Category: Lessons

Alliteration and Assonance – A Poetry Lesson Plan

This lesson plan uses the poem “My Puppy Punched Me in the Eye” by Kenn Nesbitt, from the book My Hippo Has the Hiccups to demonstrate alliteration and assonance, two common poetic devices that involve repetition of sounds. Students will analyze the poem to find as many examples of alliteration and assonance as they can.

Click here for a printable copy of this lesson plan for use in the classroom.

Alliteration is when a writer repeats the consonant sounds at the beginnings of words. For example, in “My puppy punched me in the eye,” the words “puppy punched” are alliterative because they both begin with “p.”

Assonance is when a writer repeats the vowel sounds in the stressed syllables of words. For example, in the line ”My rabbit whacked my ear,” the words “rabbit whacked” are an example of assonance because they both contain a “short a” sound on the stressed syllable.

Alliteration and assonance do not have to have the same letters; just the same sounds. So for example, “falling phone” is  alliterative and “flying high” is assonant, because they repeat the same sounds even though they don’t repeat the same letters.

Exercise:

  1. Read the following poem.
  2. Underline the alliterative words in each line.
  3. Circle the assonant words in each line.

Hint: Sometimes words can be both alliterative and assonant.

My Puppy Punched Me In the Eye

My puppy punched me in the eye.
My rabbit whacked my ear.
My ferret gave a frightful cry
and roundhouse kicked my rear.

My lizard flipped me upside down.
My kitten kicked my head.
My hamster slammed me to the ground
and left me nearly dead.

So my advice? Avoid regrets;
no matter what you do,
don’t ever let your family pets
take lessons in kung fu.

–Kenn Nesbitt

 

How to Write a Funny List Poem

Shopping List

What is a list poem?

A “list poem” gets its name from the fact that most of the poem is made up of a long list of things.

Two famous list poems are “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” by Jack Prelutsky and “Sick” by Shel Silverstein. You will even find some of my list poems on poetry4kids.com, such as “My Lunch” and “That Explains It!

These are not the only list poems, though. Many children’s poets have written fun list poems, and you can even write your own. This lesson will show you how.

The structure of a list poem

List poems usually have a list in the middle, plus a few lines at the beginning and a few lines at the end. You can think of the beginning and end of a list poem like the top and bottom slices of bread in a sandwich. The list is like the meat or peanut butter or whatever else is between the bread. Picture it like this:

Beginning
List
List
List
List
Ending

List poems often rhyme, and they are usually funny. If you look at poems like Shel Silverstein’s “Sick” or Jack Prelutsky’s “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” you will notice that the lists also include very unusual items. Putting strange, unexpected, or exaggerated things on your list is a good way to make your poem funny.

Getting started

Here are two easy ways to start writing a list poem:

  1. Start with someone else’s beginning and end, but make your own list in the middle.
  2. Start by writing a list of your own, and then write your own beginning and end to go with the list.

You can decide for yourself whether it will be easier to write your own list poem from scratch, or to use someone else’s poem as a starting point.

Starting with someone else’s poem

It’s okay to use someone else’s list poem as the starting point for your own poem. (Just be sure to say your creation was “Based on…” the poem you used.) For example, here is my poem “That Explains It!”:

That Explains It!

I went to the doctor. He x-rayed my head.
He stared for a moment and here’s what he said.
“It looks like you’ve got a banana in there,
an apple, an orange, a peach, and a pear.

I also see something that looks like a shoe,
a plate of spaghetti, some fake doggy doo,
an airplane, an arrow, a barrel, a chair,
a salmon, a camera, some old underwear,
a penny, a pickle, a pencil, a pen,
a hairy canary, a hammer, a hen,
a whistle, a thistle, a missile, a duck,
an icicle, bicycle, tricycle, truck.

with all of the junk that you have in your head
it’s kind of amazing you got out of bed.
The good news, at least, is you shouldn’t feel pain.
From what I can see here you don’t have a brain.”

Notice that this poem begins with the four lines that set up the story, and ends with four lines that make it even funnier. You can use the same beginning and end, if you like, while putting your own list in the middle.
For example, what would the doctor find in your head? Since this list has rhymes at the end of each line, you can start with a few rhymes, like this:

house
mouse
cat
hat

Once you’ve got a few rhymes, you can add as many items as you want, like this:

“I also see something that looks like a house,
a monkey, a meerkat, a mink, and a mouse,
a laptop computer, a boat, and a cat,
an old pair of glasses, a coat, and a hat,

Of course, you don’t have to use my poem; you can use any list poem you like to create your own new list poem, or you can even create one from scratch.

Starting with your own list

If you prefer to write your own list poem from scratch, one easy way is to figure out what you’re going to make a list of. For example, you could make a grocery list, a list of things in your backpack, a list of your favorite sweets, a list of things you want for Christmas, and so on.
Let’s try it with a list of sweets. First let’s try to think of candies and sweets that rhyme.

Nestle’s Crunch
Hawaiian Punch
Dots
Zotz
Tootsie Pops
Lemon drops
Whoppers
Gobstoppers

Now that you’ve got some rhymes, put them into a list, adding a few more items to make the lines each about the same length:

A half a dozen Nestle’s Crunch.
A gallon of Hawaiian Punch.
Some Cracker Jacks. A box of Dots.
Some Pop Rocks and a jar of Zotz.
Reese’s Pieces. Tootsie Pops.
Hershey Kisses. Lemon drops.
Candy Corn, Milk Duds, and Whoppers.
Skittles, Snickers, and Gobstoppers.

Once your rhyming list is done, give it a beginning, an end, and a title and you’re all done.

My Shopping List

My mother said, “Go buy some bread,”
but this is what I got instead.

A half a dozen Nestle’s Crunch.
A gallon of Hawaiian Punch.
Some Cracker Jacks. A box of Dots.
Some Pop Rocks and a jar of Zotz.
Reese’s Pieces. Tootsie Pops.
Hershey Kisses. Lemon drops.
Candy Corn, Milk Duds, and Whoppers.
Skittles, Snickers, and Gobstoppers.
When mother needs things from the store
She never sends me anymore.

