Narrative poems

Learning focus

To recognise narrative poems and use them as a model for your own writing.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos

  • four activities

Learn

Narrative means 'story'. A narrative poem is therefore a poem that tells a story.

Watch this video to learn more about narrative poems and the features they contain.

What are narrative poems?

Features of a narrative poem

  • Narrative poems tell stories using rhythm and rhyme.

  • Rhythm and rhyme give the narrative in the poem energy and make it exciting to read.

  • Some narrative poems contain repetition (words that are repeated). This adds extra rhythm and helps to make the poem more predictable and easier to memorise.

Stanzas

Poems are made up of stanzas. These are a group of lines within a poem, similar to a paragraph.

  • Just like a paragraph, they contain related information and introduce new thoughts or ideas.

  • A poem can contain a number of stanzas. Different stanzas are separated by leaving a blank line between them.

  • Like in all poems, stanzas can rhyme, but they don't have to.

Practise

You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Watch this fantastic performance of a narrative poem called 'Chocolate Cake' by Michael Rosen.

'Chocolate Cake' by Michael Rosen

On your first watch - sit back and enjoy it!

On your second watch - make notes about:

  • what you enjoyed
  • what you would improve
  • examples of repetition
  • examples of rhyme
  • examples of onomatopoeia
    (words that sound like their meaning, such as crash or crunch)

Activity 2

Read the poem 'The Owl and the Pussycat' by Edward Lear.

Is this a good example of a narrative poem? Why/Why not? Write down your thoughts and opinions and discuss them with someone else.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh! let us be married; too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible* spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

*runcible is a nonsense word made up by Edward Lear

Now have a go at this quiz!

Activity 3

Over to you! Can you write your very own narrative poem?

  • Tell a story in your narrative poem, but try to use rhythm, rhyme and repetition too.

  • Separate each new idea within your poem by using stanzas and adding a blank line between each one.

  • Remember, it’s OK to make mistakes! Experimenting with words, editing and redrafting are all part of the writing process.

Top tip!

If you're struggling for inspiration, try writing about one of these ideas:

  • an exciting trip you've been on
  • a time you got into trouble
  • an imaginary adventure to a far-away planet
  • a time when you had to be really brave

Activity 4

Once you have written your fantastic narrative poem, try performing it to a member of your family or a friend – like Micheal Rosen does!

Top tip!

For some ideas on how to perform poems in an interesting or exciting way, watch this video to get some advice from the poet Joseph Coelho.

Playing with words with poet Joseph Coelho.

Where next?

In this lesson you have learned to recognise narrative poems and use them as a model for your own writing.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you to understand more about writing poetry:

There's more to learn

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