English KS1 / KS2: Does poetry need to rhyme?
Poet Joseph Coelho explores the benefits and limitations of rhyme in poetry.
Using examples of different rhyming poems, such as limericks and clerihews, Joe shows us how to recognise and implement different rhyming structures in poetry.
He covers how rhyme influences the author's approach to drafting and redrafting; finding the perfect combination of rhyming words takes time and thought.
He introduces homophones and demonstrates how to distinguish them from each other, going on to explain how they can be used to create effective rhymes.
Ideas for the classroom
Key Stage 1 (age 5-7):
Read Hey Let’s Go! by James Carter with the class
Do the children know what rhyme is? What it means when two words rhyme? Explain to the children that they are going to try and work out the words missing from the end of each rhyming couplet; a pair of lines from a poem where the final words of each line rhyme and complete a thought. Here, it is also important to point out that rhyming words are words that sound the same when spoken; they don't necessarily have to be spelt the same.
Read the first couplet, but do not say the last rhyming word. Encourage the children to chime in with the missing word. Can the children use their knowledge of traditional tales to help them guess the words. Does it rhyme? And does it make sense to complete the idea? Read the poem aloud all the way through now, encouraging the children to join in with the rhyming words as they arise.
Provide the children with lots of examples of rhyming poetry, that they can select one from to develop for performance. One of the great things about rhyming poems is that it makes words easier to predict and therefore to learn a poem for performance.
Key Stage 2 (age 7-11):
Read A Little Bit of Food by Joseph Coelho. What do they notice about this poem? What do they notice about the words at the end of the second and fourth lines in every verse? Here, it is also important to point out that rhyming words are words that sound the same when spoken; they don't necessarily have to be spelt the same. What do they like about it? Do they have any questions about the poem? Are any of their favourite foods mentioned, for example? Ask the children about their experiences of rhyming poetry.
Share with the children Clerihews by Roger McGough. Can they remember what a clerihew is from the episode? Look at the poem on the page. What do you notice about the verse? Is there a rhyme structure? How many lines does it have? Explore and experiment with names of different characters and rhyming words to build a rhyming story around the character. Show the children how to work this through. You might want to start by having part of a humorous story in mind, like a gardener who gets stung by a wasp while he is working. Show the children how to add detail and explore how to play with rhyme to tell their story. Work these ideas into a verse following the AABB rhyme pattern required by a clerihew as you go.
Encourage the children to choose a character they could write about and follow the same process, first brainstorming words and phrases, then, using some of these to form some couplets which could be worked into a poem and titled. Encourage the children to read their ideas aloud to see how they work off the page, and whether lines flow and maintain a rhythm before thinking of a title. Give time for the children to perform their own poems to each other.
This short film will be relevant for teaching English at primary school.