Category: Lessons

How to Write an Opposite Day Poem

Opposite Day poem writing lesson for kids

If you’re ever bored and feel like you need a change of pace, it’s time to declare that it’s “Opposite Day,” a day to do things the opposite of the way you normally would.

Put your clothes on backward, walk in reverse, or claim that candy tastes awful. Try walking on your hands or writing with your feet. Have a staring contest with your eyes closed. You get the idea.

You can also try writing an Opposite Day poem. Start by stating that today is Opposite Day with a few lines, like this:

It’s Opposite Day!
It’s Opposite Day!
The day to do things
in the opposite way.

An Opposite Day poem is a kind of list poem. In other words, the middle of the poem is a list of everything you do differently from normal days. So, think of as many backward, reverse, and opposite things as possible and write them down. You don’t have to rhyme them, but it’s fun to try. Here are a few examples I thought of:

I write with my foot and
I kick with my hand.
I stare with my eyes closed.
I sit down to stand.

I drink from a plate and
I eat from a cup.
I climb into bed when
it’s time to wake up.

What other kinds of things can you do in the opposite way? Could you frown when you’re happy and smile when you’re sad? Wear your shoes on your head and your hat on your feet? Sit still on the swings and go up the slide instead of down?

Think of as many opposite things as possible and soon you’ll have a nice long list for your poem. Then all you need is an ending. I recommend something funny, like this:

I stand still for dancing.
When running, I crawl.
So please understand:
I don’t like you at all.

Or how about an ending like this one?

It’s Opposite Day!
Oh, wait, that’s not right.
I think we should change it
to Opposite Night!

If you like, feel free to use the beginning and one of the endings that I wrote, and then make your own list in the middle.

When you’re done writing your Opposite Day poem, be sure not to share it with me. I would hate to read it. ;-)

How to Write a Sonnet

A Poetry-Writing Lesson for Kids

William Shakespeare

The sonnet is one of the most common traditional poetic forms. They have been written for hundreds of years with some of the most well-known sonnets written by William Shakespeare.

Though the sonnet was originally created in Italy, with the earliest sonnets written in Italian, they have been written in English, French, Dutch, German, and many other languages as well.

In the English language, there are two main kinds of sonnets: the “English” (or “Shakespearean”) sonnet and the “Spenserian” sonnet, named after the poet Edmund Spenser.

In this lesson, you will learn how to write an English sonnet because this is the most common type of sonnet.

The Rules of the Sonnet

In poetry, a “form” is a set of rules describing how to write that kind of poem. English sonnets have these rules:

  • They are fourteen lines long.
  • The fourteen lines are divided into three groups, or “stanzas,” of four lines each, followed by a final two-line “couplet.” (A four-line stanza is also known as a “quatrain.” A couplet is two lines together that rhyme.)
  • Each of the fourteen lines is ten syllables long.

In addition to the number of lines, and the number of syllables per line, sonnets also have a special rhyme scheme:

  • Each of the three stanzas has an ABAB rhyme scheme. This means that the first and third lines of each stanza rhyme with each other, and the second and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
  • The final couplet has an AA rhyme scheme, meaning that those two lines rhyme with one another.

Lastly, the first line of a sonnet should state the “theme.” In other words, it should say what the sonnet is about. And the final couplet should give the reader a “conclusion” or ending to the poem.

Because of all these rules, sonnets can be more challenging to write than shorter, simpler poetic forms such as haiku, diamantes, or cinquains. But it can also be more rewarding to know that you can write a poem like Shakespeare did.

Getting Started

The first thing you need to do to write a sonnet is figure out what you want to write about. You can write a sonnet about anything, but it’s easiest to write about something you know. Since you now know all the rules for writing a sonnet, why not write a sonnet about that? Here’s an example:

My Teacher Said to Write a Sonnet Now

My teacher said to write a sonnet now.
She told me, “It should be a work of art.”
I’d like to but I’m really not sure how.
I wish someone would show me where to start.

I heard the rhymes should be ABAB,
which means I can’t rhyme every single word.
The second and the fourth lines rhyme, you see.
And you should rhyme the first line with the third.

The first three stanzas all have four lines each.
The final couplet? That has only two.
A sonnet’s not an easy thing to teach.
I guess that’s what this poem aims to do.

It seems that starting was the hardest part.
I hope the teacher likes my work of art.

Another good thing to write a sonnet about is something you like. For example, I like my dog, so I thought I’d write a sonnet about him. However, since I also like funny poems, I decided to make up a funny – not true – story about him. Here it is:

My Dog Is Not the Smartest Dog Alive

My dog is not the smartest dog alive.
He says that submarines know how to dance.
He seems to think that two plus two is five.
He’s sure Japan’s the capital of France.

