Creative Writing Lesson Plans
"How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!''
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and Queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough."
Lesson Plan by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
Permission to reproduce this lesson plan for
non-commercial individual or classroom use is granted so long as no text is taken out of
this document including any and all copyright messages and ordering information found at
the end of this article.
Copyright ©1996 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
This series of lesson plans is designed to help you introduce
reading and creative writing activities in a fun way. You can conduct the unit in as
little as one week or optimally over a several week period. The length of time you need
for the unit will depend on how many of the assignments and other activities you pursue.
In this unit, you will introduce the student to the limerick and
other zany rhymes made famous by Edward Lear in the 1850's. The lessons use these
limericks to introduce a number of basic poetic devices. Understanding and using these
devices can improve the students general writing. They also serve as models for teaching
the disciplined, systematic art of limerick and poetry writing.
All of the sessions use material found in books by Edward Lear
that are a part of the Animated Artist Series. However, since these poems and limericks
are in the public domain you may find them in a variety of books and may also find
additional examples that you can use in this unit.
After following this unit, the student will:
- be familiar with the work of Edward Lear;
- experience listening to poetry for enjoyment;
- be introduced to interpretive reading;
- recognize the rhyme patterns in poetry;
- recognize the rhythm pattern of limericks;
- recognize that limericks are humorous;
- appreciate limericks as a form of creative expression;
- have attempted writing a limerick;
- will be familiar with other writers who contributed to the limerick form.
Lear, Limerick, and Literature lessons
provide unit related ideas appropriate for a variety of ages and abilities (5-adult).
However, most students ages 10 and up will be able to successfully complete all of the
A number of books containing limericks, other compositions, and
the art of Edward Lear (See Bibliography) and others such as Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss, and
Shel Silverstein. A rhyming dictionary is helpful.
The limerick is, simply, a funny five-line story told in verse
that has a particular pattern of rhyme and rhythm. It is a form of light verse that was
popularized by Edward Lear with the publication of his Book of Nonsense in 1846.
While Edward Lear made the limerick popular it has much earlier
origins. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica and Langford Reed (a limerick
scholar and historian) the limerick is believed to have originated from a song brought
back from France by returning members of the Irish Brigade in the 18th century. The chorus
of this song was "Will you come up to Limerick?" Impromptu verses were added to
this chorus telling the adventures of persons from various Irish cities.
The first English verse in something like limerick form is the
jingle "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," of which the earliest printed version dates
from 1744. The existence of an earlier French version of "Hickory, Dickory,
Dock," offers some support to Reed's theory of a French origin.
Limericks enjoyed great popularity during the 1800's and early
1900's. Many of the earlier limericks were off-color and/or libelous of public officials.
Later limericks were milder and more suited to general circulation. Rudyard Kipling,
Arnold Bennett, E.V. Knox, and even Pres. Woodrow Wilson contributed some noteworthy
limericks to the tradition. In the first decade of the 20th century, the limerick became
very popular. Many publications and businesses organized limerick contests to promote
products or readership. The sale of rhyming dictionaries is said to have boomed.
Today the limerick is far better known in England and Ireland
than anywhere else in the world. Yet, until very recently competitions seldom called for
creating limericks ... that is until The Annual Worldwide Castlemoyle Kid's Limerick
Writing Contest. Your students (ages 5-19) are encouraged to enter the contest as part of
participating in this unit. See the rules and entry requirements at the end of this lesson
About Edward Lear
Edward Lear was born May 12, 1812 at Highgate (near London)
England. He was the youngest of 21 children and was raised and educated at home by his
eldest sister Ann. At 15 he began supporting himself by drawing.
In 1831 (at age 19) he was employed by the London Zoo and
published his first work Illustrations of the Family of the Psittocidae. This
volume was the first book of colored drawings of parrots to be published in England. This
work was followed by similar work at the British museum.
Later (1832-36), he was employed by the 13th Earl of Derby to
complete drawings of the Earl's private menagerie at Knowsley. It was here that he
produced many of the rhymes contained in his first Book of Nonsense. He wrote the
zany verses and illustrated them for the children of the Earl.
