Today’s Mini-Lesson Monday is courtesy of guest author Liz Garton Scanlon. Liz is the author of picture books like All the World and Noodle and Lou as well as a brand new middle grade novel, The Great Good Summer. She’s wearing her poet hat for today’s lesson…all about rhyme.
Hi Teacher-Writers! Thanks for letting me join you at Camp today. I want to talk a little bit about rhyme because it’s rich with possibility but oft-misunderstood. Folks either think:
1. It’s super-duper easy (spoiler alert: it’s not) or,
2. It’s way too hard (it’s not that either).
Really, rhyme is a puzzle – tricky but not impossible. So if you’re willing to play along, I’ve got some hints to make writing in rhyme a little more fun and a lot more successful.
1. Rhyme should follow a pattern. If you are going to write a piece of rhyming verse, write pairs of lines that rhyme (couplets: aa/bb/cc/dd/etc) or maybe four lines, wherein every other line rhymes (quatrains: abab/cdcd/efef/etc) or even a whole poem where only every second line rhymes (simple rhymes: ab/cb/db/eb/etc). This pattern is called the rhyme scheme. When you start writing in rhyme, pick a rhyme scheme and stick with it!
2. Rhyme isn’t just about rhyming words – it’s about meter too. If you embed rhyming words in a chunk of text that doesn’t have some predictable rhythmic arrangement, you won’t even hear the rhyme and your work will be for naught! Start by counting the syllables in each line of your rhyming verse. Lines should be fairly regular and should match the rhyme scheme. So, if you’re writing in couplets, each line should have the same syllabic count. If you’re writing in quatrains, each line might be the same, or they might alternate so that the first and third lines match, syllabically, as do the second and fourth. (Note: Counting syllables will get you 80-85% of the way there, rhythmically. If there’s a line that still doesn’t sound right, it’s because the meter is off in one or more words, so even though the number of syllables is right, the emphasis is on the wrong syllable somewhere. The simplest solution for this is choosing a different word!)
3. Rhyme is less important than meaning. Sometimes, because the puzzle of rhyming is so tricky, we say something totally illogical or nonsensical – but darn it, it rhymes! This is really only ok if you’re writing Jabberwocky. In all other cases, you need to find a way to do what the story or poem actually needs. Rhyme is just the vehicle for getting the story told. If you’ve been forced into something that makes no sense, scratch it and start anew. With these hints in mind, here’s today’s assignment:
1. Commit to writing a 12-line rhyming poem or story.
2. Use either 6 couplets (aa/bb/cc/etc) or 3 quatrains (abab/cdcd/efef)
3. After you’ve written the first 2-4 lines, count the syllables. Even them out as necessary and then stick with that count as you finish the piece.
4. Read it over. Does it make sense? Did rhyme force you to do anything you didn’t want to do? Adjust as necessary.
5. Wrap it up. Read it aloud. Read it aloud again. You hear that? You did that!
Nice job, poet!
Note from Kate: Feel like sharing your twelve lines for today? Go ahead & paste in the comments – we promise to be supportive poet-friends!