My dog declares that tigers grow on trees.
He tells me that he’s twenty-nine feet tall.
He argues only antelopes eat cheese,
then adds that ants are good at basketball.

He swears the sun is made of candy bars.
It seems to me my dog is pretty dense.
He says he’s seen bananas play guitars.
He talks a lot but doesn’t make much sense.

Although I love my dog with all my heart,
I have to say, he isn’t very smart.

Your Turn

Now that you know how to write a sonnet, why not give it a try yourself? Write one about your favorite game or pet or food, about your friends or family, or even about how hard it is to write a sonnet. And, most importantly, have fun!

Worksheet

List of Rhyming Interjections

Rhyming Interjections

An interjection is a word or phrase that is most often used as an exclamation, such as wow, hey, or ugh, or sometimes used just to stall for time, such as uh, and er. The following list of interjections that rhyme with one another may come in handy for your own poems.

  • achoo, boo, boo-hoo, eww, no can do, ooh, phew, pooh, shoo, wahoo, whew, whoop-de-doo, woo, woo-hoo, yahoo
  • ah, aha, aww, bah, blah, booyah, bwah-hah-hah, ha, ha-ha, hah, hurrah, huzzah, la-de-da, mwah-hah-hah, nah, pshaw, rah, ta-da, ta-ta, voila, yee-haw
  • ahoy, attaboy, boy, enjoy, oh boy, oy
  • alright, gesundheit, quite, right, sleep tight
  • bam, blam, wham
  • bravo, doh, heigh-ho, hello, ho-ho-ho, no, oh, uh-oh, whoa, yo, yo-ho-ho
  • brr, er, grr
  • bye, goodbye, hi, my, sigh, why
  • dear me, gee, hee-hee, omg, tee-hee, whee, whoopee, yippee
  • drats, rats
  • duck, yuck
  • duh, huh, uh, uh-huh, uh-uh
  • eh, gangway, hey, hurray, no way, okay, olé, say, touché, yay
  • encore, fore
  • hmm, mh-hmm, mmm
  • ho-hum, ummm, yum
  • holy cow, kapow, now now, ow, pow, wow, yow
  • meh, yeah
  • oops, whoops
  • swell, well
  • wowie, zowie

Click here for other lists of rhyming words.

How to Write an Onomatopoeia Poem

Onomatopoeia Poem

In this lesson, I’ll show you an easy way to write an “onomatopoeia poem,” or what I like to call an “onomatopoem,” even though that isn’t a real word. And I’ll show you why you want to include onomatopoeia in your poems.

An onomatopoeia (pronounced on-uh-mah-tuh-pee-uh) is a word that sounds like the action it describes. For example, the word “boom” sounds like an explosion, and the word “moo” sounds like the noise a cow makes.

Using onomatopoeia in a poem can engage the reader’s senses with more vivid imagery and heightened sensory impact, without having to use additional words. If your poem contains actions, it’s a good idea to include onomatopoeia in your writing. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you were writing a poem about skiing and you said:

Skiing down the snowy hill

This describes what you are doing, and the reader can certainly visualize it. But what if, instead, you said:

Swooshing down the snowy hill

Do you see how this evokes the sense of sound? If gives the reader not just a visual image of the skier, but also the sound that their skis make on the snow, and perhaps even the side-to-side motion of the skis, all without adding extra words.

Poetry Is Condensed Language

Poetry is often described as “condensed language,” meaning that it tries to convey as much meaning and feeling as possible with few words. If you are writing prose—stories, essays, etc.—you still want to be concise; to avoid using unnecessary words. But it’s also okay to be as descriptive as possible.

In poetry, on the other hand, the more meaning or emotion you can pack into just a few words, the better. With onomatopoeia your words can do double duty, conveying both meaning and sensation. Take a look at this excerpt from my poem “What to Do with a Dinosaur” from my book Revenge of the Lunch Ladies.

This morning a dinosaur tromped into school,
ferocious, atrocious, and dripping with drool.
He had to be practically twenty feet tall,
and banged around looking something to maul.

He stomped and he snorted, he bellowed and roared.
His head hit the ceiling and busted a board.
That beast was undoubtedly ready for lunch.
He snatched up a chair in his teeth with a crunch,

I’ve underlined the onomatopoeia words in these two stanzas to make them easier to spot. As you can see, these words not only describe what the dinosaur is doing, but they evoke the sounds he is making as well. Without the onomatopoeia, it would lose a lot of its impact, as you can see below.