And that’s all there is to it. Now it’s your turn. Make a list of animals, friends, monsters, games, foods, places you’d like to go on vacation, or anything else you like, and see if you can turn it into a funny list poem of your own!

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write a Silly Song Parody

How to Write a Silly Song Parody

One of the easiest ways to write a funny poem of your own is to take any song you know – preferably a song that other people know too – and change the words to make your song. When you do this it’s called a “parody” or a “song parody” because it is a humorous imitation of the original song.

The first thing you will need to do to create your own parody is to pick a song. I recommend you choose a well-known children’s song such as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or “I’m a Little Teapot,” or a famous holiday song like “Jingle Bells,” rather than, say, a modern pop song. The reason is that more people will know the original tune, especially adults who may not be familiar with the latest songs on the radio.

Here is a list of songs to choose from (though there are many more than just these that will work well):

  • Oh My Darling, Clementine
  • The Itsy-Bitsy Spider
  • On Top of Old Smokey
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Miss Susie
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  • Yankee Doodle

Rewriting My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

Once you’ve picked a song, you’ll want to take a look at the original lyrics. For example, let’s look at the song “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” The original goes like this:

My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
My Bonnie lies over the sea.
My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
Please bring back my Bonnie to me.

Bring back, bring back,
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me.
Bring back, bring back,
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me.

To change this into a new song, we will want to keep the same rhythm and the same rhyme pattern.  That is, we’ll want to have the second line rhyme with the fourth line, just as in the original. We’ll probably also want to have something or someone lying on top of something or someone else. Let’s just change “Bonnie” and the thing that “Bonnie” is on.

For example, let’s say instead of “My Bonnie” I decide to have “My bunny” lie on top of something. What might that be? Perhaps, my bunny could lie on top of one of my other pets, like this:

My bunny lies over doggy.

Next, I could have my bunny lie on top of something else. Or maybe I could have the dog lie on top of something else, and make a stack of animals, like this:

My bunny lies over my doggy.
My doggie lies over my cat.
My cat is on top of my froggy,
and that’s why my froggy is flat.

Okay, I think that’s pretty funny so I’ll keep it. But now I need to write a chorus to replace “Bring back, bring back.” I’m thinking about how my froggy just got squished by my other pets, and that sounds like a “green splat” to me, so here’s the chorus:

Green splat, green splat,
oh, that’s why my froggy is flat, like that.
Green splat, green splat,
oh, that’s why my froggy is flat.

And, just like that, we’ve got a brand new song parody.

Rewriting Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Let’s try another example. The song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is well known, and was even parodied by Alan Katz in his books Take Me Out of the Bathtub and I’m Still Here in the Bathtub. Let’s see if we can’t make our own version.

First, let’s look at the lyrics to the original song:

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Take me out to the ball game
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don’t care if I ever get back,
‘Cause it’s root, root, root for the home team.
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out
At the old ball game.

To make a parody of this, let’s start by changing the “ball game” to something else. Can you think of some place you’d rather go than to a ball game? In order to keep the original rhythm, it will need to be some place that is still two syllables. What if we went to the movies instead? Then our first two lines might go like this:

Take me out to the movies.
Take me out to a show.

Now I need to say something, maybe about what kind of movies I like. Also, notice that “Cracker Jack” rhymes with “back,” so my next two lines need to rhyme as well.

I like explosions in every scene,
robots and aliens up on the screen.

Hey, I’m liking the way this is sounding… But to finish it off and make it funny, I want to say something about what kind of movies I don’t like. I don’t want to see any mushy love stories, so I’m going to end my song like this:

I like ninjas, pirates, and cowboys,
and giant man-eating plants
There’s just one thing I will not see;
I want no romance!

Notice that I rhymed the words “plants” and “romance” in the same spots where the original song had the words “shame” and “game.” This is because I want to keep the rhyme scheme the same as in the original song.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to make up your own silly song parody. Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Pick a song
  2. Change the first line just enough to make it different but still recognizable
  3. Keep the original rhythm and the original rhyme scheme
  4. Keep on writing and see where it leads you

Want to Read More?

If you would like to read some silly song parodies, there are many kids’ books full of them. Perhaps the most well-known is Alan Katz’ book Take Me Out of the Bathtub: A Silly-Dilly Songbook. Others include Bruce Lansky’s books I’ve Been Burping in the Classroom and Oh My Darling, Porcupine. My books The Tighty-Whitey Spider and Revenge of the Lunch Ladies also include a number of song parodies. Be sure to check a few of these books out of your library and get ready to have lots of fun.

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write a Haiku

It is easy to learn to write a haiku, but it can take a lot of practice to learn how to do it well. This lesson will give you the basics for writing your own haiku. It’s up to you to practice by writing a lot of them so you will get very good at it.

What is a Haiku?

A haiku is an unrhymed three-line poem. It is based on a traditional Japanese poetic form. Though there are different ways to write haiku, the traditional pattern in English is to write the first and last lines with five syllables each, and the middle line with seven syllables. In other words, the pattern of syllables looks like this:

Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables

Here’s another way to visualize the same thing:

1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5

Most often, haiku poems are about seasons or nature, though you can write your own haiku about anything you like. If you don’t want to write about nature, and would prefer to write haiku about candy or sports, that is perfectly okay.

One more thing to keep in mind is that the last line of a haiku usually makes an observation. That is, the third line points out something about the subject you are writing about.

Let’s see how we can put these few rules together get your started writing your own haiku poems.

Haiku About Seasons

Let’s say that you decide to write your haiku about a season. First you will want to select a season: spring, summer, fall, or winter. I’ve decided to write a haiku about winter, and I know that in the last line I will want to make an observation. I want to say that winter is almost here, but we aren’t quite ready for the snow. Maybe it’s that we haven’t raked the leaves off the front lawn and we need to do it soon before it snows.

I want to say all of this, but I want to do it in a pattern of 5, 7, 5. So I might say something like this:

Winter is coming.
Snow will be arriving soon.
We should rake the leaves.

 If you count the syllables on your fingers as you read this poem, you will see that the lines have five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables, just as they should.

Haiku About Nature

If you decide to write a haiku about nature, you will have many more subjects to choose from. You could write about animals, plants, the sky, the ocean, streams, the wind, and so on. Start by selecting a topic, and then decide what you want to say; what observation you want to make about it.

