Teaching Writing

Wings, Paws and ‘Tales’ in Verse: Narrative Poetry Prompts for Writing Outside

Write Out


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).

One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns… ―Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop writes a poem about connecting with a seal over their shared love of music. Ranger Casey wonders about the daily lives of the birds living in a park that is sandwiched between two noisy urban areas.

In these three videos you’ll be asked to write about animals, and we suggest that you write Narrative Poems! Narrative poems are poems that tell a tale – like what a seal does when someone sings him a song – but still uses all of the regular elements of poetry, like colors, patterns, and sounds.

Writing “Sparks”

Spark from Little Rock Arkansas Writing Project – Write a poem about the secret life of an animal that you see, interact with, or are curious about.

Content focus: The many ways we can write poems about animals
Age-level recommendations: All ages; good for young writers.
Time: 2:54

Using her pet rabbit as one idea for inspiration, Heather Hummel from the Little Rock Writing Project explains how most nature poems involve a setting, wildlife, and yourself. She encourages you to go outside and look (or listen!) for an animal and using all of your senses, write a poem imagining that animal’s day or anything else about the animal that you are curious about.

Spark from Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Center –Draw a picture of a bird that lives in your area, then imagine and write what a day in the life of that bird might be like.

Content focus: How a bird’s setting affects its daily activities
Age-level recommendations: All ages; good for young writers.
Time: 3:22

Ranger Casey loves spending time with the birds and other animals of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Center, and wonders how living in this natural world—which is surrounded by two large cities—might affect the daily lives of the birds there. She encourages you to draw a bird found in your area and write about a day in the life of the bird.


Spark from Canaveral National Seashore– Write a “Things To Do” List Poem for any plant, animal, or other thing found in nature.

Content focus: How Canaveral National Seashore became a protected park
Age-level recommendations: All ages; good for young writers.
Time: 1:57

Ranger Ashley stands outside the old home of artist and environmentalist Doris Leeper who helped to make Canaveral National Seashore a protected park. While cicadas sing loudly in her ears, Ranger Ashley asks you to think of all the things cicadas, birds, fish, plants, trees (and other things found in the park) might have on their ‘To Do’ list every day and to write a poem about it!

More about Narrative 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

How To Write A Narrative Poem: Narrative poems – which simply mean “story poems” – are among the oldest forms of literature. This resource, from Power Poetry, provides tips and examples.

Poet.org, Animal Poems: A collection of animal poems from Poets.org, produced by the Academy of American Poets.

Poetry Foundation, Elizabeth Bishop: About Elizabeth Bishop with links to poems compiled by the Poetry Foundation.

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