Nonsense poetry is a good way of understanding the difference between poetry and prose - the words seem to make sense but actually make none. A well-known nonsense poem, 'On the Ning-Nang-Nong', is recited by its writer, the famous comedian Spike Milligan.

This clip is from:
Smile it could be verse
First broadcast:
8 October 1998

Students could consider the Mother Goose nursery rhyme 'Hey Diddle Diddle'. How important is the sound of the poem compared to the accompanying words? This could extend to a deeper exploration of how nonsense poems are effective, in terms of their rhythm and how using the right number of syllables on each line helps the poet to get a message across even when the poem makes no sense. Challenge students to write their own nonsense poems, taking Mother Goose as the basis and changing the words. Students could write a sensible poem also based on the structure of Mother Goose and apply the same structural rules. Which version do students prefer? Why?