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How to Write a Haiku

It is easy to learn to write a haiku, but it can take a lot of practice to learn how to do it well. This lesson will give you the basics for writing your own haiku. It’s up to you to practice by writing a lot of them so you will get very good at it.

What is a Haiku?

A haiku is an unrhymed three-line poem. It is based on a traditional Japanese poetic form. Though there are different ways to write haiku, the traditional pattern in English is to write the first and last lines with five syllables each, and the middle line with seven syllables. In other words, the pattern of syllables looks like this:

Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables

Here’s another way to visualize the same thing:

1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5

Most often, haiku poems are about seasons or nature, though you can write your own haiku about anything you like. If you don’t want to write about nature, and would prefer to write haiku about candy or sports, that is perfectly okay.

One more thing to keep in mind is that the last line of a haiku usually makes an observation. That is, the third line points out something about the subject you are writing about.

Let’s see how we can put these few rules together get your started writing your own haiku poems.

Haiku About Seasons

Let’s say that you decide to write your haiku about a season. First you will want to select a season: spring, summer, fall, or winter. I’ve decided to write a haiku about winter, and I know that in the last line I will want to make an observation. I want to say that winter is almost here, but we aren’t quite ready for the snow. Maybe it’s that we haven’t raked the leaves off the front lawn and we need to do it soon before it snows.

I want to say all of this, but I want to do it in a pattern of 5, 7, 5. So I might say something like this:

Winter is coming.
Snow will be arriving soon.
We should rake the leaves.

 If you count the syllables on your fingers as you read this poem, you will see that the lines have five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables, just as they should.

Haiku About Nature

If you decide to write a haiku about nature, you will have many more subjects to choose from. You could write about animals, plants, the sky, the ocean, streams, the wind, and so on. Start by selecting a topic, and then decide what you want to say; what observation you want to make about it.

For example, I have decided to write a haiku about my cat. One thing I notice about my cat is that he sleeps a lot. In fact, I’m pretty sure he sleeps almost all night and all day. I’m not sure how he can be so tired. In any case, here is my haiku:

Tired cat sleeps all night.
He needs lots of rest for a
Long day of napping.

 Funny Haiku

Just because most haiku poems are about seasons or nature doesn’t mean that’s all they can be about. If you want, you can even write funny haiku poems. One way to make a haiku funny is to have an unexpected last line. For example, if the last line says the opposite of what the reader expects, it becomes like the punchline of a joke. It also helps to write about a funny subject.

As an example, I decided it would be funny to write a haiku excuse for why I can’t turn in my homework. Here it is:

My homework is late.
My dog ate it this morning.
I sure like my dog.

 Notice that this ending is unexpected. Most readers would expect the poem to end with something like “can I turn it in tomorrow?” or “I’m mad at dog” or something like that. By saying “I sure like my dog,” I am telling the reader something they don’t expect, which will hopefully make them smile.

Getting Started Writing Haiku

To begin writing haiku poems, just follow these steps:

  1. Select a type of haiku. Decide if you are going to write a seasonal, nature, or other type of haiku.
  2. Pick a topic. Select one specific season, item in nature, or something else you are going to write about.
  3. Think about what is different about your last line. What observation do you want to make?
  4. Start writing.
  5. Don’t forget to count the syllables as you read to make sure you’ve got the right pattern.
  6. Finally, “center” your poem on the page like the poems in this lesson.
When you are all done writing your first haiku, see if you can write another one. And, most importantly, have fun!

How to Write Funny Poetry – Chapter 5 – Types of Funny Poems

Funny poetry is a style of poetry in it’s own right, different from the many other types of more serious verse. A style of poetry is often called a genre (pronounced ZHAHN-ruh). Other styles, or genres, include love poetry, cowboy poetry, jump-rope rhymes, epic poetry (really, really long poems), and so on.

In addition to styles or genres of poetry, there are also poetic forms. A form is a particular type of poem with rules for how to write it. For example, you may have heard of a limerick or a haiku or an acrostic. These are poetic forms, and there are rules you can follow to write them.

In chapter 6 I discuss some of the traditional forms for funny poetry, such as limericks, clerihews, funny haiku, and so on. Each of these traditional forms has rules describing how many lines it must be, how many syllables it must contain, or what the poem can be about.

In this chapter, however, I’ll show you some of the common types of funny poetry that don’t have traditional names, and don’t have so many rules you have to follow. While there are as many types of funny poems as there are poets writing them, and any one poem may contain features of several different kinds, there are some types of funny poems you will see again and again. These include:

  • Opposites / reverse / backward poems
  • Tongue twisters
  • Repetition poems
  • List poems
  • Updated nursery rhymes

Keep reading and you will see how you can create your own versions of these popular types of funny poetry.

Opposites/Reverse/Backward Poems

The opposite, reverse, or backward poem is a poem in which everything you normally expect is reversed. For example, if you wear your hat on your feet and your shoes on your head, you’ve got the beginnings of great a backward poem.

Backward poems are easy to write. All you have to do is make everything wrong. Purple bananas. Green stop signs. Three year-old parents. And so on. Let’s try a few. Here is the beginning of a poem about some backward people who live in a backward town.

The backward folks in backward town
live inside out and upside down.
They work all night and sleep all day.
They love to work and hate to play.

The parents there are three years old.
They save their trash and dump their gold.
They fly their cars and stand on chairs.
They comb their teeth and floss their hairs.

