Procedures of Lesson
Iambic meter
Trochaic meter
Dactylic meter
Anapestic meter
Internal rhyme
Student-written Seuss-like poems
Seuss: a painless lesson on poetic meter
This is true when you read any author who has a strong style or voice: You tend to pick up the sounds of that author's language and can therefore create your own stories or poems that reflect the hearing of that style.The way musicians learn to compose and painters learn to paint is through imitation--musicians compose "in the style of" and painters copy paintings. This is also a good way to learn writing. Read a bunch of a particular writer (if you are older, try Hemingway--he has a very distinctive style) and then try writing. This lesson (which includes the procedures of the lesson and the resulting poems along with a list of poetic devices that were spontaneously part of the poems) is designed to help students learn about meter and various poetic devices through working with a poet whom students love and who writes with a strong sense of meter. Students tend to pick up on the meter without having to think about the types of meter and so forth. back to top

Activate Dr. Seuss schemas through a discussion of favorite Dr. Seuss books. You can share actual books if you like and read a couple of them to get the sound of his language in people's ears.

One thing that is common to many Dr. Seuss books is that he takes an ordinary event and turns it into something extraordinary (And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat). So, you can make a list of ordinary things that we all do such as washing dishes and cleaning our rooms. It is a good idea to have students come up with between 20 and 30 of this type of thing.

Now, take the ordinary thing and Seussify it! It is a good idea to give students a choice of formats--they could create a book, or just write something out on notebook paper, or maybe make a power point.

The neat thing is that when you Seussify your language, you get the kinds of poetic devices you were told should be in poems, but you get them without having to think about them, which is a more organic way to write--it is more natural. Don't even mention meter and poetic devices until AFTER the students have done their Seuss work and you can show them examples from their poetry. Then they will feel smart (instead of the usual feeling of dumb when poetic devices are mentioned prior to writing poems that are then supposed to have those devices).

If you look at the examples below, you will find (the examples are from poems students wrote based on hearing and thinking about Dr. Seuss; the students were NOT asked to use consistent meter, so this is what arose based on the "feel" of Seuss). Scroll down for the complete student-written Seuss-like poems:
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Iambic meter: A two syllable meter with the accent on the second syllable--doesn't matter how the syllables fall out in words (for example, could be one word such as "about" or it could be more than one word such as "a talking dog" which is two iambs--1. a talk 2. -ing dog)
Mnemonic: i-AMB', i-AMB' (accent on second syllable}
From "Wash Your Hands"
They're on your arms and in your hair (iambic tetrameter--four iambs in a line; tetra means four in Greek)
From "Average Joe's Average Day"
And there I met a talking dog (iambic tetrameter)
From "Mug Smuggler"
This was no time for play
This was no time for fun (iambic trimeter--three iambs per line)
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Trochaic meter (Trochee is pronounced /TRO'-kee/): It's the opposite of an iamb. The accent is on the first syllable.
Mnemonic: TRO'-chee, TRO'-chee
From "Bear's Bath"
Mama bear will rub her cub
in the tub of Mr. Nub. (trochaic tetrameter)
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Dactylic Meter: This is a three-syllable meter with the accent on the first syllables and the second two syllables unstressed.
Mnemonic: although "dactylic" is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable, the best way to use the name for a mnemonic is to put the accent on the first syllable: DAC'-ty-lic.
From "Average Joe..."
Got on the bus and we started to fly (dactylic tetrameter--four stresses, although the last one doesn't have the two unstressed syllables)
From "MugSmuggler"
Clothes in these piles they'll learn from their fumbles (dactylic tetrameter, especially if the contraction becomes "they will")
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Anapest Meter: Sort of the opposite of dactylic. The accent is on the third syllable and the first two syllables are not stressed.
Mnemonic: mispronounce it an-a-PEST'
From "MugSmuggler"
To the stretchers and ironers (Anapestic dimeter--two stresses, di being Greek for two)
My favorite from Dr. Seuss himself:
And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street
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What about the rest? I chose examples where the meter was steady to demonstrate that these things were present in student work, but good poets don't keep the same meter going all through their poems because that would result in a very sing-songy poem. If you want to play with meter, after you write the poem, read it out loud and decide which meter is predominant. You don't have to know the name of it--all you have to do is identify where there are too many or two few syllables to keep a steady beat of accented syllables. Then you can decide to craft the poem for meter by adding or eliminating words or syllables.

In addition to meter, of course, we had other poetic devices in these Seuss poems:

Internal Rhyme: rhyme within a line instead of just at the end
From "Average Joe"
the dog was blue standing with 1 shoe
he looked at me kindly and asked "howdy do?"
I said 1 I said 2 next thing I knew blue took a poo
(within the lines there are rhymes as well as at the end of the lines)
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Onomatopoeia: words that sound like what they are--"splash" sounds like water splashing
From "Bear's Bath"
Splish, Splash, Sploosh, Splauch.
Something is in the bath, oh gosh!
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Assonance: repeated vowel sound, in this case "air"
From "Bear's Bath"
Where is bear?
On a chair.
Where is hare?
Over there.
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Alliteration: several words that begin with the same sound
From "MugSmuggler"
Sorting not by color, but by stank
Stinky, Stinkier, stinkiest!
The smellouraous he's gifted with
super-sonic scent
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Again, poets who choose to craft their poems might recognize the existence of these devices in the first or second draft of the poem and then enhance the effect by adding more words that create these sounds.

