mother never…”
  13. Bring your notebook to a restaurant (or just the dinner table at dinner time) and write a poem about the environment.
  14. Write a poem with your eyes closed.
  15. Go to a public bathroom and write a poem while sitting in one of the stalls.
  16. Use the word “aqua” twice in a poem.
  17. Take a whole day (or at least a couple of hours) and don’t use any technology at all, and write multiple poems throughout the day.
  18. Take a shower with your clothes on and then write a poem in your wet clothes.(1-18       written by Brea, Sami, Ben, and Zoe)
  19. Find a poem you like in a book or on-line. Use a resource such as Poetry Foundation  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/ or American Academy of Poets: http://www.poets.org/ After having read it create an accompanying poem.
  20. Identify a specific poem or kind of poem you find to be ridiculous or trivial. Then create a parody of the poem or kind of poem.
  21. Create a poem that expresses satire over something you observe around you.
  22. Write three different poems about the same thing but use three different methods, such as iambic pentameter, haiku, or free verse.
  23. While engaged or after engaging in a physical activity write a poem inspired by your activity or that comes too your mind because of the activity.
  24. Think back on a past event, take one part of it like a day at the park or a conversation you had with a friend. Take that specific idea and romanticize it, make it out to be more important and glorified in a form of poem.(19-24   written by Matt and Christian)
  25. Write a poem using letters from alphabet cereal/soup. Take a picture of it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc…
  26. Write a poem/story in a different language. Use an online translator or a language dictionary. Memorize it and impress friends and family.
  27. Lie in your driveway, or have a picnic. If it’s raining (even better) try to clear your head to write beautiful poetry.
  28. Come up with a list of words that can be a noun or a verb. (example: brush a brush, see a sea)
  29. Play a (safe) prank on someone. Write a story about unexpected surprises.
  30. Run in circles until you fall over. After you have regained your composure write a poem or a list words to describe how you feel/felt.
  31. Go to the zoo, and attempt to read the animals minds. Write a poem/story about being behind a cage.
  32. Use the following quote to inspire a poem: “But luxury has never appealed to me, I like simple things, books, being alone, or with somebody who understands.”― Daphne du Maurier
  33. Think about the simple things in your life you could not live without (no technology included!) Write about these simple pleasures.
  34. Eat some baguette (French hard bread), or another exotic food you have never tried.( just to change things up and inspire writing)
  35. Read a book backwards. (Think about Einstein’s theory of Relativity…) Write about this experience.
  36. Write from the perspective of a frog or other amphibian.
  37. Eat chocolate cake and orange juice. Try other strange combinations; you never know what will actually be good. Write about the sensation the food gives your taste buds.
  38. Make up a product (that doesn’t exist), and try to find it at Wal-Mart. Ask an employee to help you! (Doing something strange, inspires great poetry.)
  39. Take your favorite food box of cereal, or other packaged food. Pick three ingredients and add them into a poem.
  40. Write like a child. Children have no limits on language. (Who cares if your grammar is correct?) Write what you are afraid to write.(25-40 Written by Megan and Abbi)
  41.  Listen to your favorite song write a poem about what it means to you.Pickflowers and write a poem about the scent
  42. Go for a run write a poem about what you saw and heard.
  43. Look at old pictures write a poem about your memories. 
  44. Draw a picture and write a poem about your drawing.
  45. Sleep on it and write a poem about your dreams. 
  46. Read your favorite childhood book and reflect on how it made you feel as a child. Does it bring back any childhood memories, hopes, or emotions?
  47. Write a poem to your grandpa (or another family member) and tell him how much he means to you.
  48. Eat a banana, write a poem about how it tastes, looks, and feels
  49. Make faces on fruit; write a poem about what inspired you to make those faces.
  50. Read a blog about your favorite food or dessert. Write a poem about what you learned.
  51. Make a snowman with your little sibling. Write a poem about bonding with them and how that made you feel to spend time with them. (If you do not live in an area with snow, do another seasonal activity.)
  52. Do your hair/makeup funny or silly and take a bunch of pictures. Write a poem about how free it made you feel.
  53. Put on some fun upbeat music and dance your night away. Write a poem on what your dance moves looked like and how you felt.
  54. (41-54 Written by Alexis and Mariah)
  55. Send an original poem to someone and ask for one in return.
