Limericks are silly poems with only five verses. Because they have predictable rhythm and rhyme, they’re perfect for students in fourth and fifth grades. Your kids will love them!
Ms. Sneed Plans for Teaching Limericks
Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat at the side table with her student teacher. “Time to extend our unit on types of poetry,” she said. “Next up – limericks.”
Mr. Grow smiled. “I remember writing those poems when I was young. But I don’t recall the exact structure. Can you give me a refresher?”
“Sure. Let’s just move through the lesson you’ll teach.”
Providing an Example
Ms. Sneed pulled a stack of papers from her bag. “First,” she said, “you’ll select a limerick and read it aloud. For example:
There was an old man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a bee;
When they said, “Does it buzz?”
He replied, “Yes, it does!
It’s a regular brute of a bee.”
Mr. Grow chuckled. “Exactly as I remember them.”
As Ms. Sneed continued, she opened her laptop. “A famous poet named Edward Lear popularized this type of poetry in the 19th century. As a matter of fact, he was well known for writing literary nonsense. You can find collections of his limericks on Project Gutenberg. Although some are not culturally appropriate, others work well for children.” She turned the computer so he could see. Sure enough, dozens of poems had appeared on the screen.
Next, Ms. Sneed clicked over to another website. “He even wrote a silly poem about himself. If you’d like, you can add it to your lesson.”
On the screen, Mr. Grow could see a longer poem entitled “How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear.”
“Such fun,” he said.
Next, Ms. Sneed pulled out a worksheet. “Kids can analyze this poem,” she said.
There was an old man of the West,
Who never could get any rest;
So they set him to spin
On his nose and his chin
Which cured that old man of the West.
“Limericks employ some traditional elements of poetry.” Ms. Sneed pointed to the worksheet. In this activity, kids will discover that they have five verses. Second, they use letters to tell the rhyming scheme.”
“Since they’ve already explored rhyming poetry, this should be easy,” Mr. Grow inserted.
“Right. Like they did in our last unit, they clap out the rhythm. Then they mark the stressed syllables. Down here, they write how many beats in each verse.
“In no time, they’ll find that limericks have specific patterns. The first, second, and fifth verses have three beats and rhyme with one another. Furthermore, the third and fourth verses have two beats and rhyme with one another.”
Discussing Elements of Limericks
Next, Ms. Sneed slid a reference guide to Mr. Grow. “After they’ve completed the worksheet,” she said, “you can use this for reinforcement. It provides a good overview of limericks.”
Mr. Grow studied the page. “This information is helpful. The first two lines introduce the character. Then the last three verses explain the situation. And since I need some practice,” he laughed, “I will now read aloud:
There was a young lady whose chin
Resembled the point of a pin;
So she had it made sharp,
And purchased a harp,
And played several tunes with her chin.
“Thank you, Mr. Lear,” said Ms. Sneed.
Writing Nonsense Poems
From her stack, Ms. Sneed now pulled 15 pages. “Since we have 28 students,” she said, “we can make two copies of each of them. Each child will receive a template with the name of a fairy tale and an illustration. Then they will write a limerick for one character.”
“Hey, that’s a great follow-up to our fairy tales unit,” Mr. Grow replied.
The student teacher took a look at the page for Cinderella. Five lines provided guidance for writing the poem. “I bet they’d like to color these,” he said. “As a matter of fact, these will make a great bulletin board.”
“Ready to teach?” Ms. Sneed asked.
“Fun poetry activities like these make me enjoy teaching,” said Ms. Sneed. “And with the right lesson plans and materials, my day is a little brighter.”