Rhythm in poetry

Home learning focus

To learn about rhythm in poetry.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos to help you understand rhythm in poetry

  • two activities


Poetry has a lot in common with music: rhythm is important to both. Rhythm can be described as the beat and pace of a poem.

Watch this short clip to see some examples of poetic rhythms.

Watch to see how poetry, just like music, has its own rhythm.

Rhythm is created by the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line or verse. This is called the metre.

One of the most frequently used patterns of metre is iambic pentameter and it is very common in William Shakespeare’s sonnets.

An iamb is a metrical foot that is made up of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one - da-DUM.

The iambic pentameter has five stresses.

For example, in Sonnet 104, Shakespeare begins:

To me fair friend you never can be old,

This rhythm works well because it mirrors the natural beat of spoken language.

Repetition can also be used to create rhythms in poetry. Rhythm can help to strengthen the meaning of words and reinforce ideas in a poem.

Watch the following clip in which Anthony Horowitz discusses how the musician and poet Kate Tempest blends poetry and music in her performances.

Watch Kate Tempest use rhythm to enhance the stories she tells in her performance poetry.


Activity 1

Check your understanding by completing this quick quiz.

Activity 2

Find a copy of the lyrics from one of your favourite songs and then read them as you listen to the song.

Can you see which words are stressed and unstressed? Do the lyrics follow any patterns? Do the lyrics use repetition to create rhythm?

Replace some of the words in the song – you could make a funny version if you like!

Top tip!

The words you choose must fit the rhythm of the song, so think about picking words that have a similar syllable count or replace words with a similar rhyme.

Activity 3

Click on the image below to download an activity from Teachit.

Begin at the section on nonsense poems and, using the shape and rhythm of the poem, replace some of the words written by Lewis Caroll to create your own version of his poem 'Jabberwocky'.

Rhythm, movement and sound in poetry activities

Where next?

In this session you have learnt about how rhythm is used in poetry.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you with poetry.

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