Writing Bad Poetry


         Will the poems that the studentsÕ write be any good? Some will, and some wonÕt. You will always have those students whose poems are of excellent quality. You will also have those students whose poems may be considered toxic waste. You certainly will have students whose poetic skills will improve because of the practice. If the opportunity arises, share good work with other students. The point of writing poetry in the history class, however, is not to create poets, but to foster learning—specifically, the learning of history.




Students like to see models to help guide them as they prepare to write. Since the beautiful men and women who grace the covers of popular magazine are not usually available to help tutor the students in the classroom, we will have to settle for models of poems for the students to look at prior to their writing.

         There are many books of poems available that show a variety of styles, but we are looking specifically for models of poetry that will be similar to the poetry students will be writing. If possible, find poems about historical events or people. There are some excellent poems about historical events and people available. When you find these, start a collection. There are even some poems that have been created during the actual historical periods. Share these as primary sources. Some may even be used as models for student-created poetry.

Many poems, however, are great to study from a literary point of view, but do not make suitable models. Students may grow frustrated when they realize that they are not writing poetry exactly like Wordsworth, Keats, or Seuss. Students should not be intimidated by the masters, but encouraged to find their own voice. Leave the literary study to the Language arts teachers.

The best models are those created by other students. Students like to see poetry by others their age. Save models from year to year, discarding some, and adding new ones. Cut out the names if you choose. Challenge the students to do better. You may point out how some of the models could have been improved.

If no student models are available (which is usually the case whenever starting), the teacher should create the models. This has many advantages. The students love to see the teacherÕs own work, whether bad or good. It gives the students the idea that the teacher actually practices that they preach. It also makes the teacher appear more human to the students.  By using their own writing, the teacher has the advantage of teaching the creative process of writing the poems—both the joys and frustrations.