Literature can be tough to decipher, and poetry especially can confuse and intimidate students. One way to overcome that fear is to relate poetry to music. Song writers understand poetry, so the lyrics fit the beat of the music. Here's a fun way to learn about rhyme in songs and poetry, and to get your kids writing some poetry of their own!
What You Do:
- Have your child play one of his or her favorite songs, and write down the lyrics, trying to make line breaks where it sounds like the singer is pausing for breath. If necessary, look up the lyrics online or in the CD sleeve.
- Read the written lyrics, and notate the rhyme structure. It's easy! To determine the rhyme scheme of a poem or song lyrics, look at the last word of each line and letter them beginning with “a.” When a line rhymes with a previous line, it will have the same letter. For example, this is a section from Hannah Montana's “Nobody's Perfect”:
- jam (a)
- I'm gonna make a plan (a)
- It might be crazy (b)
- I do it anyway (b)
- No way to know for sure (c)
- I figure how to cure (c)
- I'm patchin' up the holes (d)
- But then it overflows (d)
- If I'm not doin' too well (e)
- Why be so hard on myself (e)
Some of the words, such as the ones marked “e,”don't quite rhyme (“well” would rhyme better with “fell” or “sell”), but they rhyme well enough to count. These rhymes are called “slant rhymes” - they're not a perfect fit, but they get the job done.
- Once your child understands the concept, it's time to introduce a few classic poetic structures. Many kinds of poems follows strict guidelines, like limericks and sonnets. These rely not only on rhyme, but also on the “meter” (rhythmic structure). But to keep things simple, here's a rundown on the rhyme structure of the limerick and sonnet. A limerick is a five line poem with an a-a/b-b/a rhyme structure. For instance, take this one from Edward Lear:
There was an Old Man with a beard (a)
Who said, 'It is just as I feared! (a)
Two Owls and a Hen (b)
Four Larks and a Wren (b)
Have all built their nests in my beard!' (a);
A sonnet is a poetic form that Shakespeare used often. From the Italian for “little song,” it has a strict 14-line rhyme scheme that looks like this: a-b-a-b/c-d-c-d/e-f-e-f/g-g. For a compendium of Shakespeare's sonnets, click here.
- It's time to get writing! Challenge your child to come up with their own poems, and encourage them to follow a rhyme structure. They can be as silly or as serious as they want. They can even sing their poems into songs. After all, music is poetry!
Kelly Saunier has been teaching middle school English for five years. Currently she serves as a sponsor for her school's Drama Club, Builders Club, and Junior Forensics Tournament.