Now it’s your turn. See if you can write another stanza about the backward folks in backward town. What else do they do backward? Do they watch TV by turning it off? Do they cook dinner by putting it in the freezer? You decide.

Here’s another one.

My name is Mr. Backward.
I do things in reverse.
I'm happy when I’m crying.
I'm better when I’m worse.

My shoes are on my shoulders.
My hat is on my toes.
I smell things with my fingers.
I write things with my nose.

Now you try it. Tell me more about Mr. Backward. What other crazy things does he do? Does he wear a suit to bed and pajamas to work? Does he eat dinner in the morning and breakfast at night? It’s all up to you. You decide what silly things you want Mr. Backward to do and then write them down.

How one more reverse/backward poem? This one will be about a person who does everything in reverse. But strangest of all, she also talks backward!

This one is a little harder than the other two, because every line in the poem is backward. But let’s have a look at it first, and then I’ll show you how it’s done.

Betty Backward is name my.
Reverse in but speak I.
Crazy I'm think just might you
Converse I how hear to.

Not only is this poem about a person who is a little bit backward, everything she says is completely backward as well. If you read each line backward, you will discover a whole new poem!

So how do you write a poem like this? It’s actually easier than it looks. First you write a normal poem, and then you reverse the lines. There’s just one more rule: Because the poem needs to rhyme after it’s reversed, you also need to rhyme the first words of your lines. The first words of your lines will end up being the last words when your poem is reversed.

Let’s add another stanza to the poem about Backward Betty, and I’ll show you how to do it. First let’s write it forward, here’s the first line of the new stanza.

No one understands me.

Notice that the first word of this line is “no.” That means our next line needs to begin with a word that rhymes with “no.” Let’s try “so.”

So they think I'm strange.

Now let’s add two more lines with rhyming first words, where the last word of the second line rhymes with “strange.”

My speech may be confusing, but
I know I'll never change.

Lastly, let’s put it all together and then reverse it. Here are both stanzas together.

Betty Backward is name my.
Reverse in but speak I.
Crazy I'm think just might you
Converse I how hear to.

Me understands one no.
Strange I'm think they so.
But confusing be may speech my.
Change never I'll know I.

Now that you know how to do it, see if you can add one or two more stanzas of your own to Backward Betty. Have fun!

Tongue Twisters

What’s a tongue twister? A tongue twister is a poem that is nearly impossible to read without tripping up as you recite it. You’ve probably heard of “rubber baby buggy bumpers” or “she sells seashells by the seashore.” As they say, “try to say that three times fast.” Chances are your tongue won’t be able to do it.

So how do you write a tongue twister? How do you write a poem that is guaranteed to trip up all but the most careful reader? It’s not that hard, actually. All you need to do is make a list of words that sound a lot alike and then putting them together.

For example, let’s take “sea sells seashells by the seashore” and see if we can’t come up with a few more words that sound like “she sells” and “seashells.” How about these:

  • Smells
  • Sails
  • Sure
  • Cellars

Next, why don’t we give this girl a name? Let’s call her Shelley Sellers. So where, by the seashore, would Shelley Sellers sell her shells? How about Shelley’s Seashell Cellars? So here we go.

Shelley Sellers sells her shells
at Shelley's Seashell Cellars.

Now we know who she is and where she sells her shells, but who buys them? Who is Shelley selling shells to? Let’s look at our list of words. Smelly rhymes with Shelley, and dwellers rhymes with Sellers, so what if she sells her shells to smelly seashore dwellers?

She sells shells (and she sure sells!)
to smelly seashore dwellers.

What makes a tongue twister hard to say is the fact that it has lots of similar, but slightly different sounds. For example, “She sells seashells by the seashore” has a lot of “s” and “sh” sounds, as well as both long and short “e” sounds. In fact, “she sells” is the reverse of “seashells” in terms of the sounds. This makes it somewhat confusing to say; it trips up the tongue.

If you keep going with this idea of lots of “s” and “sh” sounds, you could create an entire tongue twister poem, perhaps something like this:

Smelly dwellers shop the sales
at Shelley’s seashell store.
Salty sailors stop their ships
for seashells by the shore.

Shelley’s shop, a shabby shack,
so sandy, salty, smelly,
still sells shells despite the smells;
a swell shell shop for Shelley.

But “s” and “sh” aren’t the only sounds you could repeat a lot to trip up the reader’s tongue. Using lots of words with “b” and “g” sounds, you might write a poem about someone named “Gabby” who bought a “beagle” that “begged” for “bagels.”

Gabby bought a baby beagle
At the beagle baby store.
Gabby gave her beagle kibble
But he begged for bagels more.

Or maybe with “s” and “z” sounds, you could write about someone named “Suzie” who like to “snooze” in “zoos.”

Suzie likes to snooze in zoos.
Suzie chooses zoos to snooze.

Or with “sh” and “ch” sounds, you might write about a “ship shop” that sells “shrimp ships” and a “chip shop” that sells “shrimp chips.”

Slim Sam’s Ship Shop sells Sam’s shrimp ships.
Trim Tom’s Chip Shop sells Tom’s shrimp chips.

See what I mean? Now it’s your turn. See if you can come up with a line or two that are particularly hard to say, make them rhyme, and you’ve got a tongue twister poem!

Repetition

Repetition means repeating words, phrases, lines, or entire stanzas in a poem. Using repetition in a poem can make it easier to read and remember.

