What is an acrostic?
An acrostic is when you take a word—any word—and stack it so that the letters go vertically down the page. Tipping a word over like this allows words and phrases to flow from the letters arranged vertically. It’s like tipping a word over and seeing what other words spill out!
Here’s an example below. The word “cat” is spelled down the page instead of across:
The word we tipped over (“sunlight”) is our spine word.
The next step in acrostic poems is to make new phrases and words from these letters. You do this by writing a word that starts with “C” (in this example) across the page. Acrostics can be wacky—you have words and phrases going in two different directions!
Acrostics can be made from words or phrases! Let’s look at the next example below of phrases made from the word “poetry”:
Over this big
Earth will want
Your beautiful words
The words you write across the page from the letters can be anything! They can be qualities associated with the spine word. They can be anything that comes to mind when you think of that spine word! What you write for the letters can also have absolutely nothing to do with the spine word!
This is a partner or group activity! This activity can be done with as many friends as you want but you will need at least one partner.
One person feeds the rest of the group random letters. If you are feeding letters, just shout out any letter. For each letter, the group then shouts out the first word that comes to mind. Make sure everyone in the group gets a chance to contribute a word.
There is no need to write responses down unless you want. This is just to get you warmed up.
In your head (don’t say aloud!), think of a spine word. Partners will take turns being the scribe and the poet in this activity.
As the scribe, you will get your partner to write a poem based off your spine word. However, do NOT write the spine word out on the board/piece of paper. You will go letter by letter. You do not want your partner to know the spine word before starting; however, they might be able to guess as you write more letters down!
Example: if your word is “grass”. You will write “g” on the board and then ask your partner to come up with a word or phrase. After this line has been written, move to the next line and write “r” and so on.
Switch partners so whoever was scribe is now the poet.
Between you and your partner think of a spine word that you both would want to write from. Go through a couple examples until you settle on a word that you both like.
On your own piece of paper, write the spine word down the page. This activity you will do individually at first.
Come up with words and phrases for the spine word—write your own acrostic.
Share with your partner! Do you notice any similarities and differences between your poems? Are your poems wildly different even though you have the same spine word? Are they similar in imagery, content?
Optional collaboration: Adopt one another’s lines to create an acrostic of that spine word which is a hybrid of both your poems!
The beauty of these activities is you can repeat them as much as you like. Keep going until you’ve written a whole stack of acrostics!