How to write a cinquain poem

by | Apr 6, 2015 | Poetry

Cinquain poetry is easy and fun for children to write. With just 11 words and 5 short lines, a cinquain is compact and loaded with descriptive words!

cinquain (SIN-cain): an unrhymed poem consisting of five lines arranged in a special way.

Graceful, ringed
Spinning, whirling, twirling
Dances with neighbor Jupiter

A cinquain is an example of shape poetry. Because of the exact number of words required for each line of this poem, a unique, symmetrical shape is created from interesting, descriptive words. And what better time to learn how to write a cinquain than during National Poetry Month!

The word cinquain comes from the Latin root for “five.” Notice that the cinquain has five lines that follow this sequence:

Line A: One vague or general one-word subject or topic
Line B: Two vivid adjectives that describe the topic
Line C: Three interesting -ing action verbs that fit the topic
Line D: Four-word phrase that captures feeling about the topic
Line E: A very specific term that explains Line A

Here’s another example:

Hidden, hungry
Preening, searching, stalking
Waits as if praying

Brainstorm First

Use the tips below to brainstorm on blank paper for different ideas. Then follow the directions to learn how to write a cinquain poem of your own. When possible, try to use poetic devices like alliteration, onomatopoeia, or personification. Because the poem has a limited number of words, choose each word carefully!

Word Pair Ideas: General topic / specific topic

  • bird / parrot (or crow, canary, dove)
  • fruit / apple (or pear, banana, watermelon, peach, etc.)
  • season / spring (or summer, fall, autumn, winter)
  • winter / January (or spring / April, summer / July, autumn / October)
  • candy / jawbreaker (or Snickers, jelly beans, licorice)
  • storm / tornado (or hurricane, blizzard, squall)
  • water / river (or ocean, lake, stream, creek)
  • grandparent / Nana (or Grandma, Papa, Pops)

Line A: Name a general topic (see suggestions above for ideas).
Line E: Rename your topic, being more specific. This will be the last line of your cinquain.
Line B: Brainstorm 5-6 vivid, concrete adjectives to describe the topic on Line E. Do not choose words that end in “-ing.”
Line C: Brainstorm 5-6 descriptive participles (verbs ending in -ing) that fit the topic on Line E.
Line D: Brainstorm several four-word phrases that capture some feeling about the topic on Line E. Follow these tips to develop an effective phrase:

  • Do not use any “to be” verbs or vague words.
  • Do not repeat any words used elsewhere in the cinquain.
  • If you can’t think of something, using a combination of adjective + noun + verb + adverb will often help you come up with the most concrete phrase possible.

Write Your Cinquain 

  1. Pick out your most descriptive words from your brainstorming and put your cinquain together.
  2. Your cinquain should have 5 lines and the finished poem should only have 11 words.
  3. When you are satisfied, recopy the poem onto clean notebook paper.
  4. Center your cinquain on the paper.
  5. Begin each line with a capital letter, and remember your commas. Do not use ending punctuation.
  6. When finished, double-check for concreteness!

Line A. _______
Line B. _______  ,   _______
Line C. _______  ,   _______,  _______
Line D. _______ _______ _______ _______
Line E. _______

If your kids like creating cinquain poems, why not try some of these?

Copyright © 2015 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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Photo Credit: Public domain image courtesy of NASA


  1. Kim

    I like your balloon cinquain, Nikki!

  2. Nikki

    I need help writing my water poem, all I need is 2 more verbs and one adjective. But here is one I made earlier!

    Colorful, Rubbery
    Drifting, Running, Laughing
    Dancing across the sky

    Thanks, hoped you liked it!

  3. LinaBeana

    Here I am… Again…. (don’t judge me =P )
    Anywho, I made a new cinquain poem:

    A White Wonderland:
    As it falls down.
    Like steps of passing ghosts.
    Dropping by unknown.

    Yay! I think this is the one i’ll read to my class!

  4. LinaBeana

    This gave me a spark of an idea because I was stuck on a poetry assignment i had to do and this helped! Thanks!
    Can’t wait to share my poem in my classroom!

    Thanks again! =]

  5. Jacob

    heres mine

    Bright, shiny
    Crunching, bursting, dripping
    Smooth to the touch

    • Kim

      Thanks for posting yours, Jacob!

  6. Kim

    So glad you’re all enjoying this activity. It’s simple, fun, and doesn’t take much time.

  7. Louis

    It helped me with my son’s homework. He understood better what a cinquain is.

  8. flowerzz

    i really like this website