Since so many parents are trying to provide some schooling from home right now, I’m providing a free PDF of 7 kids poetry exercises, for ages 5 – 9, depending on their literacy level. Note that I am not a teacher, just a volunteer poetry instructor, but I have taught using these exercises for Big Brothers Big Sisters and at Word Bookstore in Jersey City, NJ. I think they are relatively self explanatory, but here are the instructions for each page: 1. Kids can write an acrostic poem with one word for each letter in their name (e.g., Sweet Apples Ran Away, Hiding). 2. Kids can try completing a classic “roses are red” poem, with the fourth line ending in an “oo” sound (eg, zoo, shoe). 3. Kids can fill in the blanks (you might need to explain the prompts to them- encourage them to be creative in choosing animals and animal actions). Exercises 4-7. Kids can write a sense poem for each season of the year, focusing on things that they typically experience during each season.

These exercises will help kids practice their letters (you may need to spell out some words for them) and use their imaginations. Encourage them to illustrate their poems, too, with crayons or pencils. If you have a 3-hole puncher and 3 hole punch folders, you can easily have them create mini-poetry books for themselves (or simply staple the pages together). The most important thing is to be encouraging as they develop their verbal skills. I hope these exercises help some parents or schoolteachers struggling to provide activities for kids. Also, if you want to read some poems good for kids, try Jack Prelutsky’s Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face, and Shel Silverstein’s Sick. Feel free to contact me with feedback.

As this pandemic is spreading, and I’ve been going to work at the hospital Monday through Friday, I’ve been carrying around with me two pocket books by Pema Chödrön that have offered me great guidance. In them, one of the concepts that she talks about is bodhichitta, a softness of the heart that appears when one stays open to suffering and pain. It is so important for us, during this crisis, to stay open and kind, and not react in fear. We also must be kind to ourselves when we fail to do these things.

I’ve been searching for poems to read that speak to this. The concept of bodhichitta, whether intentionally or not, appears to be present in Jason Shinder’s poem, Arrow Breaking Apart. I’d also like to think it’s present in Toi Derricotte’s poem Not Forgotten. This is a time to read and share poems of hurt and healing. I’m organizing online workshops to replace the in-person ones I’ve been running for years, so reach out and contact me if you’d like to be a part of an online poetry workshop.

I should also mention that I have news of an upcoming publication of a poem of mine in Rattle’s June 2020 Postcards issue. The work is a collaboration between the artist Adam Douglas Thomson and myself, featuring a drawing by him and a sonnet in response by me. I’m very honored because I consider Rattle to be one of the best literary journals today. I recommend you consider subscribing, or if you are writing pandemic-inspired poetry yourself, consider submitting to their weekly Poets Respond feature.