This morning a dinosaur came into school,
ferocious, atrocious, and covered with drool.
He had to be practically twenty feet tall,
and walked around looking something to maul.

In other words, as you write, and as you edit and revise your poems, look for opportunities to replace your verbs with ones that also evoke sounds.

An Easy Onomatopoeia Poem

If you are writing rhyming poetry, sometimes you may even want to rhyme some of your onomatopoeia words. To make this as easy as possible, I have created a list of rhyming onomatopoeia words, such as bash / crash / smash, and growl / howl / yowl.

You could even write an entire poem with almost nothing but onomatopoeia words if you like. Just look at the list of rhyming onomatopoeia words and string a few together, like this:

Grumble, mumble, rumble, crash.
Flutter, mutter, sputter, splash.
Clatter, shatter, splatter, creak.
Crinkle, tinkle, wrinkle, squeak.

You can write as many lines as you want like this. Then all you need is an ending. Here are a couple of ideas:

These are sounds I heard at home.
My house sounds just like a poem.

Or how about this one?

This is not some great idea.
It’s just onomatopoeia.

Now it’s your turn. If you can add a few more lines of onomatopoeia words to this, and maybe even come up with a different ending, you’ll have created your very own “onomatopoem.”

Learning More about Onomatopoeia in Poetry

If you want to learn even more about onomatopoeia in poems, here are some useful lessons:

List of Rhyming Onomatopoetic Words

Onomatopoeia Rhymes

An onomatopoeia is a word whose sound is similar to the action it refers to, such as “buzz” or “hiss.” Using onomatopoetic words in a poem can help increase the sensory impact of the poem, creating vivid imagery because the words themselves evoke sounds as well as meaning.

To learn more about how onomatopoeia can be used in poems, have a look at this lesson plan.

If you are writing rhyming poetry you may occasional need to include onomatopoeia rhymes in your poems. Here is a list of a few hundred onomatopoeia rhymes you can use as you write.

  • Achoo / boo / boo-hoo / choo-choo / cock-a-doodle-doo / coo / cuckoo / moo / phew
  • Bash / clash / crash / slash / smash
  • Bam / slam / wham
  • Bang / clang / twang
  • Beep / cheep
  • Blurt / spurt / squirt
  • Boink / oink
  • Bong / ding dong / gong / ping pong / pong
  • Bonk / clonk
  • Boom / vroom / zoom
  • Bow-wow / meow / pow
  • Bump / clump / thump / whump
  • Burp / chirp / slurp
  • Cackle / crackle
  • Chatter / clatter / pitter patter / shatter / splatter
  • Chomp / clomp
  • Clack / crack / hack / quack / smack / thwack / whack
  • Clap / flap / rap / slap / snap / tap / zap
  • Click / flick
  • Clink / plink
  • Clip / drip / flip / rip / snip / whip
  • Clip clop / clop / flip-flop / flop / plop / pop
  • Clomp / stomp / tromp
  • Clonk / honk
  • Cluck / pluck
  • Clunk / kerplunk / plunk
  • Crash / splash
  • Creak / shriek / squeak
  • Crinkle / tinkle / sprinkle / wrinkle
  • Crunch / munch
  • Ding / cha-ching / ping / ring / zing
  • Fizz / whiz
  • Fizzle / sizzle
  • Flush / rush / shush
  • Flutter / mutter / sputter
  • Giggle / jiggle / wiggle / wriggle
  • Groan / moan
  • Growl / howl / yowl
  • Grumble / mumble / rumble
  • Huff / puff
  • Knock / tick tock
  • Poof / woof
  • Purr / whir
  • Roar / snore
  • Squish / swish / whish
  • Sway / neigh
  • Swoop / whoop
  • Swoosh / whoosh

Click here for other lists of rhyming words.

Here are links to other websites for more information about onomatopoeia poems for kids:

Awesome Acrostics

A video poetry-writing lesson

Acrostics are one of the easiest forms of poetry to write because they just have a single rule and they don’t have to rhyme. In this video lesson, I show how you can create your own acrostic poems in just a few steps.

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 Repetition Poem

In poetry, you will often find that the writer repeats sounds, words, ideas, lines, or even entire stanzas. For example, a poem might start each line with the same words, or it might repeat a stanza several times, making a chorus or “refrain.”

When you repeat something in a poem, this is called “repetition.” Repetition helps draw the reader’s attention to a thought, idea, or feeling. It can make the main idea of the poem more memorable.