For example, I have decided to write a haiku about my cat. One thing I notice about my cat is that he sleeps a lot. In fact, I’m pretty sure he sleeps almost all night and all day. I’m not sure how he can be so tired. In any case, here is my haiku:

Tired cat sleeps all night.
He needs lots of rest for a
Long day of napping.

 Funny Haiku

Just because most haiku poems are about seasons or nature doesn’t mean that’s all they can be about. If you want, you can even write funny haiku poems. One way to make a haiku funny is to have an unexpected last line. For example, if the last line says the opposite of what the reader expects, it becomes like the punchline of a joke. It also helps to write about a funny subject.

As an example, I decided it would be funny to write a haiku excuse for why I can’t turn in my homework. Here it is:

My homework is late.
My dog ate it this morning.
I sure like my dog.

 Notice that this ending is unexpected. Most readers would expect the poem to end with something like “can I turn it in tomorrow?” or “I’m mad at dog” or something like that. By saying “I sure like my dog,” I am telling the reader something they don’t expect, which will hopefully make them smile.

Getting Started Writing Haiku

To begin writing haiku poems, just follow these steps:

  1. Select a type of haiku. Decide if you are going to write a seasonal, nature, or other type of haiku.
  2. Pick a topic. Select one specific season, item in nature, or something else you are going to write about.
  3. Think about what is different about your last line. What observation do you want to make?
  4. Start writing.
  5. Don’t forget to count the syllables as you read to make sure you’ve got the right pattern.
  6. Finally, “center” your poem on the page like the poems in this lesson.
When you are all done writing your first haiku, see if you can write another one. And, most importantly, have fun!

Worksheet

Haiku writing worksheet for kids

Click here to download a haiku writing worksheet

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write a Fractured Nursery Rhyme

Mother Goose

Messing with Mother Goose

If you want to write a poem, but you’re not sure where to start, try taking a poem you already know and changing it. While you can do this with any kind of poem, Mother Goose nursery rhymes are one of the easiest. It’s always fun to take a nursery rhyme and change a few words to make it funny.

First, you’ll need to choose a nursery rhyme or a well-known song such as “Row Your Boat.” There are hundreds to choose from, but here are some of the most popular ones to choose from:

  • Yankee Doodle
  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • There Was an Old Woman
  • Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

How to Fracture a Nursery Rhyme

After you’ve selected a poem, you’ll need to find the words that rhyme. They should be easy to find because the rhyming words are usually at the end of each line, or the end of every other line. For example, you may have heard the Mother Goose nursery rhyme about the old woman who lived in a shoe. If not, here it is:

There was an old woman,
Who lived in a shoe;
She had so many children,
She didn’t know what to do.

She gave them some broth,
Without any bread;
She whipped them all soundly,
And sent them to bed.

Notice that this poem rhymes on every other line. The word shoe rhymes with do and bread rhymes with bed.

Let’s change this poem starting with the first rhyme. Where else could this woman live? Should we put her in a hat? Perhaps on a boat? Maybe in a drawer? You see, if she could live in a shoe, she could live just about anywhere, so I’ve decided that for my poem, she will live in a box.

There was an old woman
who lived in a box,

Now we need to find some words that rhyme with box. I like socks, fox, rocks, and locks, but I think locks will work best because houses usually have locks. So I’ll write two more lines, like this:

There was an old woman
who lived in a box.
It didn’t have windows
or doorknobs or locks.

Now I’d also like to make this poem funny. I think the idea of a person living in a box is pretty funny by itself, but I wonder what a person might do if they lived in a box. How many things can you think of to do if your house was a box? Would you gift wrap your house for Christmas? Maybe you would be happy that you no longer lived in a shoe? Or how about something like this:

There was an old woman
who lived in a box.
It didn’t have windows
or doorknobs or locks.

She wanted to travel
the world and so
she mailed her house
where she wanted to go.

Getting Started

Remember, once you’ve selected a poem, you want to change the word that rhymes. Here are some examples

  • Put Humpty Dumpty on something besides a wall
  • Change the color of Mary’s lamb
  • Feed “Peter, Peter” something besides pumpkin

And don’t forget about nursery songs. Here are a few you can choose from:

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat – How about “Ride, Ride, Ride Your Bike,” or “Pet, Pet, Pet Your Cat?”
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – What else twinkles besides stars? A diamond ring? A traffic light?
  • Yankee Doodle – What could he ride besides a pony? Maybe a rhino? Or a monkey?
  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep – What would you ask her for besides wool? How about cash?

Now it’s your turn to put your own ideas on paper and see what kinds of fractured nursery rhymes you can come up. Remember to follow these three steps:

  1. Pick a poem or song
  2. Find the words that rhyme
  3. Choose new rhyming words to make a new poem or song

And, most importantly, have fun!

By the way, if you’d like to learn how to write a traditional Mother Goose-style nursery rhyme, check out this fun poetry-writing lesson:

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write a Limerick

What is a Limerick?

Limericks are one of the most fun and well-known poetic forms. No one knows for sure where the name “limerick” comes from, but most people assume it is related to the county of Limerick, in Ireland.

The reason limericks are so much fun is because they are short, rhyming, funny, and have a bouncy rhythm that makes them easy to memorize. In this lesson, I’ll show you how you can write your own limericks in just a few easy steps.

The Rules of Limericks

Limericks, like all poetic forms, have a set of rules that you need to follow. The rules for a limerick are fairly simple:

  • They are five lines long.
  • Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme with one another.
  • Lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other.
  • They have a distinctive rhythm (which I’ll explain shortly)
  • They are usually funny.

Rhyming a Limerick

The rhyme scheme of a limerick is known as “AABBA.” This is because the last words in lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme. Those are the “A’s” in the rhyme scheme. The “B’s” are the last words of lines 3 and 4. Let me give you an example:

There was a young fellow named Hall
Who fell in the spring in the fall.
‘Twould have been a sad thing
Had he died in the spring,
But he didn’t—he died in the fall.