  56. Write a short poem and read it in public.
  57. Write a poem and send it off on a helium balloon with your school’s address and teacher’s name attached. Ask for a reply.
  58. Record yourself recounting the events of your day, then play it back and find a poem.
  59. Use this prompt: “I can’t be sure if the whole thing is real, they took all my nerves and then they told me to feel.” -Jon Fratelli.
  60. Ask a child under the age of five, three questions, and base a poem off of their responses.
  61. Sit with a pet for 10 minutes then write about what you think they would’ve been saying to you if they could talk.
  62. Spend a night in, but dress up as extravagantly as you can, then write about it.
  63. Watch an independent movie then write a poem from a character of your choice’s perspective.
  64. Flip through a family photo album. Select four random pictures. Write a four or eight stanza poem using one picture for each stanza.
  65. Take a day off from your phone, laptop, iPod, and any other technology that you can. Write a poem and if you’re writing perspective has changed at all.
  66. Find the nearest book and go to the following pages: 3, 12, 27, 45, and 94. Close your eyes and point randomly at the page. Use the words in a poem.
  67. Bake bread or cookies (yes, even if you’re not a baker) and use the experience as a prompt for a poem.
  68. Write a poem using as many palindromes as you can.
  69. Go back to a time in your life when you felt somber. Even though it might be difficult to think about, take that difficulty and tension and turn it into a poem.
  70. Find an old article of clothing that you haven’t worn in at least a year. Write about it.(55-70 written by Alex and Laura)
  71. If you’re a Democrat, watch the traditionally Republican news station Fox News or read liberal articles in the paper or online. Write down what you agree with.
  72. If you’re a Republican, watch CNN or read conservative articles in the paper or online. Write down what you agree with.
  73. Study a famous historical person (ex; Queen Elizabeth, MLK Jr., Churchill, ect.) and write a short fictional story about how that person would react. Make sure to include cats.
  74. Write about a parallel universe where only one everyday normality is changed. How does this affect everyone’s daily life?
  75. Write a short story about an alien visiting your home country. What would the alien do? Would the alien fly back to space on its saucer because of the insane culture or would he fall in love with the feline species?(71-75    written by Meg)
  76. Grab your bag or purse and pull out a random object. Take that object, observe its color, and think about a new object that looks the exact opposite of that color. Write about the second object.
  77. Take a small ball or anything that is not breakable, walk outside, spin in a circle, and then throw whatever you have. Go to the location where the object landed and write about the location.
  78. Open Pandora radio, pick a station you wouldn’t normally listen to, and write down the third line of lyrics of the second song that comes up. This will be the first line of your poem.
  79. Take six random objects and place them in a line on the floor. Get your dog all wild and excited so they run around. Write about whatever object your pet touches or knocks over first.
  80. Randomly look at a clock. Take the last number and divide it by 2. Once you have your number, add the first digit of your birth month and use that number to pick out the random object to your right. For example, if you get the number 10, look to your right and write about the tenth object you see.
  81. Go outside, look at the sky, and write about the shape of the first cloud you see.
  82. Eat food of your least favorite color and describe what it tastes like. Use those descriptions to write a poem.(76-82 written by McKayla)
  83. Write a poem describing your favorite color without using the name of it.
  84. Write about the difference between anything and everything.
  85. Write a poem about the first part of your face that you feel when you get the chills.
  86. Inhale or exhale?
  87. Write a poem using the statement, “I’m jack’s… “
  88. Start your poem with the third line of the lyrics of your favorite song.
  89. Create your own discipline for yourself and write about it.
  90. If this was anarchy, what would you be doing at this moment?
  91. What kind of night is a late night on a molecular level?
  92. Write a prayer for the selfish.
  93. Write rules on how to keep yourself at a certain state of mind.(83-93 Written by Anastasia)
  94. Pick out an outfit with your eyes closed. Put it on. Write about decisions you make when you can’t see the whole picture.
  95. Google ‘birds.’ Take a minute to reflect upon the fact that you will probably never see half of these birds in your life. Now write about places you wish you could go.
  96. Read a passage from Genesis. If you are not religious, this is just a book. How do you see mortality?
  97. Close your first. Open your fist. Notice how loose your skin gets, and then notice how it tightens. Imagine and write about what it will be like to be old.