One of the easiest ways to use repetition in a poem is to repeat the first words of every line or every other line. For example, you might start each line with something like, “When I was young…” or “Have you ever seen…” or “I hope I never…” or “I wish that I…”

Long before I became a poet, way back when I was in college, one of my teachers asked the class to write a repetition poem, and this is what I turned in:

Once I was a queen bee, but I had a case of hives.
Once I was a golf ball. That was how I learned to drive.
Once I was an ocean. I liked waving at the beach.
Once I was an apple. I was pretty as a peach.
Once I was a jellyfish, until I had to jam.
Once I was a cracker, and I only weighed a gram.
Once I was a cornfield, getting lost inside the maze.
Once I was I forest. Now I'm pining for those days.

I’ll admit it’s pretty silly. Each begins with me imagining something ridiculous that I used to be, and ends with a pun of some sort, just as we discussed in Chapter 4.

Why don’t you try picking a few words and using them at the beginning of each line of a poem?

You can also repeat entire sentences throughout a poem. For example, imagine a person who thinks they are beautiful, though maybe they are not quite as pretty as they think. You might then use the line, “I think I’m rather beautiful” throughout the poem, like this:

I think I'm rather beautiful.
My head is flat and square.
I think I'm rather beautiful.
My ears grow curly hair.

I think I'm rather beautiful.
I've wrinkly purple skin.
I think I'm rather beautiful.
I've mushrooms on my chin.

Can you think of a few more ways to describe this person? What about the feet? Are they size 23? The knees? The hands? The lips? Think about it and then add another stanza. Or two. Or three. When you are all done describing this unusual person, find a way to end your poem, perhaps like this.

I think I'm rather beautiful.
My nose is long and blue.
I think I'm rather beautiful.
I hope you think so too.

You might notice this is also a “backward” poem, because this person is the opposite of what they think they are. Remember what I said earlier: any one funny poem may contain features of several different types.

List Poems

Many famous poets, including authors such as Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and even Dr. Seuss have written funny list poems. A list poem usually consists of three parts, a beginning, an ending, and a long list of things in the middle.

For example, take a look at my poem “My Parents Sent Me to the Store.”

My parents sent me to the store
to buy a loaf of bread.
I came home with a puppy
and a parakeet instead.

I came home with a guinea pig,
a hamster and a cat,
a turtle and a lizard
and a friendly little rat.

I also had a monkey
and a mongoose and a mouse.
Those animals went crazy
when I brought them in the house.

They barked and yelped and hissed
and chased my family out the door.
My parents never let me
do the shopping anymore.

You’ll see that the first two lines are the beginning, the last six lines are the ending, and everything else is the list in the middle.

One way to get started with list poems is to take a list poem that someone else has written and see if you can add another stanza or two to the list in the middle. Since “My Parents Sent Me to the Store” is all about animals this child brought home, and each stanza has two rhyming words, you would just need to think of two more animals that rhyme. For example, you might rhyme fox and ox, or goose and moose, or eagle and beagle, or snail and whale, and you might come up with something like this:

I came home with a goldfish,
and a guppy, and a goose,
an eagle and a beagle
and a mammoth and a moose.

You can also write a list poem from scratch by following these steps:

  1. Decide what your list will include. Foods? Sports? Games? Musical instruments? Clothes?
  2. Find as many rhyming words as you can for your list. For example, if you were writing a list poem about foods, you might rhyme cake/steak, cheese/peas, potatoes/tomatoes, beans/greens, and so on.
  3. Think of a beginning and an ending for your list poem.
  4. Start writing.

Today I decided to write a list poem about clothes. I can think of rhymes like shirt/skirt, boots/suits, bows/hose, caps/wraps, and so on. Now I just need a beginning and an ending and I can start working on my list. How’s this?

Wherever Dressy Bessie goes,
she always wears too many clothes.

That sounds pretty good to me. Now I can make a list of all the clothes she wears, like twelve pairs of slacks, eighteen shirts, thirty-seven hats, and so forth. For an ending, I’ll need to think of what would happy to Dressy Bessie with all these clothes on. Maybe she can’t stand up any longer, or she can’t squeeze through the door.

Now Bessie can’t fit through the door.
She never goes out anymore.

Now all I need is my list, like this:

Wherever Dressy Bessy goes,
she always wears too many clothes.

She puts on six or seven shirts,
eleven hats, and twenty skirts,
a half a dozen anoraks,
a pair, or two, or three of slacks.
She even wears eight pairs of boots,
and sixty-six seersucker suits.
Now Bessy can’t fit through the door.
She never goes out anymore.

Why don’t you see if you can add a few more lines to this poem. Perhaps you can use some of the rhymes I didn’t, like bows/hose or caps/wraps.

Or maybe you could come up with your own list poem with some rhyming foods, animals, or something else.

Updated Nursery Rhymes

Another popular way to write funny poems is to take old poems that you already know and change them to make them funnier. The easiest way to do this is with Mother Goose nursery rhymes. It only takes a few steps:

  1. Pick a nursery rhyme, such as Humpty Dumpty or Mary Had a Little Lamb.
  2. Find the words in the poem that rhyme.
  3. Change the rhymes to make them funnier.