Anonymous

Notice that the words, “Hall,” “fall,” and “fall” all rhyme. Those are the “A” words in the “AABBA” rhyme scheme. Also notice that “thing” and “spring” rhyme. Those are the “B” words in the rhyme scheme.

Limerick Rhythm

Now let’s take a look at the rhythm of the limerick. It goes by the complicated name “anapaestic,” but you don’t need to worry about that. What I want you to notice when you read or recite a limerick is that the first two lines and the last line have three “beats” in them, while the third and fourth lines have two “beats.” In other words, the rhythm of a limerick looks like this:

da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

The rhythm doesn’t have to exactly match this, but it needs to be close enough that it sounds the same when you read it. For example, using the limerick above about the fellow from Hall, if we emphasize the beats, it reads like this:

there WAS a young FELLow named HALL
who FELL in the SPRING in the FALL.
‘twould have BEEN a sad THING
had he DIED in the SPRING,
but he DIDn’t—he DIED in the FALL.

Let’s take a look at another famous limerick:

There was an old man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket;
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

Anonymous

If you emphasize the beats when you read it, it comes out like this:

there WAS an old MAN of NanTUCKet
who KEPT all his CASH in a BUCKet;
but his DAUGHTer, named NAN,
ran aWAY with a MAN,
and AS for the BUCKet, NanTUCKet.

Some Limerick Tricks

There are two more things that you will notice when you read limericks:

  1. The first line usually ends with a person’s first name or the name of a place.
  2. The last line is usually funny.

Because the first line is usually the name of a person or place, writing the first line is the easiest part. You simply pick the name of a place or person – like “New York” or “Dave” – and write a line like this:

There once was a man from New York

Or

There was an old woman named Dave

Then go to your rhyming dictionary and start looking for rhymes like “cork,” “fork,” “pork,” “stork,” or “cave,” “gave,” “wave,” and so on to find more words to complete your limerick.

Once you’ve found some rhyming words, you’ll want to start thinking about a funny ending for your poem. I find it’s easiest to write lines 1, 2, and 5 first, and then to fill in lines 3 and 4 afterward. For example, I decided to write a limerick about someone from Seattle, so I started it like this:

A talkative man from Seattle
would spend his days speaking to cattle.

I then noticed that the word “prattle” rhymed with “cattle” and “Seattle” so I wrote the last line, like this:

She said, “Why it’s nothing but prattle!”

Finally, I went back and wrote lines 3 and 4 to complete the limerick:

A talkative man from Seattle
would spend his days speaking to cattle.
When asked what he said,
one old cow shook her head,
and replied, “Why it’s nothing but prattle!”

You’ll notice that I changed the last line after I wrote lines 3 and 4.  I did this so the poem would make more sense. It’s okay to change your words at any time if it improves the poem.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to see if you can write a limerick of your own. Remember to follow these steps:

  1. Choose the name of a person or place and write the first line.
  2. Look in a rhyming dictionary for words that rhyme with your person or place name.
  3. Write line 2 and 5 to rhyme with the first line.
  4. Now write lines 3 and 4 with a different rhyme.

When you are done writing, read your limerick out loud to see if it has the right rhythm; three “beats” on lines 1, 2, and 5, and two “beats” on lines 3 and 4, as shown above. If not, see if you can rewrite some words to get the rhythm right.

Limericks Take Practice

I know that writing limericks is going to seem hard at first because it’s sometimes difficult to get the rhythm, the rhymes, and the joke to all work together. But don’t worry; with a little practice, you’ll soon be creating funny limericks of your own that will make your friends and family laugh. Have fun!

Worksheet

Limerick writing worksheet for kids

Click here to download a limerick writing worksheet

Kenn Nesbitt
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How to Write a Diamante Poem

What is a Diamante?

A diamante – pronounced dee-uh-MAHN-tay – is an unrhymed seven-line poem. The beginning and ending lines are the shortest, while the lines in the middle are longer, giving diamante poems a diamond shape. “Diamante” is the Italian word for diamond, so this poetic form is named for this diamond shape.

Believe it or not, the diamante was invented just 40 years ago. It was created by an American poet and educator named Iris McClellan Tiedt in 1969, and has become very popular in schools.

Also known as a “diamond poem” because of its shape, there are two different types of diamantes; synonym diamantes and antonym diamantes.

The Rules of a Diamante

There are just a few rules to writing a diamante:

  1. Diamantes are seven lines long.
  2. The first and last lines have just one word.
    The second and sixth lines have two words.
    The third and fifth lines have three words.
    And the fourth line has four words.
  3. Lines 1, 4, and 7 have nouns.
    Lines 2 and 6 have adjectives.
    Lines 3 and 5 have verbs.

Here’s an easy way to visualize all three rules:

Noun
Adjective, Adjective
Verb, Verb, Verb
Noun, Noun, Noun, Noun
Verb, Verb, Verb
Adjective, Adjective
Noun

In a synonym diamante, the nouns at the beginning and end are two words that mean basically the same thing. In an antonym diamante, the two nouns are opposites. Here are a couple of examples:

Synonym Diamante

In this diamante, the words “Monsters” and “Creatures” mean the same thing, so they are synonyms.

Monsters
Evil, Spooky
Howling, Shrieking, Wailing
Ghosts, Vampires, Goblins, Witches
Flying, Scaring, Terrifying
Creepy, Crawly
Creatures

Antonym Diamante

In this diamante, you might say that the words “Cat” and “Dog” are opposites, or “antonyms,” so this is an antonym diamante.

Cat
Gentle, Sleepy
Purring, Meowing, Scratching
Whiskers, Fur, Collar, Leash
Barking, Licking, Digging
Slobbery, Playful
Dog

Getting Started

To start writing a diamante, you first need to decide what thing you want to write about. The reason you want to pick a thing is that your first and last lines need to be nouns. In other words, your diamante will be about a noun, such as a “pencil” or a “pizza,” rather than about a verb, such as “jump” or an adjective like “smelly.” An easy thing to write about is something you like or something you see around you.

Next, you’ll want to decide whether you want to write a synonym diamante or an antonym diamante. If you want to write a synonym diamante, you’ll want to select another word that means the same thing as your subject. If you are going to write an antonym diamante, choose a word that is its opposite.

