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Rhyme Within Reason

Poetry is an extremely flexible writing form. It is easily weaved into our writing programs across the year as opposed to just being pigeon holed into a specific unit of work. Poetry offers a unique response to literature -fiction or non fiction. Such is the flexible nature of poetry.

That our classrooms are filled with poetry that is enjoyable to listen to or fun to read is important, but it may not necessarily provide the best models for writing. From an early age children have much exposure to a significant amount of rhyming verse. However, when young writers attempt to create their own rhyming verses it often sounds forced or clunky to the ear. They begin to suffer ‘ the moon in June with a spoon ‘ syndrome!

The writer becomes more focused on findings words that rhyme rather than attending to meaning. The end result often has little or nothing to say. It’s ho hum. We need to direct them towards an understanding that word choice is critical to being an effective writer.

As an alternative bring a range of poetry forms into your classroom, which provide alternative models of poetry. This will increase the choice for students. Immersion in a range of poetry forms lays a foundation for writing options. By choices, I mean more than haiku or acrostic poetry!
Try this!
A simple three line question structure that guarantees success
 Where are you?
 What are you doing?
 What are you thinking or wondering about?

To assist them to become aware of word choice try synonym substitution with a known poem:

This is just to say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

Such exposure requires explicit teaching to get students to look closely at word choice, use of repetition, voice, literary elements such as simile and metaphor, economy of words, line breaks, rhythm etc.

There will be those students who still lean towards rhyming verse. If that is the case teach them how to begin with something manageable such as rhyming couplets.

As I was traveling to New York
I met a man who loved to………

He talked to me of many things
Apples, apes and angel’s ………

His words were like a sweet refrain
And now they’re deep inside my …….

As student become more comfortable with the structure you can remove some of the scaffolding. E.g.

• Challenge them to provide the entire second line
• Challenge them to write both lines
• Challenge to write a four line stanza

When choosing mentor texts for poetry, tap into what kids enjoy. Make the connection by selecting poetry that provides a range of emotional triggers from giggles to grief. Look for poetry that incorporates wonderful language that celebrates words and above all connects the reader to the wider world. Poetic forms abound, and while rhyme is not a crime- you do have choices.


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