One of my colleagues, Erin Kiley, reports a highly successful activity for teaching writing. Asking students to write a poem “in the style of” another poem teaches them about the form of the language and forces them to choose their vocabulary thoughtfully and succinctly.
She reports that her students responded well to this activity. For those who might be more resistant, you should point out that there is a long tradition of imitating the masters in the artistic world. Master painters often honed their skills by imitating the work of those who came before them, learning to control brush strokes and light. The skills were needed before they could find their own “voice,” so to speak. Poetry and other writing skills benefit from much the same process, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so as long as you pay homage to the original author and credit their work.
Below you’ll find a link to Alice Walker‘s web page/blog. If you click on this link, you will find the poem She. I think you will find that its repetitive phrase structure lends itself well to this exercise. Have them write about a woman who is important in their own life (“She is the one who…”), or have them write about another noun all together (“[noun] is the one who/that”). Either way, Erin and I are confident that you’ll be thrilled with the results.
(Note: This might be an adorable thing to do with small children right before Mother’s Day or Father’s Day when the motivation to create something special for their parents can also help to inspire!)