For this example, I will show you how to write an antonym diamante about the “sun,” and my second noun is “moon,” since the sun and the moon can be considered opposites.

Once you’ve chosen your two nouns, take a piece of paper and brainstorm as many words as you can that have to do with each of them. For example, make one column for each word and write down everything you can think of. You’ll want adjectives (descriptive words), verbs (action words), and even more nouns. Your lists should look something like this:

Sun

Moon

Hot Cold
Yellow Silver
Fiery Night
Day Still
Light Orbiting
Blinding Shining
Exploding Beautiful
Distant Crescent
Nuclear

Don’t worry if you have more words than you need. It’s better to have too many words to choose from than not enough.

Finally, you’ll want to arrange your diamante, putting the synonyms or antonyms at the top and bottom, the adjectives next, on lines 2 and 6, the verbs after that on lines 3 and 5, and lastly your additional nouns on the middle line.

In the top half of the poem – lines 2 and 3 – your adjectives and verbs should be ones from your first brainstorming column – words that have to do with line 1, like this:

Sun
Fiery, Yellow
Burning, Blinding, Exploding

In the bottom half of the poem – lines 5 and 6 – your adjectives and verbs should be related to the noun on line 7, like this:

Shining, Orbiting, Reflecting
Cold, Silver
Moon

On line 4, the line in the middle of the poem, the first two nouns should be related to the noun on line 1, and the last two nouns should be related to the noun on line 7, like this:

Flame, Light, Night, Crescent

When you put everything together, you’ll end up with something like this:

Sun
Fiery, Yellow
Burning, Blinding, Exploding
Flame, Light, Night, Crescent
Shining, Orbiting, Reflecting
Cold, Silver
Moon

Things to Remember

As you begin writing your own diamantes, here are the important things to remember:

  • Diamantes can be about anything
  • They are 7 lines long
  • The word count is simple: 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1
  • Your lines should have: noun, adjectives, verbs, nouns, verbs, adjectives, noun
  • Try to “center” your poem on the page to give it a diamond shape
  • Most importantly, have fun!

Worksheet

Diamante-writing worksheet for kids

Click here to download a diamante-writing worksheet

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How to Write a Cinquain Poem

What is a Cinquain?

Adelaide Crapsey, American poet and creator of the modern cinquain

Adelaide Crapsey, American poet and creator of the modern cinquain

A cinquain – which, by the way, is pronounced “sin-cane,” not “sin-kwane” – is a form of poetry that is very popular because of its simplicity. It was created by American poet Adelaide Crapsey about 100 years ago, and is similar to Japanese poetic forms, such as haiku and tanka.

Cinquains are just five lines long, with only a few words on each line, making them easy to write. The first and last lines have just two syllables, while the middle lines have more, so they end up with a diamond-like shape, similar to the poetic form called the diamante.

Though they are just five lines long, the best cinquains tell a small story. Instead of just having descriptive words, they may also have an action (something happening), a feeling caused by the action, and a conclusion or ending.

You can learn to write cinquains by following these few simple steps:

  1. Decide what you would like to write about.
  2. Brainstorm words and phrases that have to do with your idea.
  3. Think about what story you want to tell.
  4. Write your words and phrases in an order that tells your story, being sure to count the syllables as you go.

The Rules of a Cinquain

There are actually many different ways to write a cinquain, so I’m just going to teach you how to write a traditional cinquain, as it was defined by the poet who invented it. These are the rules:

  1. Cinquains are five lines long.
  2. They have 2 syllables in the first line, 4 in the second, 6 in the third, 8 in the fourth line, and just 2 in the last line.
  3. Cinquains do not need to rhyme, but you can include rhymes if you want to.

That’s it. Just three simple rules.

If you want to, you can even memorize the syllable count by remembering this five-digit number: 24682. Repeat after me: 24682, 24682, 24682. Now you’ve got it.

Getting Started

First, you need to select a topic. That is, you need to choose something to write your cinquain about. Here are a few easy places to get ideas:

  • Write about your favorite thing
  • Write about something you don’t like
  • Write about something you see around you
  • Write about something that happens to you

Since I like ice cream, I think I’ll write a cinquain about ice cream. This is convenient since the words “ice cream” have two syllables, so I can probably use this phrase as the first line of my cinquain. If your favorite thing is pizza, soccer, your cat, etc., you could also use “soccer,” “pizza,” or “my cat” as the first line of your cinquain.

Brainstorming ideas

Once you know what you are going to write about, you need to brainstorm ideas about your topic. Think of as many things as you can and write them down on a piece of paper. It’s okay to write your ideas on one piece of paper and then write your poem on another piece of paper.

For example, I know several things about ice cream, so I’ve put them down here:

  • It is cold.
  • It is yummy.
  • It is sweet.
  • I like eating it.

These are just four ideas, but they are not yet a poem. To turn these ideas into a cinquain poem, we need to say them in a way that we have five lines with the right number of syllables on each line.

Counting Your Syllables

I recommend your count your syllables with your fingers as you write each line. If a line has too many syllables or not enough syllables, see if you can change some of the words to get the right number of syllables.

Once you get the syllable count right, make sure the poem says what you want it to say. You may need to go back and change it some more so that it tells the story you want it to.

Once your cinquain is finished, read it again, counting the syllables on your fingers to make sure you got everything right.

Ice Cream Cinquain

Here’s a cinquain that I wrote about ice cream, using the ideas that I brainstormed earlier:

Ice Cream

Ice cream.
Cold and yummy.
I love its sweet richness
as it finds its way into my
tummy.

You might notice a few things about this poem. It tells a little story. There is an action in which I eat the ice cream and it swallow it. There is a feeling expressed where I tell that I love it. And I even rhymed “yummy” with “tummy.”

Messy Room Cinquain

Let’s try another one. This time, let’s write a cinquain about having a messy room. First, we need to brainstorm ideas. Here are a few I came up with:

  • Dirty laundry
  • Toys all over the place
  • Mom says “clean it up”
  • The hamper is overflowing
  • I’d rather watch TV than clean my room
  • I don’t mind my own mess

I don’t have to use all of these ideas, but writing more ideas than I am going to actually use give me lots to choose from when I start writing the poem.