Lear found the exacting work of drawing animals was effecting
his eyesight, so he began devoting his time to landscape painting. He traveled
extensively, creating journals, and carefully finished watercolor landscapes of the places
Lear also earned a living by providing art lessons to the
children and ladies of the wealthy aristocracy. In 1846, he gave a series of drawing
lessons to Queen Victoria. His letters to his many friends were often illustrated and
always full of humorous puns and deliberate misspellings.
Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense, which was published in
1846, was the first children's book with illustrations provided by the author, a
combination of talents common today. Lear's pictures, with their few lines expressing so
much and their humor of exaggeration so appropriate to the text, were a real contributing
step forward in the work of illustrating children's books.
Lear published three volumes of bird and animal drawings, seven
illustrated volumes of travel books, i.e., Journals of a landscape Painter in Greece
and Albani (1851), and four books of nonsense. Tennyson's Poems, with
illustrations from Lear's landscapes, was published following Lear's death in 1889.
In 1996, MAXIMA New Media
released the first in a series of multimedia Lear titles. It is part of Maxima's Animated Artist Series. The release of Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense was timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the book's first publication. Maxima New Media plans to release four Lear titles. More Nonsense is expected to be available in the Fall of 1996. Maxima New Media products are distributed to educational stores and home school suppliers in the United States by Castlemoyle Books.
Copyright ©1997 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
How Pleasant To Know Mr. Lear
To provide the student familiarity with Edward Lear and his lyrics
This portion of the unit is designed to provide a broad
introduction to the limerick and the genius of Edward Lear. In this section the key
element is to provide for much listening, reading, and enjoyment of the sounds of poetry.
Tell the student about Edward Lear. Show them the book Edward
Lear's Book of Nonsense (and/or other books in the Animated Artists series). Let them know
some of the outstanding facts of his career. (See background section, "About Edward
Lear" pg. 41 of Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense, or an encyclopedia for more
Read to the students at least one each of Lear's limericks,
lyric poems, and nonsense verses. Discuss and help the students determine inductively (see
for themselves) some of the main differences between each of the major types of verse used
by Lear. The following are good choices of each example:
Lyric poems: How Pleasant To Know Mr. Lear (page 48 Edward
Lear's Book of Nonsense)
Nonsense verse: Any "Absurd ABC" (from pages 7-24, Edward
Lear's Book of Nonsense)
Limerick: Any "Crazy Colors" or "Funny
Faces" (from pages 27-40 Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense)
Make sure that you point out to the children that Lear was also
famous for his illustrations. Discuss with them how he uses his art to reinforce the
message of his lyrics, limericks, and verses.
Select one or more of these activities which are appropriate for your
students' age, interests, and/or ability:
1a) Allow the students to explore the book(s), CD-ROM multi-media
program(s), and/or listen to the audio CD-ROM(s) on their own. You may wish to have other
anthologies of limericks available for students to explore. See bibliography.
1b) If you make it a habit to have daily read-aloud time - you may
want to begin reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, or Through the
Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll at some point in this unit. Carroll's books contain
some of the best nonsense verse, limericks, and rhyme ever written.
1c) Have students select one of Lear's works to read to the family
or class. The student should be prepared to explain why they selected the poem. They also
should have read the poem several times to assure smooth reading.
1d) Students may work in small groups to make choral reading
presentations of either an assigned or a selected longer Lear poem, such as the "Owl
and the Pussycat," "The Duck and The Kangaroo," or "Mr. and Mrs.
Discobbolos" (see bibliography).
1e) Selected pieces can be used for dictation or penmanship
exercises. The "Absurd ABC" all make excellent penmanship exercises because of
his use of alliteration (repetition of the beginning sounds).
