How to Teach Students to Write Effective Poetry Using Ideograms


Students can express themselves more freely and discover deeper meanings in their writing by adding visual aspects to their poems.

It might be difficult to foster a sense of belonging in international schools because many children frequently move from one country to another. For the third-culture students in the literacy classes we instruct at our school, we developed a really fun poetry project. It entails having them compose a poem in the vein of “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, and then employing an ideogram technique to uncover the essence of their creation.

We utilize a PowerPoint over the first two project days to explain some of Lyon’s methods to the students. By compiling unique photos of significant events in their lives, students imitate Lyon’s poetic approach. Through this project, students can develop a sense of who they are and understand how those defining moments in their lives serve as the cornerstone of their identity.

Some high school kids could believe that they don’t have enough relevant experiences to include in a poem because their lives are too brief or too subjective. They occasionally generate cliched ideas on their own, such as types of bubble gum or generalizations about the nations they’ve visited. We’ve included some instances of what might help a poem come to life on PowerPoint slide 11. Students will find considerably more intriguing photos from their own life to incorporate if the teacher gives some personal examples from that list.

Mr. Buteau used Ellen, a strong woman who formerly oversaw a remote summer camp where he worked, as an illustration of an idea of a local character. A wooden fence surrounded the back of the old pickup truck the camp used to transport children and prevent objects from tumbling out. Ellen was actually dumping luggage into a trolley one day from the truck’s back. Her ring became stuck on the fence when she attempted to jump out the back. They were unable to bring her to the hospital in time to save the finger after she fell on the ground screaming. Any criticism or dissension from that point on would be signalled by a hand motion with the ring finger folded behind the palm.

We also provide pupils with access to a Jamboard, which they can use to compile special childhood memories. Images and phrases from Mrs. Douglas’s life in Trinidad and Tobago are featured on the model pages.

Her experiences of confronting death in her rural town one day after school are captured in one image. The youngsters observed the church doors to be wide open. She was shocked to see a coffin with a body inside as they gazed down the aisle of the otherwise deserted church.

Although her older brother and the other boys snuck down the aisle toward the coffin despite her fear, she couldn’t stop them. She bolted from the building and sat by the gates. A little while later, the boys bolted outside like a herd of wildebeest. It felt rubbery, like a jellyfish washed up on the shore, her brother said to her. The priest suddenly showed up at the door. The kids fled down the street as her brother grabbed her hand.


Students are able to create interesting rough draughts with a wonderful collection of images and situations thanks to the teacher’s personal examples. However, it can be difficult for children to grasp that the real meaning of their poetry lies underneath the superficial layer of the images they’ve selected.

Ideogram drawings

Our inspiration for the rewrite came from a fantastic lesson plan by Teach Living Poets. Ideogram drawings, or abstract visual representations, are seen in it by Kaveh Akbar as a way to consider a completed poem and to describe its relevance in a way that “feels truer, or at least more intriguing, than anything [he] could clumsily verbalise about the poem.”

We believed that students who were unable to express the key elements of their own poetry could benefit from Akbar’s introspective use of ideograms as a revising strategy. Based on their first draughts of the poems, students came up with an ideogram. Before moving on to the final draught, they wrote a very succinct description of the ideogram. Students had good outcomes from this practise, and the description frequently disclosed a crucial component of their narrative that wasn’t yet clear in the poem. We emphasised assisting all students visualise and express (in a symbolic way) anything they learned during the ideogram process during conferences regarding their final draughts.

Selection of photographs

A wonderful selection of photographs were included in the rough manuscript that one student contributed. However, there was something else there that was concealed and only revealed in her ideogram. Although it wasn’t particularly there in the poetry, she certainly wanted to express a sense of sorrow, which is evident in the description. We asked her to elaborate on that gloom during our meetings. She gave an explanation of how her loss was connected to a broken friendship. We therefore questioned her about the things she missed, remembered, and recorded on her Jamboard.

Through those conversations, she grew more at ease with the notion of sharing more specifics metaphorically, articulating some of the challenges without disclosing too much about herself or giving an overly straightforward depiction. The final revision shows her resiliency and creates a much more potent poetry by better articulating the poem’s core—the crucial moment that matters as a component of her identity.

Final Words

The majority of our students appreciated how the poetry was reframed in a visual scheme by the ideogram since it enabled them to connect their written emotions with an artistic presentation of their work and guided them in discovering the poem’s true heart.

About the author: charlie

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