  98. Bring five blankets into your kitchen. Take all of the kitchen chairs into the living room. Run the water. Lay the blankets on the floor and over the table. Fill a glass of water and sit down. Do you realize how safe you are? Write about it.
  99. Set three books in front of you. Flip one of them over, open the back cover and see how many periods are on the last page. Tell me how many small endings it takes to get to the final one. With a different book, count how many times the word ‘with’ appears in the first five paragraphs. Write about what it means to be alone. With the final book, keep it closed. Smell it. There are some things you will only understand by sense. Write about it.
  100. Have a thumb war with someone or by yourself. Write about being submissive or dominant.(94-100 Written by Macie and Melissa)
  101. Search “Orange Ladybug” on your favorite search engine. Click on a web address or picture that catches your eye and write a poem based on that photo or website.
  102. Find a dictionary and open it to a random page. Use one word on that page as the first word of a poem. After that open it to another page and select another word to use at the end of your poem (preferably one starting with a different letter than your first word).
  103. Find words in a foreign language online. You can look up specific words or just random words in any language you choose, (Preferably French, Spanish, Portuguese, or German), but pick only one language. Write a poem that sounds good using those words.  The main point of this is to create a poem that sounds like it makes sense, but once translated back to English it’s really just a bunch of jumbled words.
  104. Pick one object on your left and write a poem about it or including it.
  105. Choose your favorite number. Once you’ve chosen that number, write a poem about anything you’d like, with that many number of lines.
  106. Try to write a haiku about your favorite color. Remember a haiku is a poem with three lines. The first having 5 syllables, the second having 7 syllables and the last having another 5 syllables.(101-106 written by Erik)
  107. Do dishes and belt out- EXTREMELY LOUD- She Talks to Angels by The Black Crowes. This will give you the power to write something awesome, and the soapy hands from the dishes means you can’t write down any good ideas you have. That’s when the good ideas always come.
  108.  Plan something impossible (your future house’s kitchen color, how many children you have and what their names will be, the centerpiece at your wedding). Write a poem about it.
  109. Wait.(107-109 Written by Payton)
  110. Do a pass around or collaborative poem- The first person writes a line and then passes it for the second person to write a line. The second person will fold over the very first line and then pass the poem, so on and so forth.
  111. While watching television, hit the “guide” button and write a poem using the show titles on the screen. (Or) Do the same thing with the movie titles in the “Now playing” section at the theatre.
  112. Find some notes from a friend or anyone you’ve ever passed notes with, and pick lines from them and turn them into a poem.
  113. Find a roster of your favorite team and use your favorite players’ names in a poem.
  114. Think of any lines from any movies you’ve seen and put them together in a poem.
  115. Look at the song titles on the back of a CD and use one of the titles to start a poem. (Or as a prompt by itself)
  116. Find the nearest book to you and go to page 23. Use the 4th line to start a poem.
  117. Open up a novel and write down the first line of each chapter. Use the lines you’ve written down to write a poem.
  118. On television or YouTube or something else, watch a clip of one of your favorite shows as a little kid and use it as a prompt.(110-118 Written by Tyler)
  119. Write a wish in the sand. (Optional: take a photo of it) Write a poem that accompanies your wish.
  120. Eat dark chocolate while watching your favorite comedy movie and write about it.
  121. Gather all of your friends and take a trip to Starbucks, or another coffee shop, and write poems together.
  122. Crank your favorite song while in the car (and write a poem). Make sure that the car is not moving.
  123. Lay in the sun on a warm day and write, write, write.
  124. Write a poem about coloring Easter eggs.
  125. Drink sparkling grape juice out of a fancy glass and write a poem about elegance.
  126. Write about a peppermint stick in a half cut lemon.
  127. Start a new collection (stamps, sea shells, coins, scarves, jewelry, etc.) and write about this collection.
  128. Make homemade kool-aid popsicles and write about them.
  129. Write about the first rainfall. In the poem, grab your favorite pair of flip-flops, and dance in the rain. (Even better, do the dance in the rain first)
  130. Write about making a bowl of jell-o, and eating it through a straw.
  131. Imagine and write about what a cumulus cloud would taste like.
  132. Write about wearing bright pink lipstick.