1f) You may wish to assign older students to conduct research on
either limericks or Lear. Have them write an original biographical sketch which can be
used as part of one of the projects described in the Culminating Projects. They may wish
to add Lear's picture and a mini biographical sketch to their history time-line and learn
more about the period in which he lived. There are several web sites which provide
information on Edward Lear, as well as numerous texts available (see bibliography).
1g) Reread or have your older students read Lear's poetic
self-portrait (pg. 48 of Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense). Have students make up a
similar rhyme that describes themselves.
1h) Read and discuss the vocabulary of one of Lear's longer
pieces. After reading it to the student(s) provide them an un-illustrated copy of one of
Lear's longer poems for them to illustrate.
Copyright ©1996 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
Making The Words Sing
To recognize and appreciate that poets use various devices to
create sound in poetry.
Poets bring sound to poetry by using such devices as rhyming
couplets, onomatopoeia, and alliteration. Familiarity with these techniques can aid all
students to become better writers because while sound plays a primary role in the
effectiveness of poetry, it also plays a role in the effectiveness of prose. Sometimes
when faced with two possible ways to structure a sentence, a writer selects one rather
than the other simply because it sounds better. Work with sound/meaning relationships
prepares children to make such decisions as they gain sophistication as creative writers.
A primary purpose, therefore, of playing with the sounds of poetry is to develop
heightened awareness of the significance of word music in communication.
For each of the poetic forms below make a brief introduction to
your students and then with the student analyze the suggested piece to determine how it is
applied. Do not over analyze the poems. Over-analysis can ruin children's favorite poems,
so keep it on the light side. Pointing out or helping them discover one or two techniques
the author used from each poem is sufficient.
Here is a sample lesson:
"Today we are going to learn about techniques poets use to
paint pictures with words and sounds. One technique that many poets use is alliteration.
An alliteration is when the poet repeats the beginning sounds of words, like in the tongue
twister 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.' Can you see where Lear uses
alliteration in this piece?"
The Comfortable Confidential Cow,
who sat in her Red Morocco Arm Chair and
Toasted her own Bread at the parlour Fire.
(from page 8 of Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense)
Provide several sample pieces for students to discover the
technique. Then send them looking for more in other poems or writing. Remember the key
thing is not to over analyze any one poem. Follow the "alliteration hunt" by
having the student attempt writing a one line alliteration. (Or applying whatever
technique was explored.)
Note: The writing activity can be tied to your spelling program
by asking the student to try and use one or more study/list words to complete the task.
Follow this lesson pattern with as many of the poetic forms
listed below as you feel are appropriate for your students. Key forms for this unit are
marked with an asterisk. Each is followed with the title and source of a good example of
Stanzas: Lines or verses ordered into a complete
group are called a stanza; stanzas are described, according to the number of lines they
include, as couplets, tercets, quatrains, sestets, octaves, etc.
Couplets: Couplets are two lines that rhyme
together and are approximately the same length. Example: The Duck and The Kangaroo by
Onomatopoeia: Using words to imitate sounds is
known as onomatopoeia, from a Greek word meaning "name-making." Some examples of
onomatopoeia are hiss, zoom, and scratch. These words imitate natural sounds. Lear only
occasionally used this device.
Alliteration: Sometimes poets bring sound to poetry
by repeating the beginning sounds of words, like "smooth seams." The repetition
of an initial sound, usually a consonant, is called alliteration. Example: Any of the
"Absurd ABC" nonsense verses found in Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense.
Personification: The writer is using
personification when he has inanimate objects or animals take on human characteristics,
qualities, and or actions. Lear uses personification extensively in his "Absurd
ABC" nonsense verses and most of his longer poems. The Owl and The Pussycat and many
of Lear's longer works are excellent example of the use of Personification. (Ask your
students if owls and cats really do those things.) Other examples are found in many of the
"Absurd ABC" or The Owl and The Pussycat.
The lesson procedure presented above provides a basic activity to
use with each of the poetic forms. Below are additional activities which you may wish to
assign, depending on the age and ability level of your student.
