A while back, I read somewhere about a poet who rented a booth at a fair and charged a dollar for a poem written on the spot, using a theme or words that the customer offered. Years later, I ran into a similar concept in a NYC subway station--a guy was sitting behind a table with a big sign that read "POEMS". For a donation, he would type up a poem on the spot on his typewriter and give it to you. I participated, and though I can't find the poem he wrote at the moment, I remember it was about a girl in a red coat (the color of coat that I was wearing).
When the Easton Cultural Council (which I am the publicity director for) wanted to come up with an activity we could bring to the town's Fall Festival, those two experiences came to mind. I googled around a bit, and voila! I found a kid-friendly poetry activity: The Poetry Wheel.
Luckily, a friend of one of the Council members had a wheel he made for carnival games at his temple. We borrowed it, and I made some word tags using words I cut out from magazines.
When I first suggested the poetry wheel concept, some members seemed a little hesitant: Would kids really want to write poems at a fair? Wouldn't it be too much like school?
We figured out the answer when, during the first hour of the fair, we got more kids than the three adults manning the booth could handle. We had a line! (Granted, we did offer them candy as a prize after they completed their poem. But even still, 9 out of 10 kids seemed to enjoy the writing part as much as the candy part.)
I just hope one of these budding poets will look back on the Poetry Wheel as one of the things during their childhood that inspired and excited them about writing.
(We also decorated the booth using lanterns made out of soda bottles and tissue paper. We're hoping to bring a lantern walk to Easton, similar to the lantern walk Brian and I participated in in Jamaica Plain for 10+ years.)