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PIZZAZ has been an Online Resource since 1995 from Leslie Opp-Beckman
For Scribblers and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)


Description for Cinquain Poems: Have 5 lines, structured per the examples and instructions below. For a definition and to hear pronunciation, go to: Merriam Webster.

ESOL student level:
These activities scale well to beginner through advanced level proficiency and can be used with all ages.

For more activities:
Return to PIZZAZ!

Warm-Up Activities

Briefly examine structured forms of poetry from students' native languages as an introduction, e.g. haiku poems from Japanese, . In our class, we often link the cinquain poem activities to things such as a nature walk just off campus, closure for a certain class activity or unit, end-of-term remembrance, etc.

Note: As an alternative, consider diamond-shaped diamante poems, for a related but slightly more complex form of structured poetry.


  1. Students work in small groups of 3-5. Each group has a different example poem, and the following tasks. Students can use dictionaries to figure out unfamiliar words, as needed.
    a) Identify the structure or form of the poem (what are the parts of speech in each line?).
    b) What is the relationship between the first and last lines?
    c) What is the feeling or tone of the poem?
    d) Then, share your answers orally and informally to the rest of the class or with another group.

  2. As an all-class activity, briefly summarize students' observations regarding parts of speech on each line, synonyms, emotional tone, etc. Example cinquain poem:

  3. Title of Poem:
    Author of Poem:
    by Khaled

        Parts of Speech:
    Line 1: Nature = 1 noun. This is the topic or theme of the poem.
    Line 2: Beautiful, pure = 2 adjectives. They describe the noun in line 1.
    Line 3: Refreshing, enjoying, relaxing = 3 gerunds (verb + ing). They describe the noun in line 1.
    Line 4: Nature is healthy. = 1 short, complete sentence about the noun in line 1.
    Line 5: Fun = 1 noun. This is a synonym for the noun in line 1.

  4. Students work in pairs or groups to brainstorm topics of interest and as many possible pairs of related synonyms as they can create. Graphic organizers, such as those available as PDFs from Judie Haynes may be useful at this stage. The teacher then puts the pairs up on the board / overhead screen as suggestions (e.g. vacation-holidays, artist-creator, Paris-paradise, life-journey, ......). Students can use a dictionary and/or thesaurus, as needed.

  5. Students and the instructor choose one of the brainstormed topics and write a cinquaine poem together on the board or overhead screen. Optional: Copy it down and add it to the class collection if a class anthology is in the works.

  6. Working individually with a template (see sample below), students then write one or more cinquain poems on the subject(s) of their choice.

More Example Poems

Adult intermediate-level ESOL students at University of Oregon authored the example cinquain poems below. Instructors can make their own examples as well, using simpler or more complex vocabulary and topics, to tailor this activity to students' language proficiency level and interests.

by Miki

Clear, wonderful
Slapping, whirling, flowing
The river is cold.
by Min

Active, free
Flying, sitting, crying
A dove is free.
by Miki

Greasy, long
Winding, swimming, moving
An eel is strange.
by Saud

Sad, destructive
Killing, injuring, destroying
A thing that kills life.



Title of Poem    
Author's Name    

  = 1 noun

______________________, ______________________
  = 2 adjectives

__________________, __________________, __________________
  = 3 gerunds

____________________________________________________ .
  = 1 sentence

  = 1 noun (synonym for top noun)

Follow-Up Activities

  1. Students' work can be compiled into a class anthology or wall display.
  2. Students can illustrate poems with hand-drawn or computer-generated images.

© 2010, Leslie Opp-Beckman, Ph.D., Distance Education Coordinator and ESOL Instructor
Email: leslieob@uoregon.edu
URL: http://www.uoregon.edu/~leslieob/
5212 University of Oregon, Linguistics Department, American English Institute Eugene, Oregon 97403-5212 USA
Permission to copy and distribute for educational, non-profit use only.
This page last updated: 25 March 2010
University of Oregon