2a) Alliterative Fun. Each child selects a verb with the same
beginning sound as his or her first name to complete a sentence starting with the name;
for example: John jumps, Mary munches, Debra dances, etc. This kind of work is
"pre-poetry" in that the end product generally does not contain the clear images
that are the essence of poetry.
2b) Alliterative Speech Parts. Similar to the activity above
you may create longer alliterations in a predetermined sequence of speech parts. This is
an excellent way to introduce or review the parts of speech. For example:
(noun, verb) Mary marches
(noun, verb, adverb) Mary marches merrily
(adjective, noun, verb, adverb) Meritous Mary marches merrily
and so on.
Copyright ©1996 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
Recognizing the elements of a limerick
Students will quickly pick out the five-line pattern of the
limerick as well as discover the aabba rhyming pattern. They can tap out the rhythm of
Lear's limericks, perhaps on rhythm band instruments, so that they feel the stress on
second, fifth, and eighth syllables of each line.
After reading several limericks to the class and showing them
copies of some, help them "discover" the pattern, rhythm, and rhyme scheme of a
limerick. They will need to work with several limericks to really form the generalization
of the limerick pattern.
Note: The first section of Edward Lear's Book of
Nonsense, "Absurd ABC," are not limericks, but are nonsense verses;
have students examine the "Crazy Colors" and "Funny Faces" selections
to determine the elements of a limerick.
Here is a limerick by Eve Merriam which you can teach to your
students as a culminating activity for this lesson. It will helps them remember how to
write a limerick and serves as a great summary. (This example is from Leaning on a
When a limerick line starts out first,
What follows is fated, accursed:
If the third line takes tea,
The fourth must agree.
While five, two, and one pool their thirst.
The following elements of limerick are rich with material for
teaching important language arts skills. Here is just a sampling of activities for each
limerick aspect which you may want to try:
Rhyme: For your youngest students you can
concentrate on rhyme and rhyming words - let them enjoy the sounds of our language and
examine the text for those word parts that form the rhyme. You can make large copies (or
write them on the board) of the limericks with the last word of each line missing. Then
have the student supply a missing word for the first and third line. Then instruct them to
select words which will rhyme with these words according to the limerick pattern. You may
also use this as an opportunity to introduce rhyming dictionaries.
Students of all ages should try to inductively determine the
rhyming scheme of limericks (see Elements of the Limerick above) and of other poems. You
may also choose to introduce them to different rhyming techniques and use of sound
patterns in poetry. Older students should be taught how to read and record the shorthand
of rhyming schemes (e.g. aabba, abba, etc.)
A limerick has a pattern of syllables as well as a rhyming scheme.
This provides an excellent opportunity for introduction or review of syllabication or clap
out the syllables to help your students discover this pattern. For younger students you
can create clapping charts or slashes on the board for each clap - this way they will have
a record of the syllabication scheme. Creating a series of such charts can help students
discover the rhythm of various forms of verse. You can also have them tap out the rhythm
on rhythm sticks and/or drums. If you are teaching primary students, you may wish to
consult Math Their Way for suggestions of profitable ways to apply this activity to your
The accent on specific syllables of each line also help build the
rhythm of the limerick. Have the student compare the accent (after you teach or review
accent) of a limerick and another rhyming poem. Expand the clapping charts to make the
accented syllables darker lines.
Verse may be defined as an obviously rhythmical use of language,
manipulating accent, stress, and cadence in such a way as to create recurrent pattern of
emphasis. A simplistic explanation is that meter describes the rhythm. Explain what is
meant by masculine meter (stress or emphasis on last syllable.) Discuss how these elements
affect how you read a poem or limerick. Have the student practice using this information
in interpretive readings. Reading to beat is an important aspect of oral interpretation.
The main use of meter in English verse are: iambic, trochaic,
anapaestic, and dactylic (usually appearing in a catalectic form). Discussion of meter can
become quite involved, but is well worth the effort with older, interested students. For
more details on meter, consult or have the student consult the Encyclopedia Britannica
The Elements Of Limericks
There are five lines.