Just as readers enjoy rhythm and rhyme in poems, repetition can also be pleasant. Here are a few ways you can include repetition in your poems.

Repeat the Beginnings of Lines

Probably the easiest way to include repetition in a poem is to repeat the first words of each line through most or all of the poem. Pick a few words that describe the main idea of your poem and use those words over and over again.

For example, if you were writing a poem to tell someone how nice they are, you might begin each line with, “I like you because…” If you were writing a poem about what gifts you would like from Santa Claus for Christmas, you might start each line with, “This Christmas I want…”

And your repeated phrase doesn’t have to be long. It can be just one or two words, such as “You are…” or “School is…”

In my poem “I Didn’t Go Camping,” I repeat the words, “I Didn’t…” at the beginning of many of the lines, like this:

I Didn't Go Camping

I didn’t go camping.
I didn’t go hiking.
I didn’t go fishing.
I didn’t go biking.

I didn’t go play
on the slides at the park.
I didn’t watch shooting stars
way after dark.

I didn’t play baseball
or soccer outside.
I didn’t go on an
amusement park ride.

I didn’t throw Frisbees.
I didn’t fly kites,
or have any travels,
or see any sights.

I didn’t watch movies
with blockbuster crowds,
or lay on the front lawn
and look at the clouds.

I didn’t go swimming
at pools or beaches,
or visit an orchard;
and pick a few peaches.

I didn’t become
a guitarist or drummer,
but, boy, I played plenty
of Minecraft this summer.

I have used this kind of repetition in quite a few poems. If you like poems that repeat the first words of the lines, here are a few more you might enjoy:

Repeating a Line

Another way to emphasize or strengthen the idea of a poem is to repeat a single line over and over, possibly on every other line.

Here’s an example of a poem where I have repeated a line of conversation where one person says the same thing over and over.

I Need to Go Potty

I need to go potty.
     Just hold it. You’re fine.
I need to go potty.
     I heard you. Don’t whine.
I need to go potty.
     You just went at noon.
I need to go potty.
     We’re getting there soon.
I need to go potty.
     You’ll just have to wait.
I need to go potty.
Whoops. Now it’s too late.

In this poem, the repetition of the line, “I need to go potty” emphasizes the urgency with which the speaker is trying to make his or her point. Unfortunately, the other person in the poem — probably the parent — doesn’t realize just how urgent the situation is until it’s too late.

Repeating Several Lines

When you repeat several lines, or an entire stanza, throughout a poem, this is called a “refrain.” In a song it’s called a “chorus.” Using refrains is another way to emphasize or strengthen the main idea or feeling of your poem. And because a refrain in a poem can be just like a chorus in a song, using refrains can make your poems feel or sound more like songs.

Here’s a poem I wrote about a five-year old pirate named Francis who, because of his age, was not yet very good at pirating. Notice that I repeat the same lines at the end of every other stanza, making the poem sound a lot like a “sea shanty” (a sailor’s work song) much like “Yo Ho, Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).”

Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate

He ain't got a beard
and he ain't got a scar.
He ain't a cantankerous codger.
He isn't a scum
with a tankard of rum.
He don't fly a black Jolly Roger.

He ain't got a parrot
that sits on his shoulder.
He isn't all ornery and irate.
He's not old enough
to be rugged and rough.
He's Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.
Yo, Ho! Yo, Ho!
He's Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.

He don't like to pillage.
He don't like to rob.
He don't like to bury his treasure.
He don't like to shoot
or to ransack and loot
or commandeer ships for his pleasure.

No ships has he sank
or made men walk the plank,
or hang from the yardarm and gyrate.
And everyone knows
he don't keelhaul his foes.
He's Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.
Yo, Ho! Yo, Ho!
He's Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.

He ain't got a cutlass.
He ain't got a sword.
He ain't got a musket or dagger.
He ain't learned his duty
to plunder for booty
and strut with a braggardly swagger.

He don't have an eyepatch.
He don't have a hook.
He's barely a buccaneer flyweight
He ain't got no gold
cuz he's not very bold.
He's Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.
Yo, Ho! Yo, Ho!
He's Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.

Now It’s Your Turn

At the risk of repeating myself (see what I did there?), repetition can be a very effective way to get your point across in a poem, and to make the poem more memorable and enjoyable to read.

Now that you’ve seen several different ways to include repetition in poems, I hope you’ll be on the lookout for in when you read poetry, and maybe even try your hand at writing some repetition poems of your own.

Rhythm in Poetry – More than Two Feet

In the last two Rhythm in Poetry lessons, we discussed the “iamb” and the “trochee.” Each of these is a two-syllable poetic “foot.” But iambs and trochees aren’t the only kinds of poetic feet. There are other types of two-syllable feet and even a few different three-syllable feet.

