Getting your kids to write poetry about animals will vary by the ages and interests of the children involved. With middle elementary kids and older, you might begin by sharing a variety of poem styles about many different animals. With younger children, it might be better to focus on several examples of a single type of poem. Acrostic poems are often a good choice for your youngest poets. Encourage your young writers to enjoy words.
Share some sample poems with your future poets. Young children might enjoy A.A. Milne's "Alexander Beetle" or Jack Prelutsky's "Last Night I dreamed of Chickens." Older children can appreciate the rich word picture of "The Tyger" by William Blake, or even the dreadful melancholy of "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe. You can also share some of your own poetry, especially if you plan to ask them to write a particular type of poem, such as an acrostic.
Select a poem type that is easy and that appeals to the child. Acrostic poems, where each line of the poem begins with the letter in a word, are easy for most children. For example, a poem about a calico cat named Zoomie might go like this: Zealously staking the door, Open it careless humans! Out I go into freedom. Mean dogs bark, In comes Zoomie, Elegant fur all on end. Couplets, verses of two lines that usually have an ending rhyme, and quatrains, sets of four lines that rhyme in a pattern, are also good choices for young poets.
Share a variety of pictures of animals. These might be photographs of pets or they could be pictures cut from magazines. Share the various pictures among the children, and allow them to select their particular animal. Brainstorm a variety of descriptive words about the creature. Provide the children with poem templates that provide a place to write in the name of the creature, a sentence or two containing descriptive words, and a strong end statement that includes some sort of emotion or return to equilibrium. A template for haiku might be: Make an opening statement using five syllables. Explain the action using seven syllables, then a closing statement using five syllables. And example poem might be: The strong lion roars; Birds fly up into the night sky; Scared silent jungle.
When the poems are finished, display them with a copy of the inspirational picture. The children might also enjoy drawing pictures of their animal or even explaining why they chose that particular creature. Open a discussion about why the children chose certain words, or what they were trying to show their classmates. Let the other students explain how the poem makes them feel or what it reminds them of. Explain that there are always two meanings for a poem: the one the poet wrote, and the one the reader understands.
Older children might enjoy comparing emotions to animals.