Let’s take Humpty Dumpty as an example. This old nursery rhyme goes:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

As you can see, “wall” rhymes with “fall” and “men” rhymes with “again.” But what if we put Humpty somewhere other than the wall? Maybe he sat in a tree, or on a cat, or on the moon. Then we might rhyme tree with bee, or cat with hat, or moon with June, and we might end up with something like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat in a tree.
Humpty Dumpty got stung by a bee.
He fell out and hit his head,
And now he thinks his name is Fred.

Or maybe something like this:

Humpty Dumpty went to the moon,
To eat in the restaurant they opened last June.
He said, “All the food is delicious up here.
I just wish the restaurant had more atmosphere.”

What about Mary Had a Little Lamb? If we changed it to make it funnier, we might end up with something like this:

Mary had a little yam,
with stuffing, gravy, pie and ham.
Now Mary isn’t any thinner.
Welcome to Thanksgiving dinner.

Now you try it. Pick your favorite nursery rhyme, locate the rhyming words, change them for something else, and come up with a brand-new funny poem of your own.

More, More, More!

In this chapter, you learned a few different ways to write funny poems, but there are many, many more. In the next chapter, we will look at some of the traditional forms of poetry that can be used to create funny poems, including Limericks, Clerihews, and even funny haikus.

How to Write a Tanka Poem

Tanka, which means “short song,” has been an important literary form in Japanese culture for nearly a thousand years. The original Japanese form of tanka had only one line of poetry containing 31 speech sounds—what we would call syllables. However, most tanka poems that are written in English today are broken into five poetic lines with a certain number of syllables in each line.

The basic structure of a tanka poem is 5 – 7 – 5 – 7 – 7. In other words, there are 5 syllables in line 1, 7 syllables in line 2, 5 syllables in line 3, and 7 syllables in lines 4 and 5. If you have ever written a haiku, you will notice that tanka is kind of like a longer version of haiku that gives you a little more room to tell a story. Here is one example of a tanka poem:

How to Write a Cinquain Poem

What is a Cinquain?

Adelaide Crapsey, American poet and creator of the modern cinquain

Adelaide Crapsey, American poet and creator of the modern cinquain

A cinquain – which, by the way, is pronounced “sin-cane,” not “sin-kwane” – is a form of poetry that is very popular because of its simplicity. It was created by American poet Adelaide Crapsey about 100 years ago, and is similar to Japanese poetic forms, such as haiku and tanka.

Cinquains are just five lines long, with only a few words on each line, making them easy to write. The first and last lines have just two syllables, while the middle lines have more, so they end up with a diamond-like shape, similar to the poetic form called the diamante.

Though they are just five lines long, the best cinquains tell a small story. Instead of just having descriptive words, they may also have an action (something happening), a feeling caused by the action, and a conclusion or ending.

You can learn to write cinquains by following these few simple steps:

  1. Decide what you would like to write about.
  2. Brainstorm words and phrases that have to do with your idea.
  3. Think about what story you want to tell.
  4. Write your words and phrases in an order that tells your story, being sure to count the syllables as you go.

The Rules of a Cinquain

There are actually many different ways to write a cinquain, so I’m just going to teach you how to write a traditional cinquain, as it was defined by the poet who invented it. These are the rules:

  1. Cinquains are five lines long.
  2. They have 2 syllables in the first line, 4 in the second, 6 in the third, 8 in the fourth line, and just 2 in the last line.
  3. Cinquains do not need to rhyme, but you can include rhymes if you want to.

That’s it. Just three simple rules.

If you want to, you can even memorize the syllable count by remembering this five-digit number: 24682. Repeat after me: 24682, 24682, 24682. Now you’ve got it.

Getting Started

First, you need to select a topic. That is, you need to choose something to write your cinquain about. Here are a few easy places to get ideas:

  • Write about your favorite thing
  • Write about something you don’t like
  • Write about something you see around you
  • Write about something that happens to you

Since I like ice cream, I think I’ll write a cinquain about ice cream. This is convenient since the words “ice cream” have two syllables, so I can probably use this phrase as the first line of my cinquain. If your favorite thing is pizza, soccer, your cat, etc., you could also use “soccer,” “pizza,” or “my cat” as the first line of your cinquain.

Brainstorming ideas

Once you know what you are going to write about, you need to brainstorm ideas about your topic. Think of as many things as you can and write them down on a piece of paper. It’s okay to write your ideas on one piece of paper and then write your poem on another piece of paper.

For example, I know several things about ice cream, so I’ve put them down here:

  • It is cold.
  • It is yummy.
  • It is sweet.
  • I like eating it.

These are just four ideas, but they are not yet a poem. To turn these ideas into a cinquain poem, we need to say them in a way that we have five lines with the right number of syllables on each line.

Counting Your Syllables

I recommend your count your syllables with your fingers as you write each line. If a line has too many syllables or not enough syllables, see if you can change some of the words to get the right number of syllables.

Once you get the syllable count right, make sure the poem says what you want it to say. You may need to go back and change it some more so that it tells the story you want it to.

Once your cinquain is finished, read it again, counting the syllables on your fingers to make sure you got everything right.

Ice Cream Cinquain

Here’s a cinquain that I wrote about ice cream, using the ideas that I brainstormed earlier:

Ice Cream

Ice cream.
Cold and yummy.
I love its sweet richness
as it finds its way into my
tummy.

You might notice a few things about this poem. It tells a little story. There is an action in which I eat the ice cream and it swallow it. There is a feeling expressed where I tell that I love it. And I even rhymed “yummy” with “tummy.”

