Poetry Topics: What Should I Ask My Students To Write About?

Many teachers will inevitably ask their students to write about whatever they feel like writing about. Sometimes an assignment will relate to a book read for class. But other times it can be most beneficial to provide students with a framework, context, or abstract idea and let them run with it. Giving the entire class the same idea can lead to some strangely provocative work! Here are a few easy ideas for poetry topics.

One classroom professor (whose name we will absolutely mention: Joseph Cardillo), routinely gave his college students a one-word framework about which a poem needed to be written. One of those topics? The word “lips.” Another? The word “eyes.” There was no other direction provided. A poem needed only incorporate the word. The results were fun, to say the least. 

Asking students to write a poem about a specific topic can inspire interest. Ask them to write about where they grew up — a town, community, state, province, or country are all fair game. The most provocative, insightful poetry will come from those who were born outside of the country, and help other students understand outsiders a little more.

You can also ask students to write about abstract concepts like a bad dream, love, the feeling of falling asleep, what it’s like to be underwater, etc. Ask them to write about a sight, sound, emotion, or anything else related to the five senses. Ask them to write about things they haven’t yet experienced for themselves! What is it like to become a parent? What is it like to climb a mountain? ….Explore outer space? Anything is fair game.

Children love to dream. Ask them to write about a fantasy, like a super power they wish they had. There are so many options! And keep in mind that these prompts don’t just work for high school students or little kids — they will work just fine for you, too!