What is a Riddle Poem?
I like to feel it Firm and cool-
And Round beneath my feet
It’s one of hundreds shouldering
A long-enduring street.
I like to muse who felt it first-
And why They trod, and when,
To fit in patterns-edge to edge-
The paths from Now to Then.
Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Choose an answer
Use a thesaurus
Think like the object
Use figurative language
Step 1: Begin with your
answer or topic
Your topic can be
concrete like a desk, a
car, or even a person.
You can also choose
something abstract like
happiness or peace
Step 2: Brainstorm
Create a list of words and ideas related to and
associated with your topic.
Think with all your senses: where do you see,
hear, smell, taste and touch things related to
Clouds, wet, rain, liquid, fish, stream, river,
lake, pool, pond, swimming, ocean, ice,
glacier, steam, snow, boats, sailing
Also think of words or
ideas that are opposite
or opposed to your
Earth, fire, dry, air
Choose some words you
brainstormed and look up
their synonyms in a
thesaurus. Look up synonyms
for your topic too
Use a rhyming dictionary to
look up words that rhyme with
the ones in your list
Think like the object: Try describing the
world from the object’s point of view.
What do you see, hear, feel? What do
you do? What do you like?
What would a river think?
I run downhill
I make canyons
Fish live in me
Try using figurative language:
Describe your topic using
figurative language to give clues
Simile: Pools that reflect like
Metaphor: Streams are fish
Personification: The rain
played a steady beat
Once you’ve gathered
your notes, you’re
ready to begin a draft.
How should we
Let’s start with the ideas of
water cutting canyons and
reflecting like a mirror
I am like a mirror when I’m
I am stronger than stone
when I move
Sounds good but bland.
Try playing with the word
Still, I am like a mirror
Fast, I’m stronger than
Now use your brainstorm to
add different poetic elements
like personification, metaphors,
and maybe even rhyme
Try different line and word
combinations. Sometimes even the
slightest change can make a big
difference. Read your poem aloud
and play with the words and order
until it makes sense and sounds right.
Publishing Your Final Draft
Publish your poem in a creative way
Use form and shape the poem like its
Use a creative background that
doubles as a clue
Draw a picture to go with your poem
Make an audio recording of your
Have students generate a rubric
for the assignment. Include an
explanation of the poetic
elements in their poems and
how they used them
Have a poetry reading and invite parents,
administrators, other classes and outside guests.
Have the audience try to guess the riddle.
Display the poems in your classroom and school
Thoughts and Questions
Should students work independently or in
What are some other follow-up activities?
How should I differentiate the lesson for
students at various levels?
How can I integrate this lesson to other
How can I introduce different types of poetry
into the lesson?
How can I use this with different genres of
Feldman, Ruth Tenzer. “Guess What”
Cobblestone,March 1995, 24-25
Claggett, Fran, Louann Reid andRuth Vinz. DaybookofcriticalReadingandWriting.
Wilmington, Massachusetts: Great Source Education Group,1999
Writing RiddlePoems. NCTE/IRA, marcopolo. 2003; cited July, 2004
Zemelman, Steven and HarveyDaniels. ACommunityofWriters.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1988
Caravia, Lori. RiddlePoem.University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, November 6,
1997; cited July, 2004
Miller, Carol Rawlings. 50Writing Lessons ThatWork. New York: Scholastic
Professional Books, 1999
My Students andMy Collegues. Western HillsMiddleSchool. Cranston, Rhode Island: