Primary (5-11): How to write an abecedarius poem – with Joseph Coelho

We asked Joseph Coelho to teach us how to write abecedarius poems – ones where every line is in alphabetical order. This exercise works nicely in KS1-2 classrooms – or for fun at home.

Here’s Joe writing an abecedarius from scratch:


Joe says ‘An Abecedarius is a type of acrostic poem but instead of writing a word down the side of the page, you write the entire alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet becomes the starting letter for each sentence in the poem. An abecedarius is a lot of fun to write because you never know where it will take you. Allow the letters to guide you and have fun.

Step 1 – Write the entire alphabet down the left-hand side of one or two sheets of paper – I like to use one colour of pen or pencil for my letters and another colour for my sentences.

Step 2 – Start to write your poem, it can help to think of the poem as a story. Keep an eye on what letter you have coming next so that you can plan your sentences. Alternatively, your poem can be completely random with each sentence being about a different thing.

Step 3 – Have fun with your poem – don’t worry if you mis-spell a word or have to cross something out. Writing poems should be fun so enjoy it.

Top tips

Repetition – Repeating words and phrases in your poem can help give the poem a sense of rhythm and familiarity. In my poem I repeated ‘Deep, dark woods’.

Speech – If your poem has a story you can use quotation marks to include speech, this can be handy if you are finding it hard to find a word to fit one of your letters.

Cheat – I always find that the letter ‘X’ is a particularly tricky letter to find words for so, I often cheat, instead of using words that start with ‘X’ I use words that start with ‘EX’ because there are far more of these like ‘explain’, ‘explode’ and ‘exterminate’.

Rhyme – If you want an extra challenge see if you can make some of your lines rhyme. In my poem I made ‘sky’ rhyme with ‘cry’.

Spot the Homophone

Homophones are two (or more) words that sound the same but have different meanings like ‘Witch’ and ‘which’. When I was writing the abecedarius poem in the video I used a homophone, an incorrect homophone, can you spot it? (I used the homophone ‘tales’ instead of ‘tails’.)’

For more poem writing activities check out Joe’s book How To Write Poems published by Bloomsbury and the poetry videos on his website. If you would like to get in touch with Joe, then why not tag him on Twitter @JosephACoelho and on instagram @jospehcoelhoauthor.