Play Your Words Writing Prompt: A Bag of Bugs–Alliterative Writing Prompt

David Kirk’s Sunny Patch for Melissa and Doug Bag of Bugs

For today’s writing prompt, it’s time to get a little silly.

Last weekend my husband and I went garage sale-ing, a favorite summertime activity. At one particular home that had a titan’s cornucopia of crafting supplies, I found a bag of wooden, brightly painted, bug pins and I bought it. When I got in the car I said, “I love my bag of bugs!” and my husband started riffing on other alliterative insects in containers. Laughing, he finally suggested I use some of them as a writing prompt. So,  here they are:

Write a poem, paragraph-length description, or short story using one of the alliterative terms below (or you can make up your own.)

a bag of bugs
a sack of snails
a box of beetles

Have fun! Let your inner child out to play. It is important that we not only encourage our kids and ourselves to build writing skills, but we remember that writing can be fun.

And please, oh please, use the comment space below to share your response or riff further on alliterative containers for insects.

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Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #19: Musical Muse

Select a piece of instrumental music you find interesting, or inspiring, or just enjoy.

Play it, and while it’s playing, sit down and freewrite whatever the music brings to your mind. (Remember—when you freewrite, you write nonstop for a given period of time, just repeating words or phrases when you think you’ve run out of things to say until the flow opens again.”

When you are done, get a highlighter and use it to mark words or phrases that you love, that seem powerful, or that triggers your imagination.

Using these words and phrases, and any others you wish to add, write a poem.

Now revise your poem to include at least two of these poetic sound effects:

  • Alliteration: two or more words, following one another that begin with the same sound.
  • Assonance: two or more word in close proximity to each other that have the same vowel sound. (Remember vowels are a, e, I, o, u, and sometimes y.)
  • Consonance: two or more word in close proximity to each other that have the same consonant sound.
  • Onomatopoeia: a word that sounds like the sound it describes.

When you are done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners (or share your poem as a comment). Compliment one another on the sound, and power, and impact of your poems.

Preschool Literacy:

Select a piece of instrumental music you find interesting, or inspiring, or just enjoy.

Sit down with your preschooler (and paper and pen) and play it. At first, just listen together. After a few moments, ask your child what this music reminds him of. When he tells you, write it down and prompt her, “Anything else?”

Write everything down in the form of a list poem.

When you are done, read back what he or she has narrated, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoke word.

Ask the child to think of a title for the poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #7: Free Verse

I just submitted a handful of poems about my mom to Chicken Soup for the Soul, many of them written in free verse form. I love writing in free verse. I love the freedom to use line breaks and spacing to emphasize words and ideas, and to literally shape the poem on the page.

Free Verse poems have no established rhyme or rhythm pattern, and no set stanza or line length. They rely on figurative language, repetition, sound effects of poetry, line breaks, and spacing in crafting the poetic form.

And like all poetry, free verse poems reflect highly concentrated writing.

So, how do you write free verse poetry? As with any writing, I’d recommend a few moments of pre-writing, be it on paper or in your head. Think about what you wish to write about. Collect words and phrases that express you thoughts and feelings.

When writing, keep these tips in mind.

Use sound for poetic effect:

  • Assonance: use identical vowel sounds in groups of words. For example, the long “o” sound in the words “roses,” “smoke,” and “golden.”
  • Consonance: use the same consonant sounds in groups of words. For example, the “p” sound in the words “drip,” “plain” and “tipped.”
  • Alliteration: use words starting with the same initial sound. For example “beautiful,” “bald,” “birds.”
  • Onomatopoeia: use words that sound like their meaning. For example, “boom,” “whoosh,” “pop.”

Use line breaks for poetic effect. While free verse poets have many reasons for breaking lines the way they do, here are a few reasons many have in common:

  • It is logical to break a line after a complete sentence or phrase.
  • A break is used to emphasize a word or phrase by placing it at the end of the line.
  • A line break can be used in lieu of punctuation.
  • A line break in an unexpected place helps to create surprise, humor, or irony.
  • Line breaks can be used to produce the shape of the poem.

Now write your poems.

When you are done, share your writing, both with writing partners and here as a comment. Compliment the strengths in each other’s writing.

Sound Effects in Poetry

I realize this summer I have been posting poetry prompts without providing much guidance for those who feel they might need it in writing poetry. I’ve had lots of students say they can’t write poetry only to have them find, after a little instruction and a willingness to play with their words (that’s where the title for my writing prompt page came from), they can write poetry and that it can actually be fun.

I view poetry as concentrated writing. The writer communicates an idea, belief, memory, story, etc, using fewer words and less space than he or she might use when writing prose. And because of this compression of writing, just like fruit punch concentrate, the final product is quite potent.

Because of the concentrated nature of poetry, word choice matters even more here, perhaps, than in prose. And in poetry the sound effects of the words used contribute to the power and meaning of the writing.

So, here are some sound effects you can use in writing poetry. Once you use them consistently, they will come naturally to you. As you are learning them, however, I would advise not paying particular attention to these until you are revising the rough drafts of your poems.

1) Alliteration: (my favorite) Alliteration involves using consecutive words that start with the same letter. Allow me to use Mother Goose to illustrate: “Diddle, diddle dumpling, my son John…” The first three words of this nursery rhyme use alliteration.

2) Assonance: Assonance involves using words in a line of verse that repeat a particular vowel sound. In “Mary, Mary, quite contrary…” the a sound is repeated in three of the four words. This line also illustrates another technique…

3) Consonance: Consonance involves repeating a consonant sound within a line of poetry. For example, “The little dog laughed to see such sport…” The “l” sounds bind together the first half of this line, while the alliteration of the “s” sound concludes it.

4) End Rhyme: End rhyme occurs when the ends of two lines of poetry rhyme with each other. “Hey diddle diddle/The cat and the fiddle…” Diddle and fiddle are rhyming words and their appearance at the end of each line gives the rhyme a musical quality.

5) Internal Rhyme: This is rhyme that is used internally within a line of a poem. “Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater/Had a wife and couldn’t keep her.” This line uses internal rhyme in its first line and end rhyme for the first two lines, again providing a linking within and between the lines, and the rhythmic repetition of sound.

6) Meter: Meter provides the percussion section of the poem. Metered poetry has a specific, repeating rhythm that carries the reader through it’s lines. Consider the bouncing footsteps of this famous rhyme, “Jack and Jill went up the hill/To fetch a pail of water…” Meter can set the mood for a poem, create a predictable, unifying rhythm, and propel the reader through the poem.

7) Onomatopoeia: (Don’t you love the spelling of this word? Not!) Onomatopoeia are actual sound effect words–words that sound like the sound they’re describing. “POP! Goes the weasel” provides an example of onomatopoeia, as its first word is the word for the sound the weasel is making. “Crash,” “smash,” and “boom” are also examples of onomatopoeia.

8) Repetition: Repetition is exactly what it sounds like. “Little cat, little cat/where have you been?” Repetition is often used for emphasis and to support rhythm.

Sound effects can enhance meaning, underscore mood, create verisimilitude, or provide predictability or propulsion. But best of all, sound effects are fun. Play with your words. Play with your poetry. Take pleasure in the richness and flavor of language.