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Writing Resources: Dos and Don’ts for Leading Poetry Workshops

What follows are a quick set of rules for anyone considering leading a poetry workshop. These rules are not complicated, and they can apply to writers of any age from 1-120.



  • Read and talk about different types of poems
  • Talk about the pattern of a poem
  • Talk about lines and verses
  • Join in and write
  • Give (and vary) a stimulus and a structure
  • Accept whatever writing you get for what it is
  • Write individual, pair, group and class poems
  • Share ideas and identify good poetic techniques
  • Provide poetry books, dictionary, Thesaurus and Rhyming Dictionary
  • Make suggestions on improvement
  • Model redrafting and establish a redrafting code
  • Leave time between writing and redrafting
  • Celebrate your poems in readings and displays



  • Worry about what you don’t know – explore together
  • Solve a poem – it’s only a problem if you make it one
  • Talk about sentences and paragraphs
  • Say poetry is hard or that you can’t write it – you can
  • Use a deficit model. So the poem doesn’t rhyme, what does it do?
  • Call it a poem if it’s not
  • Limit the range of opportunities
  • Drum in a few terms
  • Devalue the writer’s voice by using books too much
  • Tell the writer he/she MUST change anything
  • Kill interest by always redrafting
  • Use word-processors only for ‘copying out’
  • Preserve poetry for the most able

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