Let’s See the Spondee

The “spondee,” (pronounced “SPON-dee”) is a two-syllable foot in which both syllables are stressed. It is not as common as the iamb and the trochee, but it has a very interesting sound, as you’ll hear in a moment.

A poem written in spondees is said to be in “spondaic.” For example, my poem “Snow Day” is written in spondaic, meaning that every syllable is a stressed syllable. Here’s how it begins:

/     /
“Snow day!”
/    /
Fred said.
/    /
“All play.
/     /
Let’s sled!”

/   /
“No school!
/    /
Just snow.
/   /
Way cool!
/     /
Let’s go!”

As you can see, each line in this poem has two syllables, and each syllable is stressed, meaning each line is a single spondee.

While there are some two-syllable words in English in which both syllables are stressed, such as “bookmark,” “handshake,” “groundhog,” “picnic,” “sunset,” etc., most spondees are formed with two words, such as “hip hop,” “sit down,” “go slow,” and so on.

If you are writing poems in spondaic, you can use one-syllable or two-syllable words, as long as all of the syllables are stressed. In general, it is harder to write in spondaic than in iambic or trochaic but, now that you know about spondees, maybe you’ll want to give it a try?

Let’s Meet the Triple Feet

In English, it’s possible for poetic feet to contain more than two syllables. A poem written using three-syllable feet is called “triple meter.”

The most common three-syllable feet are the “dactyl” (pronounced “DAK-tuhl”) and the “anapest” (pronounced “AN-uh-pest”). Let’s start with the dactyl.

Fingers on Your Feet

Have you heard of the flying dinosaur called the pterodactyl? From the Greek language, “ptero” means “wing” and “dactyl” means “finger.” So a pterodactyl gets it’s name from the fact that it has fingers on its wings.

In poetry, a “dactyl” also gets its name from fingers, but in a different way. Just as your fingers have three joints, or knuckles, a dactyl has three syllables.

When a poem is written in dactyls, we call it “dactylic” (pronounced “dack-TILL-ick”). Some examples of dactylic words include “poetry,” “alphabet,” “excellent,” etc. Do you notice how each of these words is stressed on the first syllable (PO-uh-tree, AL-fuh-bet, EX-suh-lent)?

One common form of poem written in dactylic is the “double-dactyl,” also known as a “higgledy-piggledy.” It is called a double-dactyl because every line contains two dactyls, and one of the words is a six-syllable “double-dactylic,” word. It is sometimes called a “higgledy-piggledy” because these are often the first words of the poem.

Here’s one I wrote about Doctor Frankenstein and his monster:

/  -  -  /  -  -
Higgledy-piggledy
/  -   -  / -  -
Modern Prometheus
/  -   -   /    - -
Victor von Frankenstein,
/    - -   /
made a new life

/ --/  -     -
Bioelectrically.
/   -    -   /   -   -
Creature was lonely, said,
/   -      -   / -   -
"If you're not busy, please
/    -  - /
make me a wife."

The Anapest Strikes Back

Just as the word “dactyl” comes from Greek, the word “anapest” comes from a Greek word meaning “struck back” or “reversed.” This is because the anapest is the reverse or opposite of the dactyl. That is, an anapest is a three-syllable foot where the stress is on the last syllable instead of the first.

When you write a poem using anapests, it is called “anapestic.” One of the best-known anapestic poems in English is Clement Moore’s famous poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” also called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

-     -   /     - -    /     -    -    /   -       -   /
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
-   - /   -    -   /   -     -   / -  - /
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

Another author who wrote stories in anapestic was none other than Dr. Seuss. For example, here are a couple of lines from his book Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

-   -    /      -  -    /     -   -    /    -  -    /
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
-   -   /     -   -    / - - /  -    -   /
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

As you can see, every third syllable is stressed, giving the poem the same rhythm as “A Visit from St. Nicholas”

In fact, except for his “Beginner Books” such as Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, nearly all of Dr. Seuss’ rhyming stories were written in anapestic, including The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hears a Who, and The Lorax.

You Have Feet in Your Head

While, as Dr. Seuss’ said, “You have feet in your shoes,” you also now have several new feet in your head. Poetic feet, that is. And, in just these few lessons, you have learned nearly everything you need to know about rhythm in poetry.

You can use these new feet, and the ones we learned earlier, to create rhythmical – or “metrical” – poems of your own and make them just as fun to read as the works of famous poets like Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Jack Prelutsky.

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.