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Home > Archive > For teachers > Writing & poetry (English) > Exquisite Corpse

Pre-writing Lesson: Exquisite Corpse

This often entertaining and amusing writing assignment will help students push each other to see the consequences of their own writing from a different perspective. Here, an entire class collaborates in creating poems for each individual student. This exercise emphasizes the reader interaction that is critical to the process of creating a node poem, while also providing students with additional material to include in their node poems. Here, a reader not only navigates through the Exquisite Corpse poem, but also actually creates the next line.

Required time

15-25 minutes

Supplies

Paper and standard writing instruments

Writing Task List

  1. Direct your students to arrange their desks in a single circle around the room.
  2. Tell students to take out one piece of paper and write their initials at the top right hand corner of the page.
  3. Instruct students to write one line of poetry at the top of the page. While this line does not have to be a complete sentence, it should be more than three syllables long. This line can also be an excerpt from a poem they have already composed.
  4. Once every student writes one line of poetry at the top of his or her page, tell the students to pass his or her page to the person sitting to their left.

At this point in the exercise, each student should be holding a new piece of paper with one line of poetry written at the top of the page:

  1. Now, instruct your students to count the syllables of the line of poetry that is on the top of the page.
  2. After the syllables are counted, tell the students to write the next line to this poem below the original line on the page. This line should be no more than four syllables shorter or longer than the original line at the top of the page:
  3. After students write the second line of the poem, have them fold down the top of the piece of paper so that the original line is hidden, but the second line is not:

  1. Once the first line is folded over with the flap, have students pass the piece of paper to the person sitting to their left.
  2. Repeat steps 5-8 until papers achieve one full rotation around the room.
  3. After the poems return to the original writers, instruct students to unfold the entire poem and read through the collaborative piece the class created.

If time is available, ask a few students to read their poems aloud.

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