Break Into Song to Write Rhyming Poetry
by Timothy Tocher

The easiest way to learn something new is to base it on something you already know. Many students think writing rhythmic, rhyming poetry is a hard, but they like to sing songs that rhyme and have rhythm. Here’s how you can use familiar tunes to help you write poetry.

Sing, "Row, row, row your boat." Notice how all the words have one beat or syllable? Next, write down as many one-syllable action verbs as you can: ride, walk, run, jump, etc. Now take one of those verbs and create a line of poetry in the same style as "Row, row, row your boat." Here are some examples:

Ride, ride, ride your bike
Walk, walk, walk the dog
Drink, drink, drink your milk

Continue this process until you have an entire poem based on "Row Your Boat." As you write, keep singing, humming, or thinking about the song. This will help you figure out what words need to rhyme in your poem, and it will also help you figure out the rhythm of your poem.

What are some other good tunes to use? I’ve had success with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." My students have asked to be taken out to the "bookstore," "arcade," "state park," "playground," and "food court."

It’s been a long time since many Americans could truthfully sing "I’ve Been Working on the Railroad," but you probably still know the song. If you base a poem on that song, before you know it, you’ll be "building with your Legos," "playing with your best friend," or even "writing silly verses" all the live-long day. Here’s an example:

I’ve been writing silly verses,
all the live-long day.
I’ve been writing silly verses,
having fun in ELA.

Here’s a poem Bruce Lansky based on a song:

Class Dismissed
(sing to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic")

We have broken all the blackboards
so the teachers cannot write.
We have painted all the toilets black
and all the lockers white.

We have torn up all the math books
and we’ve locked the school’s front door.
There won’t be school no more.

Glory, glory hallelujah!
School is closed now, what’s it to ya?
There won’t be no more homework
and there won’t be no more tests.
There won’t be school no more.

© 1997 Bruce Lansky, reprinted from No More Homework! No More Tests! published by Meadowbrook Press

So loosen up your vocal cords, and learn how easy it can be to write rhythmic, rhyming poetry.


Text © by Timothy Tocher. Text reprinted by permission of the author. Any copying or use of text without consent is unlawful.

Permission is given for individual school classes to use this lesson and to make as many copies of the lesson as are needed for the students’ use. All other reproduction is prohibited under penalty of law. For use outside individual classes, please All rights reserved.

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