Messy Room Cinquain

Let’s try another one. This time, let’s write a cinquain about having a messy room. First, we need to brainstorm ideas. Here are a few I came up with:

  • Dirty laundry
  • Toys all over the place
  • Mom says “clean it up”
  • The hamper is overflowing
  • I’d rather watch TV than clean my room
  • I don’t mind my own mess

I don’t have to use all of these ideas, but writing more ideas than I am going to actually use give me lots to choose from when I start writing the poem.

Now that I’ve got my ideas, I’ll rearrange these into a five-line story with a 24682 syllable pattern, like this:

My Messy Room

My room
is such a mess.
Toys all over the place.
Mom says, “Clean up!” But I like it
like this.

Telling a Story with Your Cinquain

I mentioned earlier that the best cinquains tell a story. An easy way to do this is to start with your subject on the first line, describe it on the second, put an action on the third line, a feeling on the fourth line, and a conclusion on the last line, like this:

Title

Subject
Description
Action
Feeling
Conclusion

You don’t have to follow this pattern exactly. For example, in the Messy Room cinquain, you’ll see that my description is on lines 2 and 3, and both the action and the feeling are on line 4. But this should give you a general pattern for telling a story.

What Are You Going to Write?

Now it’s your turn to try writing your own cinquain. Here are a few things to remember as you write:

  • Cinquain poems can be written about anything
  • They are five lines long
  • The syllable pattern is 2, 4, 6, 8, 2
  • Brainstorm ideas first
  • Count the syllables on your fingers
  • “Center” your poem on the page
  • Rhyme if you want to
  • Have fun!

 

Poetry Writing Lessons for Kids

Poetry Writing Lessons for Kids

There are many different ways to write poems as well as lots of techniques you can learn to help you improve your writing skill. Here are many of the poetry writing lessons for children that I have created to help you become a better poet, including how to write funny poetry, poetic rhythm, poetic forms and other styles of verse, as well as lesson plans for teachers and video lessons.

How to Write Funny Poetry

Rhythm in Poetry

  1. The Basics
  2. You Can Scan, Man
  3. I Am the Iamb
  4. Okie Dokie, Here’s the Trochee
  5. More than Two Feet

Poetic Forms

A poetic “form” is a set of rules for writing a certain type of poem. These rules can include the number of lines or syllables the poem should have, the placement of rhymes, and so on. Here are lessons for writing several common poetic forms.

Other Poetic Styles

There are many different styles of poems. These are not “poetic forms” because they don’t usually have firm rules about length, syllable counts, etc., but they are common enough that many well-known children’s poets have written poems like these.

Reciting Poetry

Other Poetry Writing Lessons

Poetry Lesson Plans for Teachers

Video Poetry Lessons

Poetry Dictionaries and Rhyming Words Lists

When reading these lessons, you may come across some unfamiliar words. If you see a poetic term and don’t know what it means, you can always look it up in the Poetic Terms Dictionary. Poetry4kids also has a rhyming dictionary and a list of rhyming words you can use to help you write poems.

Other Useful Poetry-Writing Lessons

There are loads of websites on the Internet that offer helpful lessons for children on how to write poems. Here are a few you may find useful:

Poetry Dictionary for Kids

A Glossary of Poetic Vocabulary Terms for Children

A B C D E F H I L M N O P Q R S T V W

Poetry has a lot of terms with special meanings. This poetry dictionary for kids lists the most common poetic terms that kids might encounter, along with their definitions. If you need a more extensive poetry dictionary, I recommend the Poetry Foundation’s Glossary of Poetic Terms.

A

Accent
The emphasis placed on some syllables in words more than others. For example, the word “apple” has two syllables, and the accent is on the first syllable, so it is pronounced “AP-pull.” “Banana,” on the other hand, has three syllables, with the accent on the second syllable, so it is pronounced “buh-NA-nuh.”

Acrostic
A form of poem in which the first syllables of each line spell out a word, name, or phrase. See How to Write an Acrostic Poem.

Alliteration
Repeating the consonant sounds at the beginnings of nearby words, such as the “p” sound in the words “My puppy makes pizza” in the poem My Puppy Makes Pizza. See Alliteration and Assonance Lesson Plan.

Anagram
A word or phrase created by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. For example, “notes” is an anagram of “stone.” See the poem Anna Graham for many more examples of anagrams.

Antonym
A word that has the opposite meaning of another word. For example, “dark” is an antonym of “light.”

Assonance
Repeating the vowel sounds in the stressed, or accented, syllables in nearby words. For example, in the phrase “flying kites” the repeated long “i” sound are assonant. See Alliteration and Assonance Lesson Plan.

B

Ballad
A form of poetry, usually suitable for singing, that tells a story in stanzas of two or four lines, and often has a refrain.

C

Cinquain
A five-line poetic form in which the lines have 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 syllables, in that order. See How to Write a Cinquain Poem.

Clerihew
A four-line humorous poetic form comprised of two rhymed couplets, with the first line usually being the someone’s name. See How to Write a Clerihew.

Close Rhyme
A rhyme of two words that are next to one another or close to one another, such as “Humpty Dumpty,” tighty-whitey,” “fat cat,” or “fair and square.” Not to be confused with Near Rhyme.

Concrete Poem
A poem in which the meaning is conveyed by the placement and design of the words on the page instead of, or in addition to, the usual arrangement of words. Also sometimes called Visual Poetry.

