Episode 95: Celebrating Poetry Month through Holy Week

In this episode we celebrate Holy Week by writing poetry. Eight different types of poems are discussed and different poetic devices. This is a great way to celebrate Poetry Month, Holy Week, and to create a memory for your family as well!

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Transcript with Links:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids.

Since this is Holy Week, and this is also April, which is poetry month, I thought it would be really nice to pause and help our children learn about poetry and write poetry, but also celebrate this Holy Week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

First, I want to recommend a book. Oh my goodness. This book has so much in it, and it is geared toward grades three through six. Now some of the poems we’re going to talk about, your younger children could write, or you could write them together, but most poetry you start around second grade. This is going to be geared more towards your second through sixth grade children. But this one is called Poems for Kids: Over 600 Poems for Teaching Poetry Terms and Poetic Devices to Children in Grades Three through Six by Lorrie L. Birchall. This book is just chock-full of all kinds of poems and examples so that you can clearly describe the different poetic devices and help your children be able to recognize them and use them. And I’ve mentioned before how I love to use picture books and board books to talk about the different poetic devices. But if you don’t want to do that, this book is wonderful, and has so much information in it.

As we start this Holy Week, of course, Palm Sunday is when we started: that would’ve been the Triumphal Entry and the people celebrating and crying out “Hosanna,” which means “save us” and the hope of salvation. I thought it would be great to use a five senses poem for Palm Sunday. A five senses poem is really simple. You start each line with one of the senses: I see. I feel I taste, I hear, I smell. So what would a child experience on Palm Sunday? Would they see the palm branches feel the warm sun? Would they smell food cooking as the people are coming into Jerusalem for the holidays and celebrating with family? So you could talk about what happened on Palm Sunday. You could read in the gospels about Jesus’ Triumphal Entry and let your children have fun thinking about what they might have experienced with their during Palm Sunday. And then one of the elements we want to really work with going a little bit deeper than just listing out the five senses is to create the feeling of excitement and hope and joy with the adjectives that we use, with the words that we choose in the poem. And that’s one thing with imagery, as well–always include the right kind of adjectives to show the mood you’re trying to create in your reader. I use the example a lot of times with my students: if I were writing a poem about autumn, I would think of cozy soft, squishy sweaters and warm fires with the family gathered around in the living room, spending time together. I would think of Thanksgiving. I would think of apples and pumpkins and the beautiful colors, rich colors of fall with the leaves changing color and the beautiful sunsets. And then you look at the intro to The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe. You see a very different description of a late autumn, early winter day. And his words that he uses are bleak and gray and dreary and terrible. And it paints the perfect intro to the story that he’s writing for The Fall of the House of Usher. Of course, he was the father of horror, and he writes very descriptive settings in his stories, and his intros always paint the picture of what the story is going to be like. And The Fall of the House of Usher is just a creepy, creepy story. And you get that from the first paragraph. So if I use the wrong adjectives, I’m going to create the wrong feeling for my reader. So it’s like painting a picture and using the right colors. And so we can teach our children about imagery in that way. Imagery is including the five senses, but we often neglect that it’s also creating an emotion.

And then Holy Monday, it’s when Jesus turns the tables in the temple. A lot of people don’t understand this. And sometimes children don’t understand Jesus getting so angry because we think of anger as sin. And so I think this is such an important lesson to talk with our children about the emotions and the reason for Jesus’ emotions. This was a righteous anger. This was not having a temper tantrum. These people were cheating people out of their ability to make a sacrifice to God. They were hindering them from coming to God. Anytime someone hinders anyone from coming to God, God gets upset. And Jesus was rightly upset with what was happening in the temples at that time. There were those who were taking advantage of people. They were saying their animals were not appropriate and proper. And so they needed to buy this other animal. And from what history tells us, the Bible doesn’t tell us, but the history tells us that they were charging huge prices for people to buy the doves or the lambs or whatever they were sacrificing at the temple. And some have said that they were taking the animals people brought and then putting them in the pins and selling them at an inflated price so that they were hindering people from coming to God. They were hindering people from finding the forgiveness and the salvation they were seeking so much. We can understand then why Jesus was so angry and why He turned over the tables of those money changers who were taking advantage of people. To write a poem about that kind of emotion or the thankfulness we have that Jesus was so determined to provide a way for us to God, that He even started with the temple and with turning those tables over and preventing the people from continuing to block the way for people to come to God, and Jesus, of course, made the ultimate way for us to come to God when He died for our sins and rose again, and the veil was split into. So we can talk a lot about those kinds of things, but we can also talk about emotion. What happens when we are angry, what happens when we are struggling with our faith? And so writing a poem about those feelings. And in this case, I would recommend free verse. Free verse, of course, does not have to rhyme. It does not have to even follow a meter and rhythm. It can be very free and even awkward at times, depending on the emotion you are trying to portray. And so this one, I think, letting the children express their feelings of how they deal with anger or their understanding of Jesus and what happened in the temple that day, I think could be a really wonderful time of sharing and seeing what each other has to say.

Then Holy Tuesday, Jesus teaches in the temple here. I think it would be fun to do an acrostic poem, to take one word, either “teach” or “Jesus” or “Easter,” you know, choose a word from this week. And then for each letter in the word, write a statement about that word. We can explore a lot of alliteration, allusion, some of the other tools that we have in poetry. Alliteration is where you repeat the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. Consonance is where you have the same consonant sound, but they’re not always at the beginning of the word. So you might have a word ending with the same sound that another word begins with. You may have the sound in the middle of the word. So that’s consonance. And then assonance is where the vowel sounds repeat. And of course you have rhyme and you have rhythm. These are the lyric type of devices we can use–the sound devices we can use in poems. Onomatopoeia is one of my favorites because I love the word, but it’s where the word makes the sound it describes such as “zip,” “bang,” “buzz,” you know, those kinds of words, and that makes a poem come to life. And then of course you can also use repetitive phrases, repetitive lines in the poem. With an acrostic poem you wouldn’t do that, but with a free verse poem, you would. So that would be something to think about as well.

