Poetry and the Possibility of Language

4. Deconstructing Mentor Texts: Examining Rhythm and Rhyme

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To understand how poets use rhyme and rhythm
  • To use the poetic structures studied in mentor texts in my own writing

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can identify examples of rhyme, alliteration, assonance and consonance
  • I can use rhyme and rhythm in my writing

This stage focuses on rhyming patterns and how the sound and syllable structure of a poem influences the reader and helps to carry meaning.  Students will analyse a bush ballad, identifying language features and rhyme. They will then take a closer look at sound patterns exploring alliteration, assonance and consonance.

It is strongly recommended that teachers review all suggested stimulus texts prior to their use to ensure their appropriateness and to enable rich, respectful discussion. For guidance on text selection refer to the Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

Introduce a selection of rhyming poems to students, for example, Homework! Oh Homework and Mulga Bill’s Bicycle. Present videos of poets reading their work, such as Post, accompanied by the transcript where possible. 

Read rhyming poems with the class and discuss the sound features. Ask students what they notice about the sound of each poem. Can they recognise the rhyming patterns? Can they distinguish a rhythmic pattern?

Provide a transcript of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle and ask students to read the poem with a partner or in a small group. Read the poem to the class. Ask students when they think this poem may have been written. You may wish to provide students with some historical and social context when discussing the poem.  

Ask students to consider the following questions as they read the text. 

  • What is the first thing you notice about this poem?
  • How might you describe the mood or tone of this poem?
  • Are there any words that you are not familiar with, or that are used in odd or unusual ways?
  • Look at the punctuation. Is there anything unusual about it? What does it tell us about the poem?
  • What is the sentence or line rhythm like?  Short and choppy?  Long and flowing? Does the rhythm of the poem build or change?
  • How might the poet be wanting us to react or think about the characters in the poem?
  • Who speaks in the poem? Who are they talking to?
  • How does the character of Mulga Bill develop throughout the poem? What sort of a character do you imagine him to be?
  • Does the narrator of the poem have a viewpoint? What might that viewpoint be?
  • Are there any expressions or sayings in the poem that you could imagine people using in everyday speech?
  • Are there any similes, metaphors or figures of speech?
  • What might you need to know to understand and appreciate this poem?

These questions could be divided among small groups and the thinking shared in a collective discussion. A pinwheel discussion protocol could be used to encourage all students to participate. 

After discussing the meaning and general structure of the poem, draw attention to the rhyme and rhythm of the poem. Ask students to underline the rhyming words and count the syllables in each line. Invite students to perform stanzas from the poem, emphasising the rhythmic and rhyming pattern of each line, as well as using expression and tone to carry the meaning of the text.

Present students with a rap version of the poem and invite discussion about how different performance techniques might alter the effect of the poem for the reader.

Enable students to identify rhyming and rhythmic patterns by inviting them to participate in a guided reading group, reading and discussing the poems on the student handout, Rhyme and Rhythm patterns, available in the Materials and texts section above. Students could also perform poems by choral reading.

1. Writing task

Tell students that they are going to write a nonsense poem using a rhyming pattern. Share examples with the students, for example, the work of Edward Lear and Spike Milligan. Discuss the rhythmic and rhyme pattern used in these short poems and limericks. 

Use modelled or shared writing strategies to compose humorous poems with students. For example:

Twas Sally Sprite from Timbuctoo

That thought she’d try her luck

At twirling round the mulberry tree

While trying not to chuck

Invite students to suggest alternate stanzas beginning with the lines,

Twas _________________ from ___________________

That _______________________________

Explain that the last line of a rhyming poem can often let a poem down and you should never use a word that doesn’t really fit. The trick is to always think of the last line first.

Brainstorm humorous themes or characters for the writing task. List student suggestions on the board or on a poster for later use.

Choose one of the suggestions and write it on the board as two lines, with the first line introducing the character and the second introducing the theme or problem, for example: 

Every night young Sally Sprite 

Refused to go to bed.

Ask the students to work in pairs to brainstorm words that will rhyme with bed, and then to develop lines that would complete the poem in an amusing way, for example:

She preferred to watch the evening news

While standing on her head.

Support students to choose a theme for their poem and then to work independently to create either a four-line rhyming stanza, or limerick.

Enable students who may require additional assistance by providing a scaffolded poem structure. For example, suggest they write an additional stanza for the poem, Please Mrs Butler.