Consonance
The repetition of consonant sounds within nearby words, especially the consonant sounds at the ends of words, as in “a stroke of luck” or “a bite to eat.”

Couplet
Two lines of poetry, one after the other, that rhyme and are of the same length and rhythm. For example, “I do not like green eggs and ham. / I do not like them Sam I Am.”

D

Double Rhyme
A rhyme where the stress is on the second-to-last syllable of the words, and the end sounds are the same, starting with the vowel of the stressed syllables. Some examples are batter / fatter, ocean / lotion, and camping / stamping. Double rhymes are also called “feminine rhymes.” See How to Rhyme.

E

End Rhyme
Rhyming words at the ends of the lines of a poem. See also internal rhyme.

Epitaph
A short poem written about someone who has died, often inscribed on the headstone of their grave. Epitaphs usually praise the person, and are sometimes humorous.

Exaggeration
To overstate something; to claim that it is bigger, better, faster, smellier, etc. than is actually true. When Larry Made Lasagna is an example of a exaggeration poem. See How to Write an Exaggeration Poem. See also Hyperbole.

F

Foot
In poetry, a group of two or more syllables, one of which is stressed. Metrical poems are often written in feet with the same number of syllables with the stress in the same place in each foot. For example, the line “My puppy punched me in the eye” is made up of four feet, each with the stress on the second syllable, as in “my PUP | py PUNCHED | me IN | the EYE.” The most common poetic feet are two or three syllables long. See the poem My Puppy Punched Me in the Eye.

Forced Rhyme
Most commonly, an end rhyme where the lines are written in an unnatural manner in order to “force” the words to rhyme. A forced rhyme may also be a near rhyme, wrenched rhyme, or a  line where irrelevant or unnecessary information is added to the poem for the sake of making lines rhyme. See Forced Rhymes and How to Avoid Them.

Form
A “type” of poem, written by following a set of rules such as the number of lines or syllables, the placement of rhymes, etc.. Common poetic forms include acrostic, cinquain, free verse, haiku, etc. See Poetry Lessons for Kids to learn how to write many different poetic forms.

Free Verse
A poetic form that avoids using fixed patterns of meter. Free verse often also avoids rhymes, but still may make use of other poetic techniques such as imagery and metaphor, as well as sound devices such as assonance and alliteration.

H

Haiku
A short, unrhymed Japanese poetic form with three lines of five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables. See How to Write a Haiku.

Homonym
A word that has the same spelling and sound as another word, but a different meaning. For example “fine” (an adjective meaning nice) and “fine” (a noun meaning money you have to pay as a punishment) are homonyms.

Homophone
A word that has the same sound as another word, but a different spelling and meaning. For example, “there,” “their,” and “they’re” are homphones.

Hyperbole
Pronounced “hi-PER-buh-lee.” A extreme and obvious exaggeration, not meant to be believed or taken literally.  For example, “he has million-dollar hair” or “this test is taking forever.” See How to Write an Exaggeration Poem.

I

Imagery
Language and poetic techniques used to create mental pictures and cause emotions in the reader.

Internal Rhyme
Rhymes within a line of poetry. For example, the poem My Pet Germs by Kenn Nesbitt contains an internal rhyme on the third line of each stanza.

L

Light Verse
Poetry that is intended to be humorous, amusing, or entertaining. While there is some light verse written in free verse, most light verse is written in rhyme and meter. There are also many light-verse poetic forms, such as limericks, clerihews, double-dactyls, etc.

Limerick
A humorous 5-line poetic form with an AABBA rhyme scheme. See How to Write a Limerick.

Line
A single row of words in a poem. For example, a limerick has five lines, while a haiku has three lines. Lines are one of the main things that distinguish poetry from prose.

List Poem
A poem that contains a list of things, people, places, etc. See How to Write a Funny List Poem.

M

Metaphor
A figure of speech, where a thing is described as being something else in order to suggest a similarity between the two. For example, “The cat was a rag doll in my arms” or “Nature wore its winter robe.”

Meter
Rhythmical patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry.

N

Narrative Poem
A poem that tells a story. Narrative poems usually have a plot and one or more characters.

Near Rhyme
Also called a “slant rhyme” or a “half rhyme,” “near rhyme” is a general term describing words that sound similar, but aren’t a perfect rhyme. Assonanceconsonance and sight rhymes are common types of near rhymes. See also Assonance and Alliteration Lesson Plan.

Nonsense Poem
A form of light verse, usually rhymed and metrical, often with strange characters, fantastic or impossible situations, and made-up words. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat are famous examples of nonsense poetry.

Nursery Rhyme
A short, rhyming poem for young children, often telling a short story or describing an interesting character. The most well-known nursery rhymes in the English language are those attributed to Mother Goose.

O

Occasional Poem
A poem written to commemorate a specific occasion or event, such as a birthday, wedding, funeral, anniversary, graduation, military victory, etc.

Onomatopoeia
A word whose sound is similar to the thing or action it refers to, such as “buzz” or “hiss.”

P

Palindrome
A word or phrase that is spelled the same backward as it is forward, ignoring spaces, capitalization, and punctuation, such as “Bob,” “mom,” “radar,” “race car,” “madam, I’m Adam,” etc.