Now that I’ve got my ideas, I’ll rearrange these into a five-line story with a 24682 syllable pattern, like this:

My Messy Room

My room
is such a mess.
Toys all over the place.
Mom says, “Clean up!” But I like it
like this.

Telling a Story with Your Cinquain

I mentioned earlier that the best cinquains tell a story. An easy way to do this is to start with your subject on the first line, describe it on the second, put an action on the third line, a feeling on the fourth line, and a conclusion on the last line, like this:

Title

Subject
Description
Action
Feeling
Conclusion

You don’t have to follow this pattern exactly. For example, in the Messy Room cinquain, you’ll see that my description is on lines 2 and 3, and both the action and the feeling are on line 4. But this should give you a general pattern for telling a story.

What Are You Going to Write?

Now it’s your turn to try writing your own cinquain. Here are a few things to remember as you write:

  • Cinquain poems can be written about anything
  • They are five lines long
  • The syllable pattern is 2, 4, 6, 8, 2
  • Brainstorm ideas first
  • Count the syllables on your fingers
  • “Center” your poem on the page
  • Rhyme if you want to
  • Have fun!

Worksheet

Cinquain-writing worksheet for kids

Click here to download a cinquain-writing worksheet

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How to Write an Acrostic Poem

What is an Acrostic?

Acrostics are a fun poetic form that anyone can write. They have just a few simple rules, and this lesson will teach you how to create acrostic poems of your own.

To begin with, an acrostic is a poem in which the first letters of each line spell out a word or phrase. The word or phrase can be a name, a thing, or whatever you like. When children write acrostics, they will often use their own first name, or sometimes the first name of a friend.

Usually, the first letter of each line is capitalized. This makes it easier to see the word spelled out vertically down the page.

Acrostics are easy to write because they don’t need to rhyme, and you don’t need to worry about the rhythm of the lines. Each line can be as long or as short as you want it to be.

Creating an Acrostic in Five Easy Steps

To create an acrostic, follow these five easy steps:

  1. Decide what to write about.
  2. Write your word down vertically.
  3. Brainstorm words or phrases that describe your idea.
  4. Place your brainstormed words or phrases on the lines that begin with the same letters.
  5. Fill in the rest of the lines to create a poem.

Now let me show you how to follow these steps.

The first step is to decide what you would like to write an acrostic poem about. I recommend you start by writing an acrostic based on your name or on your favorite thing, whatever that happens to be. It doesn’t matter if your favorite thing is soccer, video games, chocolate, music, pizza, movies, or anything else.

An Ice Cream Acrostic

For example, I especially like ice cream, so I decided to write an acrostic about ice cream. Begin by writing the word “ICE CREAM” down the page like this:

I
C
E 

C
R
E
A
M

Next, you want to say something about ice cream in each line. A good way to do this is to “brainstorm” lots of ideas. I wrote down a list of all the ice cream flavors I could think of, including chocolate chip, strawberry, rocky road, and others. Then I put them in a list wherever they would fit, like this:

Ice Cream

I
Cookies & Cream.
English Toffee.

Chocolate Chip.
Rocky Road.
E
Almond Fudge.
M

You’ll notice that I didn’t fill in all of the lines. That’s because I couldn’t think of a flavor that started with “I” and I could only think of one flavor that started with “E.” Also, I thought I would do something different with the last line, to make it an ending for the poem, rather than just another flavor.

Finally, I filled in the missing lines, like this:

Ice Cream

I love every flavor.
Cookies & Cream.
English Toffee.

Chocolate Chip.
Rocky Road.
Even Strawberry and
Almond Fudge.
Mmmmmmmm.

Now, just as you can write acrostics about things you like, you can also write them about things you don’t like, such as chores, homework, and so on. Here is an example acrostic about homework.

A Homework Acrostic

In addition to writing about things you like, such as ice cream, you can write acrostics about things you don’t like. For example, if you don’t like homework, you might try writing a poem about it. Begin by writing the word “HOMEWORK” down the page:

H
O
M
E
W
O
R
K

Next, brainstorm as many words and phrases as you can think of.  Here are some I came up with:

Reading for hours. Writing. Not my favorite. Every Day. I’d rather be watching TV. Makes me crazy. Overwhelming. Hard to do.

Notice that some of these words and phrases begin with the letters in the word “homework.” I put these ones in where I saw they would go:

Homework

Hard to do
Overwhelming,
M
Every day
Writing
O
Reading for hours.
K

Finally, I found a way to fill in the rest of the words, and even give it an ending. Here is the finished acrostic:

Homework

Hard to do and sometimes
Overwhelming,
My teacher gives us homework
Every single day!
Writing for hours
Or
Reading for hours.
Kids need a break!

A Minecraft Acrostic

Here’s one more acrostic poem I created recently with the help of kids from all around the country during an online author visit:

Minecraft

Minecraft.
I love it.
No doubt about it.
Exploring, building, fighting
Creepers, zombies, and skeletons.
Roaming around for hours.
A
Fun
Time for everyone!

Things to Remember

Here are a few things to remember as you begin writing your own acrostics:

  1. Acrostics can be about anything!
  2. Names are a common topic. Try writing one using your best friend’s name and giving it to him or her as a gift.
  3. You can use single words, phrases, or even full sentences in your acrostic poem.

Finally, remember, acrostic poems are one of the easiest and most fun ways to create poems of your own. Give it a try and see what you can come up with.

Worksheet

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How to Write Funny Poetry – Chapter 4 – Making it Funny

Funny poems are enjoyable to read. The more a poem makes you laugh, the more fun it is to read. This doesn’t mean that a poem has to be funny to be good. Nor does it mean that funny poems are better than serious poems. There are lots of very good poems that are not funny at all. But if you are trying to write a funny poem, the funnier you can make it, the better it will be.

If you have been wondering how you can make your poems funny, you will be glad to know that there are some very easy ways to do it. In this chapter, I show you several different ways that you can make your poems funny. These include:

  • using a “surprise ending”
  • exaggerating
  • using opposites
  • putting your idea in an unusual place
  • using funny words
  • a special type of wordplay known as a “pun”
  • a combination of the above

Each of these is a different method you can use to get your reader to laugh. First, let me show you the surprise ending.

