TERSE POETRY for Simple Sentence Smarts - Part 2

What Makes a Sentence? 

In a previous post, I shared ways to reinforce this grammar concept by having students read terse poetry. In this post, I’ll show ways students can apply their knowledge of simple sentences by writing their own terse poetry.

Terse Poetry: My Definition 

While different definitions exist, for my purposes, I define terse poetry as:

*a poem with very short lines
*most of the lines consist of just one subject and one verb
*lines may or may not rhyme

Terse Perks

When students write terse poetry, they…
  • gain practice with key ELA standards, including understanding conventions of English and determining word relationships.
  • understand how a subject and verb provide the essential core of a sentence
  • learn that the more specific the subject and verb, the more powerful the sentence. 
  • experience the power of being succinct and using precise language. (With terse poetry, writers don’t need a lot of cluttering words to create a crisp image.)

Terse Rehearse

After reviewing the rules for simple sentences (they contain at least one subject, one verb, and forms a complete thought) I have students write partner terse poems, using Terse Poetry Starters. These are lists of specific, image-sparking nouns and verbs written on index cards. For a printable list of Terse Poetry Starters, click here.  
After partners have composed their terse poems, I ask them to mark their two-word sentence lines by bolding their nouns and underlining their verbs.  This further reinforces the concept of simple sentences.

These Terse Poem Starter have sparked some pretty creative partner poems.  A pairing of “donuts” and “oscillate” became a terse poem about a donut factory.  “Nets” and “curl” became a poem about fishing.  Here’s a poignant partner terse poem that started with the combination “war” and “whisper”:  

After students practice writing terse poems as partners, I invite them to write their own terse poems. I let them pick their topic, encouraging students to choose one that allows them to create a scene with plenty of noun-verb combinations.  Here are some terse poems my students have written:
For an introductory lesson on writing terse poetry to reinforce simple sentence knowledge click here. For a more advanced lesson click here.)

I’ll end this post with my own terse poem:
I hope these terse poem writing ideas help fade frustration, aid understanding, and increase your own students’ simple sentence smarts.

About Michelle Schaub

Michelle Schaub is a language arts teacher and award-winning children's poet. She is the author of the picture book poetry collections Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market, (which won the 2018 Growing Good Kids Award and 2019 Northern Lights Book Award,) and Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections. She also wrote the bedtime STEM book in verse, Dream Big, Little Scientists. Her poems appear in several anthologies, including The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations and Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud.  Michelle speaks at conferences on the power of poetry to boost literacy. 


  1. Great advice, and exactly what I was looking for. I really appreciate the examples, they make it much easier for me to recognize my own writing style and what I need to change. Thank you so much for your generosity. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your insight and expertise on Simple sentence with our our readers.

  2. Super excited to read your posts! Thanks for the great sharing. You've obviously been working on your writing and it shows in explaining the topic Simple sentence .Cheers, keep doing awesome!


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