Note: Lines 3 and 4 are often printed on the same physical line.
Rhyming scheme (a a b b a):
Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme
Lines 3 and 4 rhyme.
Number of syllables:
Some of the examples in textbooks vary, but the number of syllables usually follow this
Line 1 8 syllables.
Line 2 8 syllables.
Line 3 5 syllables.
Line 4 5 syllables.
Line 5 8 syllables.
Lines 1, 2, and 5 contain 3 accented syllables.
Lines 3 and 4 contain 2 accented syllables.
There is no required metrical scheme, but each line usually has a
masculine ending that is that each phrase is always stressed, or emphasized, on the
Limericks thrive on the lack of harmonious agreement between
parts. They contain a broad humor that most students over 8 to 10 years old appreciate.
Junior High age students seem to really appreciate the limerick form. Younger students,
preschool to eight, really enjoy the rhythm and rhyme of the limerick.
Copyright ©1996 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
To use the limerick form to create original humorous rhymes.
Most students will find limerick writing an enjoyable activity,
because limericks can be just as ridiculous as each author wishes. Once they have a solid
introduction to the limerick, writing a limerick is easy. The teaching value lies in two
Disciplined Expression: Limerick writing
requires strict adherence to the patterns of rhyme, rhythm, and the number of syllables
per line. This will make students more acutely aware of these elements, will increase
their respect for poetry as a discipline, and will guide their attitudes toward a healthy
acceptance of personal orderliness and self-control.
Self-Expression: Encourage all students to be
active participants - they are capable of writing and reciting their own original
limericks. One of the chief underlying facts recognized as sound teaching is that a
student must generate his own thoughts and apply new skills himself, if the values of
these skills are to be lasting. The memorization of rules and the mute acceptance of
someone else's efforts cannot alone develop a student's potential.
Only after considerable oral work with limericks (such as
described in the above lessons) should young people be expected to compose some of their
own. Even after this exposure most students will need some guided practice before being
expected to work on their own. The purpose of this lesson is to provide that guided
Guided Limerick Writing.
Before Beginning: Remind the students of the elements of a
limerick and their rhyme and rhythm patterns. You may want to have them repeat Eve
Merriam's limerick presented in the last lesson. (Use this discussion to identify those
who would benefit from reteaching.)
Step 1: Write a person's name on the chalkboard. (Preferably
not the name of a member of your group.) Also be sure to select a name that is easily
rhymed. Then brainstorm - creating a cluster map around the name- all the words you can
think of that rhyme with this name. Explain that sometimes Lear was known to create a
nonsense word if he couldn't come up with a rhyme. This is often referred to as
"pulling a Lear."
Spend some time on this activity, creating cluster maps for
other names, place names, and common objects suggested by your students.
You may wish to assign students the task of creating rhyme maps of
their own as independent work or homework. They should be required to come up with at
least one rhyme map for a person or place and at least one for an object or event.
Step 2: Using two of the rhyming maps you created as a group, one
for a place or a person and one for an object or an event, rewrite with the student's help
a limerick by changing the last word of each line of one of Lear's Limericks. Explain how
it is sometimes necessary to change a few other words to have the limerick make some
sense. Thus, this limerick by Edward Lear:
There was a Young Lady of Norway,
Who casually sat in a doorway;
When the door squeezed her flat,
She exclaimed, "What of that?"
This courageous Young Lady of Norway.
There was a Young Lady of Trife,
Who casually sat on a knife,
When the knife it went in,
She started to grin,
So courageous, she gave up her life.
a) Have student select a limerick to rewrite, using two rhyming maps of their own
creation. It may be easier for some students to change the last word of the first line and
the third line. Then to create rhyme maps for the word which they used to replace the
original word. Finally, have them change the other lines as needed to maintain rhyme,
rhythm, and sense. (If you suggest students work in this manner remember you will need to
model the activity.) Ask them to read the original and the rewritten versions aloud.
b) If you have younger students, it may be sufficient to simply
have them take the last word from each sentence of their favorite limerick or nonsense
verse and make a list of as many rhyming words as they can.
