Monday, April 10, 2017

Poetry Power: Poetic Language in Signs

Guest Post by Janet Wong

More people than ever are expressing themselves with art supplies. During the week before the Inauguration and Women’s March(es), people spent $6 million on poster boards and paint markers. While some signs were overtly political, many signs were simple affirmations of our humanity.

With a few Google searches (“protest signs,” “protest art,” “kids protest,” etc.) I found over a thousand examples of inspiring and appealing signs. Many of the most effective signs use poetic devices such as rhyme, repetition, rhythm, alliteration, and wordplay to help them stand out from the crowd—and present learning opportunities for writers. Consider the following examples:

Rhyme: This rhyming text is so much more powerful than, say, “No hatred where I live.”

Repetition: She could’ve said, “No ban, wall, or division.” Would that have been as effective? No, no, no.

Alliteration: “Eighty-nine, feisty, and determined” just doesn’t pack the same punch.

Rhyme, Repetition, and Rhythm: This sign benefits from all three devices: rhyme, repetition, and rhythm. 

And look at these clever examples of wordplay: 

With dozens of favorite signs, it was hard to choose a favorite—but the best sign of all, to me, was probably this one, completely universal in its message and held high:

Which brings me to the point of this piece. Let’s empower kids to make signs. 

Look at the pride on these kids’ faces!

Parents can help kids make signs at home, as language arts exercises. The following sign even satisfies a Common Core requirement to teach students about the use of quotes.

I am not a particularly “political” person, but I am making a greater effort to inform myself, to engage, and to volunteer for all sorts of activities in an attempt to make a daily difference. To inspire you to get involved in whatever inspires you, here is a prewriting exercise and the title poem from my latest book with Sylvia Vardell, Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book.  I hope that you are inspired to do something like starting a walkathon at your school—and, if you do, make sure to bring sign-making supplies for everyone!

BIO: Janet Wong ( is the author of 30 books for children and teens, and the co-creator (with Sylvia Vardell) of The Poetry Friday Anthology series and Poetry Friday Power Book series. (

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