Teaching Writing

Stop To Smell the Roses – Figurative Language and Other Poetic Devices: Prompts for Writing Outside

Prompts for Writing Outside


This resource is available to support place-based writing outside anytime of year and comes with related resources and age-level recommendations. Originally developed for Write Out (writeout.nwp.org).

“All we have to believe is our senses: the tools we use to perceive the world, our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted.” ― Neil Gaiman

Maggie Vetch, a park guide at the Niobrara Scenic River Park, stands beside the seventy-six miles of free-flowing water and experiences, with her senses, the nature that is surrounding her. Amy Hirzel, a highschool English Teacher and Poet from Northeast Ohio, stands at the edge of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park where the natural world meets the urban and shares a lesson on common poetic devices such as figurative language and how poetic imagery can be created by using our five senses.

In the first video you’ll be asked to find and be with nature (it can be a lush green meadow or a patch of flowers jutting up in a parking lot!) and spend five minutes using your senses to write about your experience. Then, using what you’ll learn about poetic devices in the second video, you’ll be asked to craft this experience of being human in the natural world into a poem.

Writing “Sparks”

Spark from Niobrara Scenic River Park – Spend five minutes in nature using your senses – write what you hear, see, smell, and feel.

Content focus: Using our senses to capture our experience in nature
Age-level recommendations: Young writers; All ages
Time: 1:47

Maggie Vetch stands beside the rushing Niobrara National Scenic River and asks you to spend five minutes listening, looking, smelling, and feeling the nature around you and then writing about it.

Spark from Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Write a poem using poetic devices such as figurative language based on your senses.

Content focus: Using common poetic devices to craft your poems
Age-level recommendations: Older writers (13 and up)
Time: 13:20

Amy Hirzel reads inspiring poems and gives a detailed lesson on poetic devices while standing where the natural environment meets the human-built environment in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She has also shared an Example Poem, as well as handouts about Poetic Devices and a Writer’s Toolbox handout.

More about using senses in poetry

Below are related resources gathered to further support inquiry and exploration of this topic. If you have additional resources to recommend, please share them online via the hashtag #writeout

Writer’s Toolbox Handout: As part of her Contrasting World project, this toolbox handout was created by Amy Hirzel

Poetic Devices Defined Handout: As part of her Contrasting World project, this poetic device handout was created by Amy Hirzel

Lesson on Exploring the Five Senses Through Metaphor from the University of Arizona Poetry Center

Using Common Senses in Poetry from Poets.org

This post is part of the Poetry-powered Prompts for Writing Outside collection.