Monday, March 04, 2013

Tool #6: Rhyme and Form #1: Couplets (Post #9)

Welcome back to my blog post series: Journey into Poetry Land. This is post #9 in the series. Post #1 is on the All Things Upper Elementary collaborative blog of which I am a contributor. Read it by clicking HERE. The rest are here on my own blog. Just search for "Journey into Poetry Land" on the left side in the search box!
And now... on to post #9!

Wahoo! Can I tell you how excited I was when I realized that I was on my final "tools of poetry" lesson! I was getting anxious to move the students forward and into the forms of poetry where they would really get the "hands on" experience I was hoping to give them. Granted, as I reflected back over my lessons, I realized that I had done a good job of giving them good foundation of poetry. I also noticed, that I had provided many fun and interesting lessons along the way.

My lesson plan included a very brief review of rhyming words after which I would spend a majority of the time studying the first form: Couplets! Easy enough. After all, rhyming is a piece of cake for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders....right? right?!?! WRONG!

I was blown away by the number of students who could not rhyme AT ALL!  Let me back up a little. I had the students write "TOOL #6: RHYME" at the top of the next clean journal page. We wrote a definition (as seen from a screen shot of my SMART board file above). Then I listed a word and had them find more words that rhymed. The word "cat" seemed to go okay. They were doing well until I challenged them to find a rhyming word that was more than three letters long. It got so quiet you could hear crickets! I WAS ASTOUNDED! How could this be? After all, many of the students were good readers!


After spending nearly 30 minutes just discussing what makes a rhyme and rhyming words, I decided to start our expedition into Couplets. I reasoned that they would still be practicing rhyming, and it would be in context and might make more sense.

So, next clean page, "FORM #1: COUPLETS" written at the top. We defined the form in their journals- two lines, same number of syllables (for which we had to stop and practice those as well- YIKES!!! How could these students not have these basic skills down????) and the last words rhyme. So, an AA pattern.

I read them several examples of couplets from our mentor texts and then I gave them a copy of a page from Scholastic's Rhyming Dictionary (which by the way is a total GEM for any writing classroom! I currently have 4 copies and think I will be investing in several more before next year's poetry unit.) I then told them to use the list of words (thinking this would help) and write a poem. I even handed out a form that walked them step-by-step through the process. They were stumped. frozen. Baffled.

Pause the scene- have you had these days??? The days where you begin to think that you are NOT a very good teacher? Well, this day was one of the worst. I was totally stumped as to why they were confused.

Resume scene:
I stopped the class and read several more mentor text examples. I then started a poem on the board for us to do together (should have done this BEFORE pushing them "out of the nest". I gave them the line, "I bought a bike, I was brand new".

We counted the syllables- 8. So, I challenged them to write a second sentence that would continue the thought, have 8 syllables, and rhyme with "new". Granted that is a pretty big request, but I had them working with partners and as a whole class. I knew I was in trouble when a student offered this as the final line, "And rode it down the street!". He was so proud of himself, and I was beyond done for the day. Ha ha.

I finished the line for them: "And rode it down the avenue.".

The room filled with Ohhhhh's. I know that it sounds like am exaggerating, but I promise that not more than 20 of my 60 students really did (or still does) have a good grasp on rhyming. I think my first mistake was giving them a list of rhyming words, and my second was... well, moving on before we had rhyming down.

I knew that this would be a 2-day lesson. And it was. On the second day, we simply viewed more mentor texts and practiced and practiced writing couplets. After the 2-day adventure, I felt a little better about couplets. I was so frazzled, I didn't even take any pictures of student samples to show you. Sigh...

The student's homework for day 1 was a collection of Haiku poems, and day 2 was The Village Blacksmith (the one I had used for my lesson on Sensory Imagery).

Well, thankfully it got better from here (at least for a couple of forms). So...
Until my next post on poetry-
Mr. Hughes


  1. It's funny, my fourth graders gave me 3 letter words when I asked for rhyme last week too! Couplets are HARD, and not in our curriculum, so TBH I don't bother requiring them to write them anymore (although I do read them aloud).

    When I did teach couplets a few years back I focused more on meter, and I had them draw 2 rows of 10 short lines spread out on their paper. I modeled having a different syllable on each line. If a kid put a word like reply on one line, I'd just x out the "ly" and draw another little line separate and write it on there for them. That helped most kids out.

    Other things I've done to differentiate is to brainstorm words within word families. Sometimes they need to hear a two syllable word from me before they can think of a related one. If you say "rhyme with eat," you'll get answers like meat and seat, but if you say "rhyme with repeat" you'll get complete and receipt).

    And then my final tip for couplets is allow them to be off by one syllable on their first draft. Later on they can identify the adjectives and adverbs, do a whole class share, and then brainstorm synonyms with a different number of syllables and pick the one they need.

    I hope this helps! Like I said, it was a lot of work for something that wasn't even a fourth grade skill, but back when I got to spend a whole month on poetry we had fun with it. :)

    1. Hey Amy,
      Thanks for your thoughtful and useful comment. I really enjoyed reading about how you teach/taught this concept. Next year will now be a much better experience! :) Have a great day.

  2. Fabulous ideas!

    I must remember this series when I teach poetry at the end of the year! Thanks!

    Teaching Maths with Meaning

    1. Alison,
      Thanks for stopping by. I hope that you can find ideas to help you when you teach your unit. It was nice to hear from you again. I hope all is going well! :)


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