Don'ts List Poem

Grade Levels: 3 - 6


  • Students will write a poem based on a list, emphasizing repetition and a new voice.


  • Paper
  • Markers



  1. Remind students that as children we heard many "don'ts."
  2. Ask them to brainstorm a list of all the "don'ts" they remember from their childhoods. For example, "Don't talk back!"
  3. Ask the students to begin each line of their list with the word "don't."
  4. Peter Elbow in Writing with Power (New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 102-116), suggests: "I Wish" or "Once" as also being helpful starters for poems such as this.
  5. When students have finished brainstorming, ask them to place an asterisk alongside the most serious admonition.


  1. Explain the structure of this list poem.
  2. The title is the student's name or the name a parent might have used for him or her when the parent was especially irritated.
  3. Every subsequent line begins with the word "don't."
  4. The last line, reserved for the most serious admonition, begins "And never, never...."
  5. When the draft is completed, point out to the students that their poems say something true about each of their childhoods and is spoken in the voice of a parent.


  1. Give students a plain white sheet of paper and ask them to use the entire page of paper for the poem, shaping it in any way they wish and making good use of the white space in the design of their final copy.
  2. Presenting: Ask students to read their poems aloud. (If you plan to have the students publish all their poems in personal booklets, collect the polished copies and save them for the appropriate time.)

Excerpted from Writing Process Activities Kit.

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