Wash Your Hands

by: Lora, Rachel, Cathleen, Kate

Germs, germs are everywhere.
They're on your arms and in your hair.
They're on your hands, they're on your back,
they're even on the coat hanger rack.

Although you can't see them, it's important you know
those dirty germs follow you everywhere you go.
It's possible to go on and on about the germs in all the lands,
but the bottom line is, make sure to wash your hands.

Be sure to wash them before dinner or lunch.
Make sure you wash them a bunch!
When you go out to play, the germs will hide,
so make sure you wash when you come inside.

It's impossible to avoid all the germs in the lands,
but the bottom line is, make sure to wash your hands!

Average Joe's average day

by: Joel, Aaron, Ryan, Joe

I woke up in the morning to get ready for school
turns out today I'd be the fool
I tried to wash my hair turned on the water and got hit with a chair
I sat down to eat some toast
instead my mom gave me pot roast
I walked out the door into the fog
and there I met a talking dog
the dog was blue standing with 1 shoe
he looked at me kindly and asked "howdy do?"
I said 1 I said 2 next thing I knew blue took a poo
got on the bus and we started to fly
up up up into the sky
I arrived at school not a moment too late
walked up to Becky and asked for a date
she said "that would be great!"
friday night came she hopped on my bike
little did she know we were in for a hike
we went to the rockies to some hocky
we hitched a ride to the moon
where we played with a big baboon
we clicked our fingers to summon the gnome
he led us down the rainbow back home

The MugSnuggler X35000

This was no time for play.
This was no time for fun.
This was no time for games.
There was work to be done.

You may think of
laundry as a boring chore
like mending a roof or
scrubbing the floor

But Not at the Smoothle house
No, not there!
In this house the sorters, the wooshers
blowers and ironers
collide in the Mugsnuggler x35000

Come rocketship, or spare button-
or a spare scrap of fluff
You'll be able to travel and see all this strange stuff

You'll see them for sure.
You;ll notice them there.
Peering through your glass
windows, they're working with care

Sorting not by color, but by stank
Stinky, Stinkier, stinkiest!
The smellouraous he's gifted with
super-sonic scent

Clothes in these piles- they'll learn from their fumbles-
Stinky are tossed and tumbled,
stinker must brace themselves-they'll be jumbled and rumbled
But not the last group-they have to think fast-
to escape the torture of bombardment and blast

Wooshers and Rinseminglers
they ride clothes like whitewater rafts
to thoroughly rinse
the leftovers from crafts

To the land of tornadoes
the clothes then go
with wind-gushers who take deep breaths
then let them go!

To the stretchers and ironers
the clothes must then go
to be flattened, starched, and scented
read to go!

Now laundry's done
the clothes are scented, washed, and mended
x35000 - our adventure has ended.

Bear's Bath
By Margaret and Anne with apologies to Dr. Seuss.

.... Bare
.... Hare

Bare, bear, on a chair
Hair, hare, over there.

Where is bear?
On a chair.
Where is hare?
Over there.

Does the bear have hair?
No, he is bare.
Does the hare have hair?
Why do you care?
Hey now, there, there.

Bear and hare have dirt everywhere.
Everywhere? Yes. Here and there.

Hare says to bear, "Beware!"
Take a bath if you dare.

Splish, Splash, Sploosh, Splauch.
Something is in the bath, oh gosh!

It's a whale with his big tale
and a bright blue pail
with his friend snail.

Where is snail?
He's in the pail.
Where is whale?
Out for a sail!

Now who's in the tub?
Is it a cub?
Is it a sub?
Is it a wub?
Is is a crub?

A wub you say?
A crub? No way!

There's no such ub in the tub today.

Wait! Where is bear?
Where is hare?
Hare and bear are over there.

There's a cub in the tub.
The bare cub belonging to mama bear

Mama bear will rub her cub
in the tub of Mr. Nub.

I Woke Up One Morning And.....
By: Stephanie Meyer, Kelsey Moorman, and Allison Potter

I woke up one morning on the wrong side of the bed,
First thing that I did was bump my head.

All tangled in sheets from dreams night before;
My pillows were strewn all over the floor!

My sheets gobbled my socks and
My brother unplugged my alarm clock.

I looked on my night table and what did I see?
A note from the monster under my bed, addressed to me!

The monster had taken my dear teddy bear.
He took him without asking and didn't even care!

I'm having a fit,
The Bed bugs still bit.

But schools in an hour,
Better get in the shower.

"Mom! Five more minutes that's what I said."
Then maybe I'll wake up on the right side of the bed!
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