Teaching Rhyming Poetry for Kids – Rhythm and Rhyme

Rhyming poetry is the first type of poem I teach to my kids. Once they understand simple couplets, they can also write their own. After that, we move to more difficult rhyme schemes.

Ms. Sneed Prepares for Teaching Rhyming Poetry

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat at the side table with her student teacher. “In our next unit,” she said, “we’ll study types of poems. To kick it off, we’ll work on rhyming poetry.”

Mr. Grow looked a little uneasy. “Unfortunately,” he said, “I’m not very good with poems.”

“Have no fear!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed. “We’ll start with some easy couplets. Then we’ll crank it up a bit. In no time, you’ll be an expert poet.” Then she winked, and her student teacher looked slightly relieved.

“Before we plan, I’ll review basic elements of poetry with you.” As she spoke, Ms. Sneed pulled out a poetry anchor chart. She pointed to the terms as she reviewed them:

  • verse – one line of poetry
  • stanza – group of verses
  • rhythm – beats or stressed syllables
  • meter – pattern of stressed syllables
  • rhyme – syllables that sound similar

Now Mr. Grow looked much more relieved. “You make it so easy,” he said.

Ms. Sneed smiled. “Yep. That’s what good teachers do. First, they deconstruct the learning goal. Then they scaffold learning so everyone understands.”

The Easiest Rhyming Poetry – Short Couplets

Ms. Sneed grabbed a set of poems from her teaching bag. Then she continued. “As I said, we’ll begin with couplets. Just two verses that rhyme.”

Identifying Rhyme

She slid a copy of “The Arrow and the Song” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow toward Mr. Grow. “Although some think it too sophisticated, I like to use classic rhyming poetry by famous poets. In this poem, for example, each stanza contains two couplets.”

Next, Ms. Sneed pulled some highlighters and colored pens from her bag. “Let me illustrate.” She read the first two verses aloud:

I shot an arrow into the air.
It fell to earth, I knew not where;

Picking up an orange highlighter, she shaded the words air and where. “See? For couplets, two consecutive verses rhyme.”

Then she wrote capital A‘s next to those lines. “Since these two verses rhyme, we label them A. furthermore, any other verses in the poem that rhyme with them can also be labeled A.

Next, she picked up a blue highlighter and shaded the words sight and flight. “Another couplet,” she said, marking them with B‘s.

“Okay, I get it,” said Mr. Grow. “Will we have the kids do this too?”

Ms. Sneed nodded. “You betcha.”

Begin teaching rhyming poetry with short couplets. This classic poem, "The Arrow and the Song," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow works well.

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Identifying Rhythm

“While we teach rhyming poetry, we’ll also work on rhythm,” Ms. Sneed continued. She read the first four verses aloud again, emphasizing each stressed syllable. Then she read them again and clapped for each stressed syllable. Finally, she read them again. This time, though, she placed a slash above each.

“I assume you were modeling that for me,” Mr. Grow said.

Again, she nodded. “Exactly. Tomorrow, you’ll use this process to teach with this first poem.”

Rhyming Poetry with Longer Verses

The next afternoon, Ms. Sneed and Mr. Grow again sat at the side table. “Great job teaching couplets today,” said the mentor. “In the next activity, kids will simply work with couplets that have longer verses.”

As she slid a copy of “My Shadow” toward her student teacher, Ms. Sneed also read the first stanza aloud:

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

Handing the highlighters to Mr. Grow, she added, “Please highlight the rhyming words in the first stanza.” Quickly, he highlighted the end words with no problem.

Next, she handed Mr. Grow a pen. “Now I’ll read again and clap. As I read, you’ll mark the stressed syllables.” Slowly, they worked together, and the student teacher marked the rhythm.

Sighing deeply, Mr. Grow said, “Alright, I think I can do it.”

Continue teaching rhyming poetry with longer couplets. This poem, "My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson, will challenge students to find rhythm in longer verses.

Writing Couplets

As usual, the next afternoon, the two teachers moved to the side table at the end of the day. “Hey,” said Mr. Grow, “that wasn’t too bad! Maybe I’ll be a poet after all.”

“Funny you should mention that,” said Ms. Sneed. “Tomorrow, our kids will write their own rhyming poetry. Last week, I asked them to bring in junk from home. You know, collections from the bottoms of their toy boxes or junk drawers. We’ll use them to create our own collection of I Spy poems.”

As Ms. Sneed walked over to her bookshelf, she continued talking. “Actually, this process will take several days. First, kids will create collages with their junk. Second, we’ll walk around with our phones and snap pictures. Third, we’ll place the images on Google Slides. Then, the next day, kids will write corresponding poetry.”

She returned to the table with a stack of I Spy books. “Before they begin writing, you can choose poems from these books to explore. As you read, you’ll ask kids to determine the rhythm and rhyme schemes.”

Once kids understand couplets, ask them to write their own. Writing "I Spy" poems lets them apply familiar rhythm and rhyme schemes.

“What if kids have trouble rhyming?” Mr Grow asked.

Ms. Sneed’s eyes lit up. “Thanks for asking!” she explained. “I found a free app called RhymeZone that can help them. Fortunately, kids can simply type in a word. Then it provides rhymes, near rhymes, and more!”

“That,” said Mr. Grow, “will save a lot of time.”

“Right. For the kids – and the teachers.”

Exploring Alternate Rhyme

The following week, the two teachers once again met to talk about rhyming poetry.

“Wow,” said Mr. Grow. “That was a blast. I don’t know who enjoyed the I Spy project more – the kids or me.”

“Wait,” said Ms. Sneed. “Does this mean that you’re actually enjoying our unit on poems?” She smiled slyly at him.

Then, without further ado, she pulled out a new poem. “You’ll use ‘The Brook’ by Alfred Tennyson for tomorrow’s lesson.” Again, she read the first stanza aloud:

I chatter, chatter, as I flow

To join the brimming river;

For men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever.

“Since you’re getting to be a pro,” she continued, “we’ll buzz right through this.”

Using an orange highlighter, she shaded flow in the first verse and go in the third. “Alternate rhyme,” she said. “See? Every other verse.” She highlighted river in the second verse and forever in the fourth in blue.”

Next, as she read aloud again, she marked the rhythm.

Mr. Grow nodded, signaling that he was good to go.

“Alright,” said Ms. Sneed. “In addition to structural elements, why don’t you mention figurative language too.”

The student teacher looked carefully at the poem. “I see onomatopoeia in the first verse: chatter. And maybe here in the fifth stanza too: murmur.”

“Great, never miss an opportunity for double duty teaching,” said Ms. Sneed.

Once kids master couplets, let them explore alternate rhyming patterns. This poem, "The Brook" by Alfred Tennyson, has an ABAB scheme.

Longer, Lively Rhyming Poetry

“Let’s also talk about literature for the next day.” She pulled out a two-page poem, “Little Orphant Annie.”

“I know this poem,” said Mr. Grow. “It’s so much fun to read aloud.”

“Then by all means, do!” his mentor responded. “It wraps up our unit on rhyming poetry. The author is known as the Hoosier poet. Since he lived in our state, Indiana, we will study more of James Whitcomb Riley’s work later in the year.”

When teaching rhyming poetry, throw in some longer, lively poems. "Little Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley is a fun choice.

Enjoy Teaching

When the two teachers next met at the side table, Mr. Grow let out a satisfied sigh. “Never in a million years,” he said, “did I think I’d enjoy teaching elements of poetry. But it was fantastic!”

 

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