Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Exploring Our Values Through Poetry: A Program for High School Youth

Alternate Activity 1: Poetry Improv

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Small slips of paper
  • Journals and pens or pencils
  • Several envelopes, bowls, boxes-anything in which to collect the slips of paper-one container per category you choose

Preparation for Activity

  • In this activity, you will ask participants to contribute random words to be used to create poems. The easiest way to collect random words is to request them by category, i.e., nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. You can increase the number of word submissions by breaking down the categories. For instance, instead of asking for a noun, ask first for a person, then a place, and then a thing. You can ask for a specific type of adjective, such as a color or a number. Decide how many and which categories you will use for this exercise. The more categories you use, the more challenging the exercise.

Description of Activity

The group uses a theatrical improvisation game to turn random words into cohesive poetry.

Distribute one slip of paper per category you will use, journals, and pens or pencils to participants. Ask them to write a word from the first category on a slip of paper. For instance, you might say, "Write the name of a place on the slip of paper," or "Write an animal on a slip of paper." Have participants fold the paper in half and place it in whatever container you are using to collect words from that category. To ensure that the categories remain separate, collect words from each category before moving on to the next category and container. Use as many categories as you like, but at least four.

After everyone has submitted a word for each category, pass around the containers. Have everyone take one slip from each. If a participant draws his/her own slip, let the youth pick again. Challenge participants to each create a short poem from their collection of words. They must use all the words in their collection, and they can add additional words.

Share the poems during the last five minutes of this activity. Have participants hold up their poems as well as read them aloud, so that all may see how the poet used line breaks and stanzas. Encourage interactive response to each poem. Use these questions:

  • Why do you think the poet arranged the words this particular way?
  • Did the way the poet used a word you submitted surprise you? Explain.
  • What was challenging about this exercise?
  • Are there other ways you could create communal poetry?