  133. Use the following as a line to a poem, “Sing karaoke in China Town.”(119-133 Written by Mariah, Kristen, Sam, and Sam)
  134. Bake a chocolate cake and write about you process.
  135. Go to your favorite spot and write about what you see.
  136. Eat chicken noodle soup and write a poem about what you taste.
  137. Talk to your best friend and write a descriptive poem about them.
  138. Brush your teeth and listen to Bach, the great composer, and write a poem.
  139. Do your makeup in different ways and write about the different designs.
  140. Dress up as someone else and write from their perspective.
  141. Take a nap and write a poem as soon as you awake.
  142. Go to Wal-Mart and take notes about the first three things you see. Write about them.(134-142 Written by Mckayla and Caite)
  143. Pretend that it’s opposite day. (Ex. Instead of saying that it’s a good morning, say that it’s NOT a good morning. Describe something by saying what it’s NOT)
  144. Write upside down. Describe an upside-down world.
  145. Write backwards. Describe a backwards world.
  146. Type random letters and try to pick out real words out of the mess. Write a poem with those words in it. (Ex. Hsdklaghjkgyuirjafklasugthgjklauigyrrjaijsiojkckjasiufnvkzoaqwifnjhstweukjbgiswikhzxjgsklshjjauirkcnjkhcvnbvjkljvnsdtwenjkmnvbzlonguighiyerijvjk)
  147. Write a poem about a very small object. *
  148. Write a poem about something that spirals. *
  149. Write a poem that starts at the end, moving backwards. *
  150. Write a poem that is about the “un-truth.” *
  151. Write a poem using, “how to…” For example, “how to write a poem”, “How to break my heart”, “How to distinguish a flower from a frog” *
  152. Write a poem that describes a walk through a house from the perspective of a child. (143-146 Written by Adalia, Maddie, and Shianne. 147-152 taken from: http://www.davidrm.com/thejournal/tjresources-exercises.php#poetry
  153. Write a poem about doing Yoga.
  154. Alter the pictures of a magazine and write accompanying poems.
  155. Listen to Lana Del Ray and write.
  156. Light some candles or burn some incense and write.
  157. Look out a window at a nice view and let it inspire a poem.
  158. Take a walk while the sun is setting. Stop and write.
  159. Look up Bon Iver- listen to that and write.
  160. Paint a picture (even if you “can’t paint”) and use the experience to fuel your poetry.
  161. Turn out all of the lights and only use a flash light to explore your house. Write.
  162. Make a sheet fort and go on a writing adventure.
  163. Study the contents of junk drawer and write about these items.
  164. Get yourself a drink (coffee, soda, tea, water, juice) as long as your thirst is quenched, you should be ready to write(153-164   written by Jessie and Kaine)
  165. Write about doors. Metaphorical. Oak. French. Glass.
  166. Smell perfume and write down the first three things that come to mind. Write a poem with the words. (You could travel to the nearest mall and ask for samples at the cosmetic counter).
  167. Listen to the song ‘Breathe 2am’ by Anna Nalick and write a response to it.
  168. What’s your favorite thing about summer? Write about it.
  169. Imagine you are lying under the stars. What can you see?
  170. It’s raining. How does that make you feel? Write about this feeling.(165-170 Written by Kacy and Jessica)
  171. Imagine as if it was the opposite season it is now. Write about the experiences you may be having.
  172. If you were the first person to be on Earth, what would things be like? Write about the struggles and benefits of this situation.
  173. Write about your perspective as if you were any type of food.(171-173 written by Sophie)
  174. Write a few of your own prompts.Here is a printable version of the prompts: National Poetry Month Student Generated Prompts This activity was created in hopes that we could inspire others to write poetry in April and beyond. I am excited to see the pieces that my students write. We would love if others shared their poetry with us.Stay tuned, in an upcoming post I will be sharing some marvelous poems written by my students and more poetry activities! May you and your students find April a fruitful month of reading and writing poetry.

    3-27-2013 9;30;21 PMMy Poetry Month Poster

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8 Responses to High School Student Generated Writing Prompts for National Poetry Month (Amy)

  1. Pingback: Wednesday writing prompt: Door-to-door sales | Write on the World

  2. Pingback: Poetry Month = Poetry Everywhere | Catherine Bull

  3. Pingback: Poetry Prompt #3: | We Drink Because We're Poets

  4. Pingback: Poetry Prompt #11 | We Drink Because We're Poets

  5. Peter says:

    That is one very big yet useful list. If anyone has trouble finding words to put on paper, they should just come here for some inspiration.

  6. iamrobinj says:

    writing prompts are great to use in exploring to the world of the writers’ imagination.

  7. LOL at #15! Did anyone do that one?

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