Teaching Descriptive Poetry in November

November is the perfect backdrop for poetry. With the constantly changing leaves that fall like snow, the dark and dreary smoke wisp clouds, and colorful foliage peppering the grey-green lawn, there are so many inspirational scenes to use for teaching descriptive poetry in November.

April is National Poetry month and what an exquisite time to usher in the genre of literature with the stage of spring, but fall in November is just as wonderful of a time to write poetry! From describing the fall scenery to describing what students are thankful for, to even tasking your class to describe a Thanksgiving dish, there are boundless opportunities for descriptive poetry.

Descriptive poetry does not necessarily tell a story like a narrative poem. This type of writing is meant to create vivid imagery in a reader’s mind. Descriptive poetry has certain key ingredients that students can utilize when writing a wonderful fall poem. Just like there are specific ingredients for pumpkin pie, there are certain ingredients to make up a well-rounded and well-written descriptive poem!

Key Ingredients:

  • Specific Word Choice
  • Adjectives
  • Figurative Language (Similes, Metaphors, Personification, Onomatopoeia, etc.) 
  • Imagery
  • Sensory Words

Step 1: Read Poems for Teaching Descriptive Poetry

When teaching descriptive poetry, the first step is for students to be inspired by authentic poems and to learn to recognize the key ingredients within those poems. (Having a healthy knowledge of the key ingredients first is crucial, of course. Check out our spooky figurative language activity to teach this key component.

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It is best to read a poem multiple times with students. On the first reading, students take in the description the author is conveying and they can visualize the scene. On a second reading, with the teacher’s help, students can dissect the various adjectives and figurative language throughout the poem. They can circle the words that evoke vivid images and the specific word choice that shows the various five senses. Work together to find how the author showed fall instead of just telling about it. Ask your students: “How did the writer show us it was chilly instead of telling us it was cold outside?”

These autumn poems act as a mentor text to help students understand how to write a descriptive poem.

Here are some wonderful examples of descriptive fall poetry that can inspire students. Perfect for your students to read, color, and place in their notebooks. Click on the link below for 4 Autumn Descriptive Poems. 

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Step 2: Prewriting

Once students have been able to read other fall poems and become motivated by the important components of descriptive poetry, I encourage students to get out in nature to observe and write about the fall season, if that is the topic of their poem. 

Just by getting outside and smelling the crisp air, watching the cascading leaves, and feeling the cool breeze, students will feel energized to write that descriptive fall poem.

Encourage your students to take a journal to write down whatever they see, smell, hear, and feel. By taking students outside, they may be able to include specific details in their writing instead of just remembering what fall is like from the inside of a classroom. 

As they observe and take descriptive notes, they can utilize that information to help them write their poems.

If students are describing what they are thankful for, have them make a list of all the aspects of the thing that they are focusing on or the many ideas/elements of life they are grateful for. Making a collage on Canva, a Pinterest board, or a physical collage with printed images of what they are thankful for helps them focus before they start writing the descriptive poem. 

If students are describing a Thanksgiving dish, have them look up images online, go home and taste that item, and do any research they can to fully describe it. Students focus on all the senses when it comes to that dish, not just the taste sense. Challenge students to use figurative language to make comparisons. Their favorite Thanksgiving dish of sweet potato casserole would have marshmallows as fluffy as clouds. Their favorite apple pie can taste like a symphony of cinnamon. 

Step 3: Write Poem

I have found it crucial to give students specific guidelines to help them write a wonderfully descriptive fall poem. When guidance isn’t given, I receive 3-line poems with 2 adjectives, and we don’t want that.

The guidelines I give students allow for creativity and freedom but it allows them to see a template as to what works best for a descriptive poem.

Guidelines:

  • 10 lines or more
  • Can be Unrhymed or rhymed
  • 1 or more metaphors
  • 1 or more similes
  • 1 or more personifications
  • 1 or more onomatopoeias
  • 1 or more alliterations
  • 3 Sensory Words
  • 5 Adjectives
  • Showing & Not Telling

Step 4: Revise and Edit

When students have finished their poems, I like to meet with them. First, we go over the guidelines. That’s when flexibility comes in. If their poem didn’t have exactly five adjectives but still did a wonderful job utilizing similes and metaphors and sensory words, then that’s okay. I express that to them. The guidelines are there as a template, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a descriptive poem needs all of those elements all the time. In fact, the poems we read, to begin with, did not even do that. 

Step 5: Publish, Illustrate, & Display

Illustrate and display! Descriptive poems should convey images in the reader’s mind of the fall season, so what better thing to do but illustrate what the writer is showing? I’ve had students complete watercolors of their fall poetry scenery. Students can simply draw and color what they wrote about, or even piece a collage together. Students can create a poster on Canva that shows what they articulated in their poems.

When I taught elementary school, I had a big tree display on my wall. It was our “Poe-Tree.” I would change the leaves on it depending on the season and place the students’ poems on the branches. By creating a “Poe-Tree,” and displaying students’ poems, the rest of the class can read them and become inspired too.

Our Gather Fall Bulletin Board Kit is also a perfect backdrop to display any Thanksgiving thankfulness poems or any other descriptive poems they write.

Conclusion

Just like a perfect slice of pumpkin pie, a descriptive poem contains certain ingredients to help make it all come together beautifully. This November is a wonderful time to teach descriptive poetry. Challenge your students to describe the scenery, what they’re grateful for, or a delicious dish. The fall is just as great a time to teach poetry as the spring. It may even become your favorite time to do so!

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