The Surprise Ending

There are lots of different ways to make a poem funny, but they all rely on one thing: the “element of surprise”. A funny poem is like a joke or a riddle that rhymes. For a joke or funny poem to be a good one, it has to surprise the reader with something they don’t expect. When they get to the end of a poem and suddenly find a surprising twist or unexpected “punch line”, it can really make them giggle. Look at the following example:

Seven, Six and Nine

Seven, Six and Nine
all sat down to dine.
Now Six is scared of Seven
because Seven ate Nine.

This is an old joke, told in the form of a poem. Hopefully it made you laugh or at least smile. A couple of things make this poem funny. First, the reader knows that the three numbers, 7, 6 and 9 are going to eat dinner (or dine), but the reader probably does not expect that 7 is going to “eat” 9. So when the reader sees the last line, it is a surprise. Second, the reader has heard the numbers “7, 8, 9” many times, but has probably always thought of them as “seven eight nine”, and not as “seven ate nine”. This shows the reader something familiar in a surprising new way. Seeing something in a way that you have never noticed before can also be quite surprising. The combination of these two surprises can startle the reader and make them laugh.

So how can you use this knowledge to make your own poems funny? Here’s one way: After you select a topic for your poem, ask yourself “what’s funny about that?” Try to come up with as many things as you can that might be funny about your topic. Each time you think of something that seems funny, write it down! After you write down everything you can think of, you will have a list of funny ideas to choose from. You can then choose the funniest idea on your list and use it as your surprise ending.

For example, let’s say you decide to write a poem about a bee. Ask yourself “what’s funny about a bee?” When I think about bees, I think of several things. They are colored with yellow and black stripes. They sting people when they are angry. They fly and make a buzzing noise. They make honey and honeycomb. And so on.

So here are several ideas for funny poems. Write a poem about:

  • a bee that is purple and green instead of yellow and black
  • a bee that never takes a bath because it thinks it is supposed to “stink” instead of “sting”
  • a bee that can’t fly so it takes the bus instead
  • a bee that makes a honking noise instead of a buzzing sound
  • a bee that uses honeycomb to comb its hair

I like the last idea best, so I am going to write a poem about a bee that combs its hair with honeycomb. This will be the “surprise ending” of the poem – the thing that makes the poem funny – so I will save this for the end of the poem.

Here is the most important rule to making a poem funny. If your poem has a surprise, save the surprise for the end of the poem. If you start the poem by saying that the bee combs its hair with honeycomb, you may have nothing else to say. That would be like telling the punch line of a joke at the beginning of the joke instead of the end. On the other hand, if you save your surprise for the end, you can start the poem by telling all about the bee and then make the reader laugh at the end.

I promised you I would write a poem about a bee that combs its hair with honeycomb, so here it is.

Pete the Sweet Bee
There was a bee
named Sweetie Pete.
His hair was slick
he smelled so sweet.
He’d take a bath
each day at home.
Then comb his hair
with honeycomb.

Finding a Funny Idea

As I mentioned above, a good way to make a poem funny is to ask yourself the question “what’s funny about that?” If you are going to write a poem about an eagle, ask yourself “what’s funny about an eagle?”

Here is one possible answer: One well-known type of eagle is the “bald eagle”. What if there was a bald eagle that had lost all the feathers on his head, so it was actually bald? What if the eagle was embarrassed about it and thought that it should buy a wig or a toupee so people would not know it was bald?

Here is another possible answer: what if, when its mother said it was an “eagle”, it thought she said “beagle” and so it thought it was a dog?

And here is yet another possible answer: Eagles are known for building very large nests. What if this eagle didn’t know when to stop building, and ended up with a nest larger than a baseball stadium, or a taller than the Empire State Building?

As you can see, there are plenty of different ways to answer the question “what’s funny about that?” In the first example above, I looked at the name “bald eagle” to see what I could do with the word “bald”. In the second example, I looked to see what I could do with the word “eagle”. In the third example, I took a characteristic of eagles and exaggerated it.

Let’s try doing the same thing with an alligator. Alligator rhymes with elevator, so perhaps you could write a poem about an alligator that likes to ride the elevator. Alligators also have lots of teeth, so maybe you could write about an alligator that didn’t brush his teeth and had a hundred and forty seven cavities. Alligators are very mean creatures, so you could write a poem about a kind-hearted alligator that was sad because everyone thought it was mean.

Before you start writing your funny poem, see if you can come up with three or four different answers to the question “what’s funny about that?” Write down each of your ideas and then pick the one that you think is the funniest.

In each of the following sections, I will show you different techniques you can use to create funny ideas.

Exaggeration

One common technique for making poems funny is to exaggerate. Exaggeration means taking a characteristic of your subject and making it bigger or more extreme than normal. A bicycle that can go a thousand miles an hour; a teacher that assigns a hundred hours of homework every day; cafeteria food that tastes worse than sewage; a dog is so smart he can speak five languages; these are all examples of exaggeration.

The children’s poet Jack Prelutsky wrote a book of poetry entitled A Pizza the Size of the Sun. Jack Prelutsky is widely known for his use of exaggeration, and this book title is just one example. A real pizza usually has to be small enough to fit on a table or inside a pizza box. Saying that the pizza is much larger than normal is one way of exaggerating about it. Saying that the pizza is as large as the sun is an extreme exaggeration.

So how can you use exaggeration to make your poems funny? First, write down as many characteristics of your subject as you can. Then for each characteristic on your list, write down different ways to exaggerate it.

Here is an example. Let’s say that we are going to write a poem about playing basketball. You could exaggerate by saying that all the players on the other team were twelve feet tall. You could claim to be the best (or worst) basketball player on the planet (or in the entire universe, for that matter). Your could say that the game was so long, it took three years to finish. And so on. Each of these exaggerates one feature of the game.

Let’s try another example. Let’s say you want to write a poem about bubble gum. You could write about blowing a bubble bigger than the state of Nebraska. You could write about getting the world’s stickiest bubble gum stuck to your shoe; stickier than Krazy Glue, goopier than honey, and so on. Each of these ideas takes one characteristic of bubble gum and exaggerates it.