Then we come to Holy Wednesday, and this is where Judas Iscariot commits to betray Jesus. I think a haiku would be really good for this one. And a haiku is a Japanese form of poetry, which is three lines long. And when we translate it into English, we usually do five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables. In the true Japanese form of the poem that is not always the case, but for us, we usually do that 5, 7, 5. And so this is wonderful when you’re working with your children to help them understand syllables in words and how to count those. It also is a very brief poem and actually kind of hard to write because it is such a brief poem. Typically a haiku is written about nature. And so you may want to reserve this one to talk about the praying at Gethsemane or maybe when the women come to the tomb in the garden. One of those might be more fitted to a haiku. So you can think about which one would work best on which day.

And on Thursday, Maundy Thursday, we have the Last Supper and the disciples meeting together for Passover and Jesus washes their feet. So there’s a lot that we can write about on Maundy Thursday. And you could use free verse of course, but one of my favorite kinds of poems is Cinquain to work with children. And this is another Japanese style of poem. In a Cinquain, we use parts of speech plus also syllables, and it does not rhyme. And it is another Japanese poem that we’ve translated into English. And so I don’t know that it’s exactly the same as it would be in a proper Japanese poem, but the lines should be two syllables, four syllables, six syllables, eight syllables, then back to two syllables for the five lines. So the first and fifth line have two syllables and those are nouns. And so it could be the same word repeated twice. It could be like an adjective noun. It’s basically what your poem is about. And then you have the second line, which is four syllables. You have two adjectives that describe the topic. You wanna try to make it four syllables. Then you have your third line, which are three -ing words, which will create six syllables. Then you have a phrase that should be eight syllables, a four-word phrase that should be around eight syllables. And then you have another term that means the same as your first word in the poem, or your first two words in the poem. And this again is a noun, maybe an adjective and a noun that describes your first word, and it should be two syllables. So sometimes this is a very clever play on words; sometimes it’s metaphor. And sometimes it’s just another word for what you’ve said at the beginning. With all we have to work with on Maundy Thursday, there could be a lot of choices about Passover, the Last Supper, washing the disciples’ feet, going to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, could be about prayer. There’s a lot to choose from.

And then we have Good Friday, and Good Friday is when Jesus was crucified–when darkness covered the whole earth–when He says the words on the cross. For this one, I think making it just a lyric poem, bringing in imagery and as many of the devices, especially the sound devices your children have learned. You could have onomatopoeia with the hammer sounds. You could have alliteration, assonance, consonance, rhyming. I think they should try to put all of that into the Good Friday poem. There’s a lot of emotion with Good Friday. And so I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to bring in a lyric poem because a lyric poem is definitely made to create an emotional response from your reader. And so really helping our children tune into that emotion that they feel as they think about Jesus’ death on the cross.

And then of course, Saturday, Jesus is buried in the tomb on Friday night before the Sabbath begins on Friday afternoon. Saturday is the Sabbath. It’s a day of rest. I like focus on His disciples’ response. I think on Saturday, they were struggling with their hopelessness, with their confusion, with their not understanding what was going on, their fear and feeling as though they were in danger, that they might also be arrested because they followed Christ. I think that’s where I would focus on Holy Saturday. It’s a quiet time. And so whatever poetry model you choose to use with your children, I think it should be a time of quiet and reflection. A time of thinking about the grief the people felt, the uncertainty, the confusion–bringing that into a poem, whether you choose to do a haiku or a lyric poem, or even an ABC poem. An ABC poem, alphabet poem, is where you use all the letters in the alphabet and start each line with one of the letters. You could do another acrostic poem.

And then of course we have Sunday, Resurrection Sunday. Jesus has risen. His death, burial, and resurrection have paid for our sins. We have hope and a future because God is reconciling us to Himself. This of course has to be a joyful jubilant poem. Helping our children to work through what would they have experienced on that morning, let them choose which type of poem they want to write. Maybe they want to go back to the five senses poem and think about what they would have experienced. Maybe they want to put themselves into Mary’s shoes and what it would’ve been like to be in the garden and see the angel and find out Jesus has risen. Maybe they want to put themselves in the place of Peter and John, as they run to the tomb to see that Jesus is not there. Any of those examples, they can take and run with it and have a lot of fun rejoicing in what God has done and celebrating. Another type of poem–if they’re very musical and they know a lot of different Easter songs–one type of poem that’s a lot of fun is where you use the title or the first line of songs and put it into a poem. And the titles, that’s all you use, you don’t use your own words in this one, but you organize those titles to create the message you want to create in the poem. And so that would be another way to write a poem that would be fun for Holy Week.

And then I recommend putting them into a book, making a book out of these poems for your children to treasure and have, and reread throughout the year and for your family to have as a memory of making poems together and a fun way to celebrate poetry month and worshiping God and thanking God for what He did for us on this Holy Week.

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts, if you would like to join my mailing list, you can find me at TerrieHellardBrown.com and you will receive several freebies that you can download as soon as you sign up. You can join our Facebook group if you’re interested. And this is where we share pointers, we share ideas, and we have some fun discussing silly topics and serious topics about parenting and discipling and growing in the Lord. One of the goals with “Books that Spark” and with my website is we want to grow as disciples as we’re helping our children grow as disciples. I love to hear from you as well. You can comment on my blog. I answer every comment and every question, and I hope you all have a very blessed Easter.

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Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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