Step 3: Model original limerick composition. With your students
list names or place-names (including nonsense names) you could use to end the first line
of a limerick. Then create a rhyming map for this word. Brainstorm with the student to
list all of the possibilities.
Next, have the student imagine a funny situation or action. They
should create a rhyme map for these words also. Now, guide them through making some notes
about this event to use in a limerick.
They might also note and create rhyme maps of objects which could
be related to the actions. For each of these items have them create a rhyming map. Have
them use this information to write their own limericks.
c) Another way to encourage successful limerick writing is to
furnish the first line for students. Students may work in small groups or individually to
finish the limerick of which they are given the first two lines. The following lines may
be useful for this:
- There was a young fellow named Katz...
- Question marks to me are a bore...
- The was a little girl named Brit...
Copyright ©1996 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
Culminating Limerick Projects
To provide opportunity for independent application and synthesis
of previous lessons.
Ending any creative writing or expository writing unit with the
creation of a published product is motivating and propels students to sustained effort.
The activities below provide just a few ideas of how students can publish their own
limerick works. You and/or your students may think of many additional ideas while working
through the unit. Make a note of these ideas as they occur to you and present them to the
students along with the activities below.
Select one or more of these activities which are appropriate for
your students age, interest, and ability. You may allow your student or small groups of
students to make a choice from these activities or assign a particular activity.
5a. Limerick Anthology. Have students create an anthology of
limericks of their own creation or a collection of favorites found in books or on WORLD
WIDE WEB sites. (You may wish to discuss copyright law with your older students.) The
anthology should contain at least eight limericks. Ask students to copy a different
limerick on each page of their book, give credit to the author, (including Anonymous), and
to illustrate each poem (a la Lear). Have them complete their book including all important
book parts (title page, covers, etc.). Display the completed anthologies or mass produce
as a class/group publishing project.
5b. Calendar limericks. Have students write a limerick using
the names of the months in the first line. Use these limericks along with illustrations to
decorate each page of a calendar. These can be made as gifts or as a class or small group
publishing project. Here is an example for a January limerick:
January brings with it the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow,
Thin ice it can crack
You'll fall on your back,
Off to the hospital you'll go.
5c. Progressive Limericks. Create a progressive limerick. Have
the first person or group create a limerick. The succeeding groups/persons must continue
the theme and characters of the first. As a result a zany story develops. You might want
to keep this going awhile, even beyond the unit. It can be on a computer (class web page)
or you could use a large roll of butcher paper. Artistic students can add the
For an example of an excellent ongoing Progressive Limerick
(original verses from 1925) you may wish to check out The Nantucket Limerick Website.. At the
time of the writing of this lesson plan this site had no objectionable material, however
things change and not all links were checked. I suggest you download the limericks and
check them carefully before presenting them to your students.
5d. Limerick Contests. Enter the Annual Worldwide Castlemoyle Kids Limerick
Writing Contest or other limerick contests. Following are the rules for the
Castlemoyle contest. Other contests and their rules can be located at some of
the web sites listed in the bibliography.
Official Entry and Rules
Annual Worldwide Castlemoyle
Kid's Limerick Writing Contest
All entries must be received by May 12, of the year of the contest. Entries received after 5 p.m. (PST), May 12 will be entered in the next year's contest.
Each entry must be sent in a separate envelope or on a separate postcard. They can also be e-mailed. (Addresses provided below)
Entry must include the full name, birthdate, home address and home phone number of entree. School name and teacher is also encouraged if the entry is part of a class project. A Parent's full name and signature must also be provided on each entry - whether entered through school project or not.
Entries will be judged on their originality, creativity, and adherence to limerick conventions. Judging will be administrated by the staff at Castlemoyle Books.
Entries containing (in the opinion of the contest administrators) objectionable or obscene material will be disqualified.
