Writing Riddles

Making Riddle Poems

Exploring riddles allows you to be a detective and a spy, following clues, and writing in code.  Follow this lesson plan to take your creative thinking skills to the next level using riddle poetry!

What Is A Riddle?

A riddle is a statement or a question with a hidden meaning that forms a puzzle to be solved.  A “riddle rhyme” is a riddle that is written in the form of a poem. Riddles are often set out in short verse, and have been found across the world throughout history; in Old English poetry, Norse mythology, Ancient Greek literature, and the Old Testament of the Bible!

One of the most famous examples is the riddle of the Sphinx (a creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human being).  According to the story, if you could answer the riddle you were free to pass, but if you failed, the monster would eat you!  Can you solve it?

What goes on four legs in the morning,
On two legs at noon,
and on three legs in the evening?

The answer is A Human – who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, and uses a stick to support them when they’re old! The ‘morning’, ‘noon’ and ‘evening’ are metaphors for these times in a man’s life!

Getting started…

It’s a good idea to look at some riddles before you start to write your own, so you can get a feel for the way they work.  Here are a few good ones…

I have streets but no pavement,
I have cities but no buildings,
I have forests but no trees,
I have rivers yet no water.
What am I?

He who builds me doesn’t want me,
he who buys me doesn’t use me,
he that uses me doesn’t know he’s got me.
What am I?

You may enter, but you may not come in,
I have space, but no room,
I have keys, but open no lock.
What am I?

What does man love more than life,
fear more than death or mortal strife,
what the poor have the rich require,
and all contented men desire.
What misers spend and spendthrifts save
and all men carry to the grave?

Answers are at the bottom of the page!

Writing your own…

Writing a riddle is the reverse of solving a puzzle – you have to start with the answer.  So first, choose something to write about (objects or animals are good for beginners).

Once you know the solution, you have to think of the clues that will lead someone to guess it.  Imagine you are that thing, and describe yourself.

You can use sentences such as:

  • I look like…
  • I sound like…
  • You find me…
  • I have…
  • I am…
  • I feel…

Try to use your imagination, and think of creative descriptions – if something is round like a ball, you could say ‘shaped like the earth’, or ‘a fat circle’.

When you are feeling ready, you can try and add a second part to the sentences, which starts with ‘but’.

Here is my own example – I wonder if you can guess it?

I am a green ball that doesn’t bounce
After I’ve been popped from my green house.
I’m good to eat, but not with a fork;
I’d help teach the alphabet if I could talk.
What am I?

Answer: A pea!

The Rules

  • Don’t give away the answer by using the exact word in your riddle.
  • Try not to use more than 5 or 6 lines, because a riddle should be easy to remember.
  • It doesn’t have to rhyme, but it can if you like.
  • Finish with the line ‘What am I?’

*Answers: A Map; A Coffin; A Computer keyboard; Nothing

Kenn Nesbitt
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