Extend students to use alternative rhyme schemes by suggesting they write four-line stanzas with different rhyming patterns. They could also develop additional stanzas, continuing the theme, rhyme and rhythm pattern.

Suggest that students illustrate their poems and invite them to read their poems to their classmates.  The student work could be collated into a class anthology.

2. A Closer Look at Rhyme

Display a copy of As I watch by Steven Camden, and play the audio of the poet reading the poem.

Ask students to identify rhyming patterns in the poem. You may also want to spend time exploring the context and style of ‘As I Watch’, the setting, the lineation and the use of imagery.

Students may quickly decide that there are no rhyming words in the poem. Suggest they look for other ways that the poet is using sound to carry the poem. Explain that there are other sound devices poets use, such as alliteration, assonance, where similar vowel sounds are repeated, and consonance, the repetition of consonant sounds within words.

Discuss Camden's use of sound devices in his poem and ask students to identify: 

  • examples of alliteration
  • examples of assonance
  • examples of consonance.

Ask students how they think the sound patterns in the poem help develop its mood and impact. Discuss how these devices make the poetry more appealing and add to the imagery of the poem.

Extend student understanding of these poetic devices by suggesting they re-read Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, listing examples of alliteration, assonance and consonance used by Patterson.

Ask students to return to the list of possible humorous themes or topics. Ask them to work on the same theme, or to choose a new topic and write another poem using some of the sound devices they have examined.

Before writing, encourage students to brainstorm vocabulary about their chosen topic. Students could create a visual representation of their brainstorm using digital tools.               

Encourage students to read their drafts aloud, to revise, edit and illustrate their work when completed. 

Provide students with a checklist to self-assess their work, for example that the poem: 

  • makes sense
  • develops an idea 
  • uses rhyme, alliteration, assonance or consonance
  • has a sense of rhythm.

Celebrate the work by encouraging students to perform their poems to their peers.  

Use the warm and cool feedback protocol to promote peer to peer assessment. Warm feedback may include comments about where the work has met the identified goals, for example, students may comment on the effective use of poetic devices. Cool feedback offers ideas or suggestions to strengthen and clarify ideas. The ‘audience members’ share and discuss their feedback while the presenter listens and takes notes. 

Enable students to provide warm and cool feedback by providing sentence stems. For example:

  • I really liked when you…
  • When I listened to your work, I imagined …
  • Have you thought about …?
  • I didn’t quite understand what you meant why …
  • Maybe you could try …

Provide opportunities for students to revise their work based on the peer feedback.

Ahlberg, A., 1983. Please Mrs Butler. [Online]
Available at: https://childrens.poetryarchive.org/poem/please-mrs-butler/
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Best Poems Encyclopedia, 2020. Spike Milligan. [Online]
Available at: https://www.best-poems.net/spike_milligan/index.html
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Camden, S., 2018. As I watch. [Online]
Available at: https://childrens.poetryarchive.org/poem/as-i-watch/
[Accessed 28 June 2022].

Into Film Shorts, 2019. The Quangle Wangle's Hat - Runner UP of the Film of the Month December 2018. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZgC6EvwDzs
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Lear, E., 1887. The Book of Nonsense. [Online]
Available at: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Nonsense
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Literary Devices, n.d. Quatrain. [Online]
Available at: https://literarydevices.net/quatrain/
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Naomi X, 2013. Mulga Bill's Bicycle (Rap). [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMWd1TfA_do
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Paterson, A. B., 1896. Mulga Bill's Bicycle. [Online]
Available at: https://www.best-poems.net/banjo_paterson/mulga_bills_bicycle.html
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Paterson, A. B., 1933. Weary Will. [Online]
Available at: https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/paterson-a-b-banjo/poems/weary-will-0023003
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Prelutsky, J., n.d. Homework! Oh, Homework. [Online]
Available at: https://internetpoem.com/jack-prelutsky/homework-oh-homework-poem/
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Rooney, R., 2020. Post. [Online]
Available at: https://clpe.org.uk/videos/video/rachel-rooney-post
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

The Curators of the University of Missouri, 2018. Pinwheel discussions. [Online]
Available at: https://sites.google.com/a/emints.org/cooperative-learning-strategies/pinwheel-discussions
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Wikipedia, 2020. Mulga Bill's Bicycle. [Online]
Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulga_Bill%27s_Bicycle
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Word Art, 2020. Word Cloud Art Creator. [Online]
Available at: https://wordart.com/create
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

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