Writing Guidelines

Printer-friendly version

Writing Prompt

Provide an exciting writing activity that encourages students to focus their creative energies on writing their own poem.


Your prompt can be 100-200 words. Be sure to read the prompts already on our site to ensure yours is unique.

If you are a Poet In Class, please be sure to submit your writing prompt no later than November 1. If you are not participating in the Poet In Class program, contact Sarah prior to writing your prompt.



Dive In & One-Liner

A Dive In is a collection of guided questions, one writing activity, and useful links underneath a poem on our website.

A One-Liner is a teaser that speaks to what’s happening in a poem and/or how the poem works. 

Sarah will assign one poem at a time to you. 

How to write a Dive In

Question 1

This question is as straightforward as possible, and the answer requires very little digging or reflection by the student. We’d like to build a sense of accomplishment with this question, especially if a student (or teacher) is a reluctant reader of poetry.

Questions 2, 3, and 4

Possible topics for these questions include:

  • the speaker’s perspective
  • what’s included in the poem vs. what’s excluded (e.g. What do we know about the speaker? What do we know about the setting of this poem?)
  • the significance of the title, a particular line, the refrain
  • the poem’s moods and tone shifts
  • the form(s) used, etc.

You should feel free to refer to what poets have said about their own work in their micro-interviews (these are located below each poet’s biography).

You can also solicit opinions from the reader: “This poem is full of similes (comparisons using ‘like’ or ‘as’). Which one is your favourite? Why is that one remarkable to you?”

We have a glossary of poetic forms and terms on our site. Feel free to link to that page. 

Question 5

This question relates to a recitation of the poem - we encourage a student to think about an aspect of the poem that makes it interesting or challenging to recite. You can refer to our student recitation tips (from Evidence of Understanding down) and read the existing Dive Ins for inspiration.

Writing activity

This is a sentence or two of instruction to a student to write a poem that’s somehow inspired by this poem - in terms of point of view, technique(s), form, etc. We’ve sometimes included a specific suggestion to help get students started or as an added challenge (e.g., “As a nod to this poem, write your poem using tercets.”).

Useful Links

These two or three links help to show the student that poems don’t exist in a vacuum — they are embedded in and part of lived lives and cultures. You can link to anything related you think is interesting: a video of the poet reading that poem, an interview with the poet where they talk about the poem or the book that poem comes from, a musical interpretation of the poem (if that exists), background information on any people or places alluded to in the poem, etc.

We ask that you do not link to biographies of the poet who wrote the poem that appear on other websites — if you have a suggestion for rounding out a bio we currently have on our website, please let Sarah know

How to write a One-Liner

  • The shorter, the better. Keep it to one sentence if possible. 
  • It does not need to include the poet’s name.
  • It’s helpful to include a minimum of one concrete, recognizable detail about the poem in the one-liner:

“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen brilliantly uses rhyme and meter in this brutal poem about a poison gas attack. vs. Wilfred Owen brilliantly uses rhyme and meter in this brutal poem about a poison gas attack during WWI.

“mixed tape” by Katherena Vermette

Punctuated by song titles, this poem is about about a missing teen. vs. Punctuated by 90s song titles, this poem about a missing teen has a Side A and a Side B. 

  • A One-Liner can have a playful, conversational tone if that matches the tone of the poem. Who would have thought a trip to the grocery store could be so full of beauty? (“Plenty” by Kevin Connolly) Do you ever wonder how anything gets done when we’re all swirling in our own galaxies of thought and experience? This poem does too. (“Common Magic” by Bronwen Wallace)

Key points for the Dive In & One-Liner

  • We can’t know the poet’s intent, so avoid making assumptions or asking students to make that kind of assumption.

“Why do you think the poet chose this title?” could be reframed as “How does the title relate to what’s going on in the poem?” or “What does the title make you think of? How does that relate to the poem?”

  • The poet isn’t necessarily the speaker of the poem, so please do not conflate them (unless there’s an interview in which the poet explicitly states that they are the speaker in that work - if you find something about that in an interview, please be sure to put it in the useful links!).

“What do the opening lines suggest about the poet’s point of view?” could be reframed as “What do we learn about the poem’s speaker from the opening lines?”

  • In a Dive In, encourage students to play with the text to get them to see how the poem works and to solicit their opinions.

“What effect do the line breaks in this poem have? Reread the poem as though it were written using tercets (stanzas of three lines). What differences do you notice? What is (de)emphasized?”

Lesson Plan

If you are asked to write a lesson plan, please review the lesson plans already on our site, then submit a brief proposal to Sarah that includes the following information:

  • Title of your lesson plan
  • Number of classroom periods (usually 1-5)
  • Summary of the lesson (~150 words)

Once Sarah approves your proposal, you will create a draft of the lesson plan on our website (approx. 700 words), which will be reviewed and feedback will be given.

Short Biography of Another Poet

As we secure permissions to add poems to our anthology, we need a short biography of each new poet. A biography on our site should balance biographical details with some statements about the poet’s work. Ideally, a bio will spark enthusiasm among teachers and students to read the poet’s work, so please be sure to add a little colour.

Each poet biography of 100-150 words should include a mix of the following:

  • what that poet is known for, the impact they have had, how they have shaped poetry 
  • the poet’s style, preferred subject(s)
  • the poets who have influenced them or other poets that they have worked with (we can link to other poets in our anthology, where applicable)
  • where and when they live(d), where they were born
  • a notable title or two
  • a notable award or two
  • for living poets:
    • their most recent book can include a link to the publisher’s website (please do not link to any retailers)
    • links to the poet’s social media account(s) or their personal website (students and teachers might want to follow them)
    • if they teach, particularly at the college or university level, where they teach