Imagery – Movement with Verbs


As my students continue to write poetry, I continue to look for strategies that can help get them going. In Writing Poetry by Shelly Tucker, there’s a great strategy that always works with middle school students, especially those for whom writing can be challenging. The strategy involves leading lines of a poem with verbs. Begin by reading a poem such as this one by Lisa Stuebing.

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Students will notice how each line begins with an action. Tucker explains, “ Verbs that start lines provide direction and momentum. Each one gives a snapshot of the action named” (p. 57). This is the perfect opportunity to discuss the role of imagery in poetry. I ask my students to make a list of their favorite activities and places. Selecting one of the ideas on their list, they brainstorm a list of actions that capture the activity or place in a way that sets it apart from any other. Then, it’s time to write! Here’s some of their great work.

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Whenever my students are stuck, I find them returning to this strategy again and again. And each time, they experience success!


Sonja Cherry-Paul has been an educator for the past 17 years. She is a middle school English teacher and co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning. Sonja is a Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards committee member and a part-time instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University where she is also a doctoral student.