As I explained in Rhythm in Poetry – The Basics, some syllables in English are “stressed” – pronounced louder or with more emphasis than others – while other syllables are “unstressed,” meaning they are not emphasized. Knowing this, you can create patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables in your writing to create a rhythm in the words. Having rhythms in your poems make them more fun to recite and easier to remember.
To make it easy to spot the stressed and unstressed syllables in the examples I gave, I wrote them in UPPERCASE and lowercase letters, like this:
my PUPpy PUNCHED me IN the EYE.
The trouble with using this method is that it is awkward to write or type this way, and it makes the poem more difficult to read. Also, if you have a poem that is already printed on paper, you wouldn’t want to have to rewrite the entire thing just to show the rhythm.
Wouldn’t it be better if could make marks to show the stressed and unstressed syllables? Indeed, there is such a system that is commonly used, and it’s called “scansion” (pronounced “scan-shun”). The process of marking the stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem is called “scanning.”
I thought you might like to know that I’ve started putting printable poetry activity worksheets for some of my poems on the website. You’ll find them on the Poetry Activities page under the heading “Worksheets.”
You can use these worksheets at home or in class to give kids a few more fun activities to do beyond just reading the poems. By answering questions, writing, and even unscrambling words, kids will get a little more practice to help improve their comprehension and literacy.
A huge thank you to Primary Leap for creating these wonderful activity worksheets! Visit their website for thousands more printable activity worksheets for kids organized by grade level and subject.
Here are direct links to the activity worksheets I’ve posted so far. Enjoy!
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 fun and easy kind of poem to write is what I call an “alliteration poem.” Alliteration is when you repeat the beginning consonant sounds of words, such as “big blue baseball bat” or “round red robin.”
Writing alliteration poems is a terrific creativity exercise. Not only is it an easy way to write a poem, it’s a great way to get your brains working. You’ll need to think of a lot of alliterative words, and then form them into rhyming sentences.
Writing an Alliteration Poem in Five Easy Steps
Step 1: To write an alliteration poem, first pick a consonant. It can be any letter of the alphabet except for the vowels a, e, i, o, or u. For example, let’s say you choose the letter “B.”
During the past few months, since becoming the Children’s Poet Laureate, I have been hard at work on a new project: A brand new website called PoetryMinute.org, and I would like to tell you about it so you can start using it in your classrooms.
Over the years that I have been reading and writing children’s poems, I have noticed that many, possibly most, poems written for children can be read in an average of about one minute. Because of this, I have always encouraged teachers to share a poem with their students every day. It only takes a minute of the entire school day, and yet it gives students a break from their routine in a way that also encourages them to want to read and write, and improves their fluency and literacy.
I call this a “Poetry Minute.” It’s one minute out of your school day for poetry. And now it’s easier than ever.