How to Write a "Roses Are Red" Poem

by Bruce Lansky

Some roses are red, but some are gold, peach, or white. Just as roses can be different colors, this Valentine's Day folk rhyme can be written different ways.

Because your students are probably familiar with this poem, it'll be easy and fun for them to change it around and come up with surprising, delightful, and funny variations.

First of all, in case you've forgotten, here's the original:

Roses Are Red

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet.
And so are you.


Before I show you how easy and fun it is to create variations on this pattern, here's one I think you'll enjoy:

Roses are Blue

Roses are blue.
Violets are red.
If you agree,
You've got rocks in your head.

--written by a student in Denver whose name I've forgotten

I hope you're thinking, "That looks like fun. How did that student come up with such a cute rhyme?" Here's the method:

Write the names of colors that contain only one syllable. Under the color names, ask your students to list words that rhyme with the colors. After a short while, your chalkboard should look something like this:

white blue red pink green black
sight shoe bed stink mean back
fright too head think seen sack
tight two dead drink bean tack
kite clue said fink
fight you fed

OK, now you're ready to get your students into a fun, creative session. Start off with a fill-in-the-blank poetry completion excercise. Invite one of your students to pick a color. Recite the following stanza and have your student fill in the blank.

If your student picks "pink," you say:

Violets are blue.
Roses are pink.
Put on your shoes,
your feet really ____.

--Bruce Lansky

If your student picks "black," you say:

Roses are red.
Asphalt is black.
If you're not nice,
I'll give you a _____.

(or "If you're feeling hungry, I'll give you a snack."

If your student picks "blue," you say:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Please flush the toilet
after you're _______.

--Bruce Lansky

Once your students have caught on to the fill-in-the blank idea, move on to a more difficult creative exercise. See if any of your students can complete an entire poem without any help from you. In other words, after picking a color, have them create the last two lines on their own.

This is a challenging creative exercise that some of your students will love to work on overnight. Who knows what they'll come in with the next day? I'll bet some of the poems will be fun to read and worth sharing with your other students and visitors--possibly in the form of illustrated posters you can use to decorate your classroom or hallways around Valentine's Day.

Speaking of which, since I usually have the sniffles throughout the month of February, here's my Valentines Day poem to you:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Please don't kiss me,
'cuz I have the flu.

© 2000 Bruce Lansky, reprinted from If Pigs Could Fly…and Other Deep Thoughts published by Meadowbrook Press

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