Parody
A poem written in the style of another poem, usually humorous. Parodies usually assume the reader is familiar with the original work. For example, the poem “Let Me Out of the Classroom” by Kenn Nesbitt is a parody of the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Perfect Rhyme
Two words that have exactly the same vowel and consonant sounds at the ends, starting with the first vowel of the last stressed syllable. For example, green/bean, dummy/tummy, and cavity/gravity are all perfect rhymes. Note that the first consonant sound of the last stressed syllable must be different. For example leaf/belief is not a perfect rhyme because the final stressed syllable of each word begins with the same consonant “l” sound. See also: Near Rhyme, Assonance, and Consonance.

Personification
Giving human characteristics to non-human things, such as animals, inanimate objects, or ideas. For example, “The sun smiled down on the beach.”

Poem
A written composition, often using rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, and other such artistic techniques to express an idea, feelings, or a story.

Poet
A person who writes poems.

Poetry
Literature written in verse, as opposed to prose, often written in metrical lines.

Prose
Ordinary writing or spoken language, usually written in sentences and paragraphs, as opposed to rhythmical lines.

Pun
A “play on words,” usually using homophones or homonyms, where a word or phrase has multiple meanings. For example, “Six was afraid of Seven because Seven ate Nine.” This is a pun because the word “ate” sounds like “eight.”

Q

Quatrain
A four-line poem or stanza.

R

Refrain
A phrase, line, or stanza that is repeated throughout a poem, often after each stanza.

Repetition
Using the same word, phrase, line, or stanza two or more times in a poem. See How to Write a Repetition Poem to learn how to use repetition in your own poetry.

Rhyme
Having the same sound at the end of two or more words such as pine / fine, nickel / pickle, and ability / fragility. See also perfect rhyme, near rhyme, wrenched rhyme, and How to Rhyme Video Lesson Plan.

Rhyme Scheme
The pattern of end rhymes in a poem, written out as letters, such as AABB or ABAB. See Rhyme Schemes Lesson Plan to learn how to write the rhyme scheme of a poem.

Rhythm
The sound and feel created by the pattern of accented and unaccented syllables, usually repeated, in a poem.

S

Sight Rhyme
Words that end with the same letters, but not the same sound, such as rough / cough / plough or prove / lovegrove.

Simile
A comparison between to unlike things, usually using “like,” “as,” or “than.” For example, “his imagination was like a bird in flight.”

Single Rhyme
A rhyme in which the stress is on the final syllable of the words, such as cathat, and playaway. Also called a “masculine rhyme.” See How to Rhyme.

Stanza
A group of lines in a poem, separated by space from other stanzas, much like a paragraph in prose.

Stress
Same as accent.

Syllable
A part of a word, usually a vowel and it’s surrounding consonants, that makes a single sound when spoken. All words have at least one syllable. For example, catI, and would are all one syllable long because they are spoken with a single movement of the mouth. Cattleeyeball, and wouldn’t are all two syllables because they require two separate sounds to be spoken.

Synonym
A word that has the same, or nearly the same, meaning as another word.

T

Tanka
A 5-line, 31-syllable unrhymed traditional Japanese poetic form, with five syllables on the first and third lines, and seven syllables on the second, fourth, and fifth lines. See also How to Write a Tanka Poem.

Tercet
A group of three lines that rhyme with one another, or are connected to another tercet by their rhyme scheme.

Theme
The main idea, topic, or subject of a poem.

Triple Rhyme
A rhyme in which the third-to-last syllable in the words final stressed syllable. For example, cavitygravityhammeringstammering, and nobilityagility are all triple rhymes. See How to Rhyme.

V

Verse
Verse has several meanings, including:

W

Wrenched Rhyme
Rhyming the final syllables of two words, where one is stressed and the other is not. For example the words “sing” and “morning” are a wrenched rhyme because “sing” is stressed on the final (and only) syllable, but “morning” is stressed on the second-to-last syllable. Other examples include tin/imaginefrog/catalog, etc. See also Perfect Rhyme.

Free Interactive Livestreams

Kenn Nesbitt Online Author VisitFor several years now I have been doing live, interactive webinars in conjunction with Streamable Learning, the leading provider of interactive livestreams in the K-12 market in the US and Canada. Through quality educational content and an easy-to-use platform, Streamable Learning aims to in introduce interactive livestreams as a valuable supplemental tool for classrooms and families seeking to inspire and educate their K-12 students.

During the 2019-20 school year, I will be providing 35 online webinars, including interactive poetry-writing lessons, holiday poetry sessions, and programs on famous children’s poets from Dr. Seuss to Shel Silverstein. Schools are invited to join any of these sessions as my guest, completely free of charge.

Streamable Learning and Zoom

If you haven’t yet used Zoom, I think you’re going to love it. Zoom is a free videoconferencing program similar to Skype, but with clearer, more reliable audio and video.

Streamable Learning offers a convenient, cost-effective, and comprehensive calendar of interactive livestreams delivered by subject matter experts and designed to supplement your existing and future lesson plans. To discover hundreds of engaging, educational programs, have a look a their Livestream Calendar.

I have been offering interactive poetry livestreams through Streamable Learning for several years now, and I hope you’ll be able to join me this year. There is no cost for this; you can register for free and participate in as many of these upcoming sessions as you like.

To register, simply click on the links in the schedule below for the sessions you would like to join.

2019-20 Livestream Schedule

September 16, 2019

October 21, 2019

October 25, 2019

November 14, 2019

November 15, 2019

December 16, 2019

December 19, 2019

January 13, 2020

January 17, 2020

February 10, 2020

February 13, 2020

February 28, 2020

March 6, 2020

April 7, 2020

April 9, 2020

May 11, 2020

May 15, 2020

If you would prefer to arrange a private interactive videoconference for your class or school only, simply click here to schedule an online author visit. I look forward to seeing your students online!

