How to Do a Chain Poem
There are different types of chain poems. A collaborative chain poem has many authors, each of whom only writes one line or stanza to the poem. The poet who begins a collaborative poem has no idea how the poem will end. These poems are unpredictable, surprising and very creative. A word chain poem is written by a single author. These poems are used to express a chain of ideas connected by words of association. Chain poems can be used in the classroom or at home as a fun activity.
Collaboration Chain Poem
Gather a group of students, friends or family members together in one room. Instruct the participants to sit in a circle on the floor or around a table. Brainstorm as a group to select a word or idea that will be the general theme of the poem.
Write one line or stanza of poetry on a piece of paper with a pencil, using the word or idea that was selected for the theme of the poem. Pass the paper and pencil on to the person to your right.
Instruct each participant to read the line or lines of poetry on the paper and then write an additional line or stanza. Inform the participants that they must remain silent during the process to allow free thinking to occur.
Monitor the progress of the paper. Ensure that the paper is passed to the right and that each person has an opportunity to participate. Read the poem aloud once it is returned to you.
Word Chain Poem
Select a word to be the starting word in your chain. Write the word in the center of the top line on a piece of paper.
Play the association game. Read the word and write the next word that comes to your mind underneath the first word. Write the word that comes to mind when you read the second word underneath the second word. Continue to make a list of words in this manner until you have written eight to 10 words. Make the list as quickly as possible to ensure that your words are genuine associations. Set a timer for one to two minutes before beginning and stop once the timer dings.
Underline each word in your list. Write a sentence around each word to create the lines of your poem. Position the sentence before, after or around your word. Change the tense of the words if needed. Turn singular words to their plural form if it better fits your sentence.
Write your word chain poem in a group. Give each participant the same beginning word. Allow each individual to read their poem aloud to compare the differences. Discuss the different associations made by each individual.
- Send your collaboration poem through email or post to a chain of friends. Be sure to include your email or mailing address so that the finished poem will return to you.
- National Writing Project: The Chain Poem, a Way of Breaking the Ice
- "For the Love of Poetry: Literacy Scaffolds, Extension Ideas, and More"; Nancy Lee Cecil; 1997
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