As you can see, exaggeration is an easy way to take any topic and make it funny.

Opposites

Another way to make something funny is to give it characteristics that are the opposite of what you would expect such as:

  • a tiny elephant or a giant hummingbird
  • a fast turtle or a slow race car
  • a friendly monster or a mean kitten
  • a stinky rose or a sweet smelling skunk

To find a funny opposite, first choose an idea to write about. Let’s say you decide to write a poem about an alarm clock. What do you know about alarm clocks? One thing is that they tell you what time it is, and the other thing is that they are usually very loud. The opposites of these would be an alarm clock that always told the wrong time, or an alarm clock that was so quiet, nobody could hear it.

Or maybe you would like to write a poem about an alien from outer space. People usually think of aliens as “little green men” with antennae on their heads, and maybe with three eyes, four hands, and so on. The opposite of this might be to write about an alien that looked exactly like a human being, with two eyes, one head, two hands, etc. For example, you might write about a UFO that landed in your back yard, and the aliens that came out looked exactly like your sister, or your teacher, or the President of the United States.

Using opposites in this way can make it easy for you to come up with funny ideas for poems.

Unusual Places

Setting your poem in an unusual place is sort of like using opposites. But instead of finding the opposite of a characteristic, you simply place your idea in a place where no one would expect it.

For example, you would not expect to go fishing, or surfing or swimming somewhere where there is no water, such as in the middle of the street or the Sahara desert. If you were writing a poem about fishing, you could make it funny by setting it in one of these places.

Here are some other examples:

  • a bald eagle in a barber shop
  • a cowboy in a ballet
  • a snowman in the desert
  • a fish in an airplane
  • a plate of spinach in a candy shop
  • playing tennis in a swimming pool

Whatever your idea – whether you are going to write about baseball game, a polar bear, your favorite food, or just about anything else – try putting it in an unusual place and you may have the beginning of a very funny poem.

Using Funny Words

I think some words are just funny all by themselves. In the notebook where I jot down my poem ideas, I also keep a list of words that strike me as funny. Sometimes I will write an entire poem just so I can use a single word like “blubbery” or “succotash” or “flapdoodle” or “snorkel.”

While you can’t always write whole poems around a single funny word like this, you can often choose to use a funny word instead of plain one. For example, if you are writing about someone walking down the street, it is funnier to say they “waddled” down the street or “stumbled” down the street than to say they “walked” down the street. If you are writing about someone crying, it might be funnier to say they are “blubbering” than to say they were “crying.”

Using funny words may not be the main thing that makes your poem funny, but it can make the difference between a so-so poem and a really funny poem, because funny words can keep the reader smiling or giggling throughout the poem until you get to the punch line at the end.

So, whenever you have a choice to use one of several words to describe something, ask yourself which word sounds the funniest and try to use that one rather than the plainer words.

Are We Having Pun Yet?

Many jokes and riddles involves a special type of word play called a “pun”. There are actually several different types of puns, but they all contain a word that has two different meanings. For example:

Q: What kind of knots do you tie in outer space?
A: Astronauts.

Q: Where do fish keep their money?
A: In a river bank.

As you can see in each of these riddles, one of the words has more than one meaning. “Astronauts” has the sound of the word “knots” in it, and a bank is both a place to keep your money and the side of a river.

Puns can be used at the end of a poem for your “punch line,” or they can be used throughout the poem, as in this example:

The Hungry Little Giant

“I’m hungry! I could swallow Wales!”
the little giant cried.
“Tonight we’re having Chile, dear,”
the giant’s mother sighed.
“Can I please have Samoa, Mom?”
the little giant asked her.
“Just don’t forget dessert,” she said.
“We’re having Baked Alaska.”
“Tomorrow we’ll eat Turkey,
there is truly nothing finer.
We’ll cook it in the oven and
we’ll serve it up on China.”

There are actually five different types of puns, and you can use any of these in your poems:

  1. A word that has two different meanings, such as the word “bank” in the riddle above.
  2. A word that sounds exactly like a word with a different meaning, such as “ate” and “eight.”
  3. A word that sounds similar to a word with a different meaning, such as “waiting” and “wading” or “fun” and “pun.”
  4. Words that are combined or “melded” to form a new word such as “rhinocerusted,” “hippopotamustard,” or “pelicannot.”
  5. A special type of pun called a “spoonerism,” in which parts of words are swapped, such as “bad salad” and “sad ballad.”

You don’t need to learn all of these, but it’s nice to know they are available to use. The more techniques you know for writing funny poems, the easier it will become.

One or More of the Above

To make a poem as funny as possible, try using a combination of the above. For example, try writing a poem with a surprise ending, funny words, a play on words, and opposites, exaggeration or an unusual setting. For example, the following poem, The Cow Town Ballet has a surprise ending, a play on words, and an unusual setting (cows in the ballet).

The Cow Town Ballet

This here is the story of Jed Beaudelay,
who once was the head of the Cow Town Ballet,
the greatest of all of the old western sights,
for Jed would take milk cows and dress them in tights.

In tutus and slippers his cows would sashay,
they’d spin pirouettes, they’d glissade and plié.
And cowpokes from Boston to Monterey Bay
would journey to Cow Town to see the ballet.

And every night how his cattle would dance!
They’d act out a musical cattle romance,
with skill and precision, with grace and with flair,
they’d glide ‘cross the stage and they’d leap through the air.

And when it was over the cowpokes would cheer
and even the manliest men shed a tear
for nowhere on Earth but the Cow Town Ballet
had anyone ever seen cattle sashay.

Old Jed Beaudelay would still run the ballet,
if not for the fact that when cattle sashay,
and all of their tutus are flapping around
their costumes make sort of a shuffling sound.

And some no-good cowpoke, on hearing that sound,
grew rather unhappy; he stopped and he frowned,
then ran to the sheriff, deciding to tattle,
so Jed was arrested for rustling cattle.

So you see, there are lots of different techniques you can use for making your poems funny. In addition to these special techniques for making any poem funny, there are a few special types of poems, such the funny “list poem,” that you can write. In Chapter 5 I will show you how to write some of the more common types of funny poems, including “list poems,” “opposite poems,” and “repetition poems.”

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