That Doesn’t Sound Right to Me

When you read poems, you will sometimes come across things that don’t sound right to you. Often, this is because people pronounce some words differently depending on where they grew up. The writer of the poem may have grown up somewhere that they pronounce things a little differently than you do.

Probably the most well-known example is the word “tomato.” In Britain, this word is pronounced “toe-MAH-toe,” whereas in America it is pronounced “toe-MAY-toe.”

Similarly, “pajamas” is pronounced “puh-JAW-muhz” (rhymes with “llamas”) in Britain, but can be pronounced either “puh-JAM-uhz” (rhymes with “panoramas”) or “puh-JAW-muhz” in America. And, in America, “dance” rhymes with “France,” while in Britain “dance” is often pronounced “dahns.”

I once wrote a poem for a publisher in India where I rhymed “face” with “vase.” (In America, these two words rhyme with one another.) My publisher was very confused because in India, as well as Britain and much of the world, “vase” is pronounced “vahz” (rhymes with “jaws”).

When I read poems by British authors, sometimes I am surprised by their rhyme choices. For example, I recently saw “speedier” rhymed with “media” because Brits often do not pronounce the r’s at the ends of words.

Dealing with different pronunciations

In general, it’s a good idea to think about who your readers might be. When you run into a word that your readers may pronounce differently than you, you may want to choose a different rhyme. For example, instead of saying:

I like to sing and dance.

You might say:

I like to dance and sing.

A syllable and a half

Another problem you might encounter has to do with the number of syllables in a word.

Many types of poems require counting syllables, or counting “feet,” which are groups of syllables. For example, haiku usually have five syllables on the first and last lines, and seven syllables on the second line. Sonnets normally have five feet of two syllables each, ten syllables total, on each line.

When I write poems, I not only think about the rhymes, but also the rhythm, or “meter” of the words. I usually count feet rather than syllables, but it still requires knowing how many syllables are in any given word.

For most words, the number of syllables is pretty easy to count. “Cat” is clearly a one-syllable word. “Mother” is easy to identify as two syllables. But not every word in English is pronounced the same way by everyone.

Depending on where you live, you may pronounce things a little differently than people in other places. Sometimes this can change the number of syllables you hear when you pronounce certain words.

For example, take the word “poem.” Depending on where you live, this might be pronounced “POE-uhm,” “poe-EHM,” or even “pome.” If you pronounce it “pome,” you might rhyme it with “home,” but this might sound wrong to people in other parts of the country or world. Regardless of how you pronounce it, because other people might pronounce it with a different number of syllables, which would make the rhythm different to them than it is to you.

When a word can be correctly pronounced with one syllable or two, I call these “one-and-a-half-syllable words.” Other examples include words such as “orange” (which some pronounce “OR-uhnj” while others say “ornj”) and “fire” (which many would argue is a one-syllable word, while others say it rhymes with “higher,” which is definitely two syllables.

Similarly, there are many “two-and-a-half-syllable words,” such as “family” (which can be correctly pronounced with either two syllables — “FAM-lee” –or three — “FAM-uh-lee”) and “chocolate” (“CHOK-lit” or “CHOK-uh-lit”).

Dealing with different syllable counts

When you discover that other people may pronounce a certain word differently than you, you can fix the problem in one of two ways.

Substitute a different word

One easy way to solve this issue is to avoid the word by substituting a different one, such as “mother” or “father” in place of “family.”

Change the placement of the word

Another way to fix the problem is by placing the word where it can be pronounced either way without affecting the rhythm.

For example, instead of saying:

My family is very nice.

You might say:

I really like my family.

This way, regardless of whether your readers pronounce “family” as two syllables or three, it doesn’t affect the rhythm of the line.

Whenever you encounter words that others might pronounce differently than you, it’s good to keep these words in mind when you are writing poems that require rhythm or syllable counting so that your poems can be read more easily by everyone, no matter where they are.

Rhythm in Poetry – The Basics

When you read rhyming poetry, one of the things you might notice is how the words often have a nice rhythmical quality. That is, there is a pattern to the rhythm of the words that makes them fun to say and easy to remember. Sometimes the rhythm is a simple one, and sometimes it’s more complex, but it’s not there by accident. Poets arrange their words in such a way as to create those rhythmical patterns.

When rhyming poems also have a rhythm in the words, they are much more fun to read. By contrast, rhyming poems that do not have a rhythm are usually not as enjoyable to read.

Over the next several lessons, I’m going to show you how to identify the rhythms in poems and how to write rhythmical poems of your own so that others will enjoy reading them.

A Dazzling Display of Dogs by Betsy Franco

A Dazzling Display of Dogs, Concrete Poems by Betsy Franco

As Children’s Poet Laureate, one of my jobs is to select a collection of poetry each month to feature on the Poetry Foundation’s website. There you’ll find my monthly book picks, and those of the previous Children’s Poets Laureate.

My pick for August, 2013 is A Dazzling Display of Dogs, concrete poems by Betsy Franco, illustrations by Michael Wertz.

Interview with Children’s Author Betsy Franco

In addition, I interviewed Betsy Franco about her life as a poet and about her new book. Here is what she had to say.