“I don’t get what I’m supposed to do,” one of my middle school boys whined.

“You’re writing two haiku, one about nature, the other in riddle form, and then you’re writing a limerick,” I reiterated my previous instructions. Because it’s not teaching unless you repeat yourself 47 times during the course of an hour.

“How many syllables are in a haiku again?” another student asked, even though that information was posted on the board.

“Three lines of five, seven, and five syllables each. Doesn’t have to rhyme,” I told him.

“A limerick is 5,5,8,8,5?” another student queried.

“You got it backwards. 8,8,5,5,8. The first two lines and the last line rhyme, and the middle two lines rhyme.”

“Oh boy.” The kid started fixing his limerick.

I had thought that writing short, pithy poems with fixed amount of syllables would be an easier task than composing poetry with absolutely no guidelines, but my students’ bewildered expressions were telling me otherwise. “Here let me show you.” I crossed over to the whiteboard and composed two haiku off the top of my head, the first about nature and the second a riddle, per my own instructions.

The room grew silent.

A boy rocked back in his chair. “Well, now I feel even worse.”

I scrunched my brows in bemusement. “Why?”

“Because you just wrote that in 30 seconds.”

“Well, that just proves how easy it is! If I can do it in 30 seconds, you guys can do it in the time allotted to you.”

After much yammering, most of the students buckled down to give it a try. I meanwhile wrote an example limerick on the board next to my two haiku. I don’t think any of the poems are particularly impressive–after all, I did write them in super quickly–but perhaps they’ll inspire you to write your own, like they inspired my students.

Butterfly

Graceful butterfly
Floating gently in the breeze
Lands on milkweed.

What am I?

Cold, wet, and gloomy,
Waters the flowers and trees
Can turn into snow

Miss Brown

There once was a lady named Miss Brown,
Who purchased a beautiful ballgown.
With a comb in her hair,
And pizzazz and some flair,
She proceeded to go on the town.

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