How to Write a Newfangled Yankee Doodle Poem
 
by Bruce Lansky
 

Imagine that Yankee Doodle goes into the stable to saddle up his pony one morning so he can ride to town, but his pony has lost a shoe. So Yankee Doodle’s got to find a new way to get to town.

Let your imagination go wild. See how many two-syllable words you can come up with that Yankee Doodle can ride to town or take to town with him. For example, he could ride a monkey, a chicken, a turkey, a rabbit, or a rocket. Or he could take a blankey or a Visa with him.

Once you’ve come up with a way for Yankee Doodle to get to town, you’ve got to change the story around a little to make your new rhyme work. For example:

    Yankee Doodle’s Monkey Ride

    Yankee Doodle went to town (A)
    riding on a monkey. (B)
    He had to take a shower quick, (C)
    because he smelled so funky. (B)

    © Bruce Lansky, reprinted from My Dog Ate My Homework, published by Meadowbrook Press.

Notice that the last word in the second line, "monkey," rhymes with the last word in the fourth line, "funky." The rhyme pattern of this poem is A (town), B (monkey), C (quick), B (funky).

If you want Yankee Doodle to ride to town on a rabbit, you need to find a new third line and a new fourth line that ends in a word that rhymes with "rabbit." How about "habit"? Let’s see if we can make up a little story that ends in "habit," so that the rhyme pattern of the new poem will be A, B, C, B.

    Yankee Doodle On A Rabbit

    Yankee Doodle went to town (A)
    riding on a rabbit. (B)
    He rode around in circles (C)
    ‘cause it got to be a habit. (B)

    © Bruce Lansky

You could have Yankee Doodle ride to town with a blankey (Every time he had to sneeze/he used it as a hankie.) or he could even ride to France with a golden Visa (But he could not afford to buy/Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.)

You could have Mrs. Doodle ride to town on a gator (She didn’t tip the gator/so the hungry gator ate ’er.) or on a spider (She sprayed herself with bug spray/so the spider wouldn’t bite ‘er.)

The adventures that Yankee Doodle and his mother can have are limited only by your imagination and your ability to tell a funny little story in rhythm and rhyme. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about rhythm. Here’s what you need to know:

After you’ve written your new version of "Yankee Doodle," sing it out loud. If the new words don’t fit comfortably, then you probably have too many or two few syllables. Add a few or subtract a few, as the case may be, and see if it sounds better when you sing it.

If you’re curious about rhythm and want to know more, try singing the original "Yankee Doodle" using "DUM" for all the accented or stressed syllables and "da" for all the unaccented or unstressed syllables. You’ll find it goes like this:

    DUM da DUM da DUM da da,
    DUM da DUM da DUM da.
    DUM da DUM da DUM da da,
    da DUM da DUM da DUM da.

Now see if your new version of "Yankee Doodle" has the same rhythm (DUM da) pattern. That is, substitute "DUM" for all the accented or stressed syllables and "da" for all the unaccented or unstressed syllables.

 

If you are interested in inviting Bruce Lansky to your school, click here!