Rhythm in poetry

Home learning focus

To understand the use of rhythm within poetry.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos exploring rhythm and the effect it can have on a reader

  • three activities

Learn

Rhythm can be described as the beat and pace of a poem. It is created by the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line or verse.

Watch this short clip to find out how and why poets use rhythm.

Find out how to understand rhythm in poetry.

Some syllables seem to have a long or short sound when they are pronounced.

Take the word, table. The first part of the word is emphasised when we say it.

Ta- ble

The second part of the word sounds shorter.

This rhythmic structure, of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry, is also referred to as metre.

Poets make use of natural stresses in language in order to create rhythm in poetry. Rhythm can help to strengthen the meaning of words and ideas in a poem. It can be helpful to think of rhythm in poetry as being like a beat in music.

Practise

Activity 1

Take this short quiz to see what you've remembered about rhythm in poetry.

Activity 2

Haiku poetry consists of three lines per poem. On each line, there are a set number of syllables.

Line one – must contain five syllables.
Line two – must contain seven syllables.
Line three – must contain five syllables.

Write a series of haiku poems (aim to write more than three), selecting your themes from the topics below:

  • the seasons

  • friends or family

  • favourite food

  • things you are grateful for

  • fears and phobias

  • current affairs and issues

Top tip

Before writing any of your haiku poems, select a topic and write down as many ideas as possible surrounding that topic. Then, highlight the ideas you want to include. Draft your haiku as many times as you need and remember to count your syllables as you go.

Example

A haiku about Summer.

A sweltering heat – five syllables.

Followed by an ocean breeze – seven syllables.

Bringing joy to all – five syllables.

Activity 3

Click on the image below to take a look at an activity sheet from The Poetry Society - guiding you through creating your own nonsense poem inspired by the work of poet Edward Lear.

Start at page three and follow the instructions on the activity sheet.

You can print this activity sheet or write your answers on a piece of paper.

Travelling with Edward Lear

Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt about using rhythm in poetry.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you understand structure and patterns in poetry.

There's more to learn

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