Rhythm in Poetry – You Can Scan, Man

Scansion in Poems

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.”

Printable Poetry Activity Worksheets

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.

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!

Worksheets

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 Reindeer for Christmas

Read and listen to the poem, and then take the quiz below by clicking on the Start button.

Dear Santa, this Christmas my list is quite small.
In fact, I need practically nothing at all.
My list is so short and so easy to read
because there’s just one thing I actually need.

A reindeer for Christmas is all I require;
a reindeer, of course, who’s an excellent flier.
I really don’t care if it’s Dasher or Dancer.
I’m okay with Cupid or Comet or Prancer.

Please don’t think I’m greedy; I only want one.
You won’t even miss him, and I’ll have such fun.
I promise I’ll feed him and treat him just right,
and take him out flying around every night.

You see, I’m not selfish. So, for my surprise
this Christmas, please bring me a reindeer that flies.
But if my request is a bit much for you,
I guess that an iPod will just have to do.

–Kenn Nesbitt

 

A Fish in a Spaceship

Read the poem, and then take the quiz below by clicking on the Start button.

 

A fish in a spaceship is flying through school.
A dinosaur’s dancing on top of a stool.
The library’s loaded with orange baboons,
in purple tuxedos with bows and balloons.

The pigs on the playground are having a race
while pencils parade in their linens and lace.
As camels do cartwheels and elephants fly,
bananas are baking a broccoli pie.

A hundred gorillas are painting the walls,
while robots on rockets careen through the halls.
Tomatoes are teaching in all of the classes.
Or maybe, just maybe, I need some new glasses.

–Kenn Nesbitt

Play
Podcast

Subscribe to this Podcast

Wayne the Stegosaurus

Meet the stegosaurus, Wayne.
He doesn’t have the biggest brain.
He’s long and heavy, wide and tall,
but has a brain that’s extra small.

He’s not the brightest dinosaur.
He thinks that one plus one is four.
He can’t remember up from down.
He thinks the sky is chocolate brown.

He wears his bow tie on his tail
and likes to eat the daily mail.
When playing hide-and-seek he tries
to hide by covering his eyes.

He thinks that black is really white.
He’s sure the sun comes out at night.
He thinks that water grows on trees
and when it’s hot he starts to freeze.

He’s happy when he’s feeling ill.
He likes to dance by standing still.
And when it’s time to go to bed,
he puts bananas on his head.

He thinks his name is Bob, not Wayne,
but that’s what happens when your brain
(although you’re big and brave and spiny)
is very, very, very tiny.

–Kenn Nesbitt

How to Write an Alliteration Poem

Writing Alliteration Poems

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.”

Play
Podcast

Subscribe to this Podcast

Today Is the Day

I’m happy to say that today is the day.
I’m super excited. I’m shouting, “Hooray!”

I woke up delighted and ready to go.
My mind is abuzz and my eyes are aglow.

There’s no doubt about it. It’s perfectly clear.
The time is upon us. The moment is here.

I’m eager and keen for the action to start,
and when it begins I’ll be playing my part.

I’ll jump in the bustle and I’ll give it my all.
I’m certain that soon I’ll be having a ball.

But where should I go now, and what should I do?
I’m hoping that someone will give me a clue.

I’m not sure what’s happening. All I can say
is yesterday’s gone, so today is the day.

–Kenn Nesbitt

Announcing PoetryMinute.org

Poetry Minute

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.

Play
Podcast

Subscribe to this Podcast

My Invisible Dragon

I have an invisible dragon.
She’s such a remarkable flyer.
She soars through the sky on invisible wings
exhaling invisible fire.

My dragon is utterly silent.
She soundlessly swoops through the air.
Why, she could be flying beside you right now,
and you’d never know she was there.

And if you should reach out to pet her,
I don’t think you’d notice too much.
Her body is simply too airy and light
to sense her by means of a touch.

And just as you don’t see or hear her,
and just as she cannot be felt,
my dragon does not have an odor at all,
which means that she’ll never be smelt.

Although you may find this outlandish,
you just have to trust me, it’s true.
And, oh, by the way, did I mention I have
an invisible unicorn too?

–Kenn Nesbitt