How to Write a Blank Verse Poem

Don't know how to write a blank verse poem? Do you need to teach your child how to write blank verse poetry but you haven't the faintest idea where to start? Relax. Blank verse poetry is fun and easy, both to learn and to teach.

Blank Verse Basics
To understand blank verse poetry, you need to understand iambic pentameter, which is the typical rhyming and stress scheme behind most poetry. Iambic pentameter is a line of 10 syllables, with the accent falling on the second, fourth, sixth, eighth and tenth syllables. Whether you realize it or not, you've heard iambic pentameter many, many times. You probably just didn't know what to call it. A classic example of iambic pentameter is this line written by John Keats:

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells.

Sometimes a line written in iambic pentameter will have an extra, weakly stressed syllable at the end. This is called iambic pentameter with a weak ending. An example of this is the following line, written by William Shakespeare:

To be, or not to be: that is the question.

Blank verse poetry makes use of iambic pentameter, but the lines are not required to rhyme. This frees up the poet to write more freely, focusing more on the stress or accenting of the lines. You'll want to make use of each stanza as a tool to separate out groups of thoughts.

Teaching Blank Poetry
When teaching a child to write a blank verse poem, you'll want to break the lesson into two parts, the first focused on mastering iambic pentameter and the second focused on actually writing a poem.

In the first lesson, you'll want to show the child several examples of iambic pentameter. Have the child read the lines out loud, teaching her to stress the proper syllables as she reads. You should read the line first, then have the child read the line, making sure every syllable is accented properly. It may help if you write out a pattern for the child like this:

Da DUM, Da DUM, Da DUM, Da DUM, Da DUM or

xO, xO, xO, xO, xO

Help the child to identify the pattern.

During the second lesson, you will want to help the child learn how to tell a story or express a mood inside the parameters of a blank verse poem. Eliminate thoughts about rhyming and focus on the story.

It will help to have a child-friendly blank verse poem available for the child to use as an example. For child-friendly poems, check out Shel Silverstein's collections of poems. Help your child to identify which poems are written in iambic pentameter, then ask your child to write his own. Read the poem out loud after he is done, looking for the right stressing of syllables.

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