All entries, whether selected as a winner or not or disqualified for any reason, become the property of Castlemoyle Books to be used in any manner deemed suitable to said publishers. They may be published in an anthology of limericks, used to publicize future contests, or any other manner. In either case no remuneration, except as specified for winning entries, will be awarded.
Four prizes of $25. US Savings Bonds will be awarded, one each to the following age groups: 5-7 year olds; 8-10 year olds; 12-14 year olds; and 15-19 years old.
Submission of an entry constitutes agreement by both author of entry and his or her parent to all contest policies and releases.
Send entries to: Castlemoyle Books, 6701 180th St SW, Lynnwood WA 98037 or FAX: 206/787-0631 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extensions and Activities
To provide extension, review, and additional application of
material provided in the unit.
1. Another form of disciplined poetry is Acrostics. An
acrostic is a poem that has a visual dimension in that the letters of the subject word is
written in bold print and form the beginning letters of the lines. Even very young
children, who have just learned to differentiate among beginning sounds of words, can
write or patch together simple acrostics. The very young write only one related word or
phrase next to each letter of a word listed downward on their page.
2. Introduce the student to The Haiku. Haikus are three-line
verses that in the hands of Japanese poet masters of the seventeenth century became
delicate instruments for expressing feelings and pictures about nature and especially
about seasonal variations. The poems are just 17 syllables that pattern in three lines:
consisting of 5 - 7 - 5 syllables respectively.
Because a haiku is comparable to a single image captured on film,
pictures are a practical material for triggering the word pictures that are the stuff of
haiku. This is particularly true of nature shots glorifying the beauty of God's creations.
One teacher used this idea to inspire her sixth-graders to look
for the essential quality within a nature scene and to express it with directness. She
provided her students with a series of Japanese prints from calendars and other books
purchased just for this purpose. Each child who felt inspired selected a print to think
and write about. Here is a haiku written by a student who selected a delicate lotus as her
The pink swamp flower
Has a beauty of its own
a heavy fragrance.
3. You may also wish to introduce the student to The Senryu.
The senryu is a Japanese poem structurally similar to the haiku but concentrates on human
rather than physical nature. Many students, especially boys, will find this more pleasing
as they often prefer to write about topics such as baseball and so on.
4. Introduce another disciplined form of poetry such as the
Japanese Tanka. The Tanka, like the Haiku, focuses on nature and seasons but is a bit
longer. It is also an older form of poetry, dating to the fourth century. It consists of
five lines and 31 syllables distributed according to the pattern 5 - 7 - 5- 7- 7.
5a. The Cinquain is not of Japanese origin as many imagine
because of its similarity to haiku and tanka. As developed by Adelaide Crapsey, cinquains
consist of 5 thought lines that follow a 2-4-6-8-2 syllable pattern for a total of 22
up our big Birch tree
to hide his acorn treats
5b. Some teachers have simplified this form so
that number of words rather than syllables per line is the major structural requirement of
first line = one word
second line = two words
third line = three words
fourth line = four words
fifth line = one word
6. Teach your students create a diamante. A diamante is a
relatively structured form comprised of seven lines that contain a contrast. Not only
highly disciplined they are great for reviewing (even teaching) the parts of speech. The
diamante, as devised by Iris Tiedt, follows this pattern:
First Line: a noun (word that names an object or idea)
Second Line: two adjectives (that describe the fist noun)
Third Line: three participles (verbs with -ing or -ed endings)
associated with the first noun.
Fourth line: four nouns - two referring to the noun in line one,
two to the noun in line seven.
Fifth Line: three participles that are associated with the noun
given in line seven.
Sixth Line: two adjectives that describe the line seven noun
Seventh Line: a noun that is the opposite of the one given in the
by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
praying, striving, growing
worker, friend, victim, loser
crying, lying, dying
Copyright ©1996 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
© 1996 Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
Books, Periodicals, and more ...
Arts Council of Great Britain. Edward Lear, an exhibition of oil paintings,
Baring-Gould, William Stuart, The lure of the limerick: an uninhibited history,
C. N. Potter [c1967]
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 13 & 14. Edward Lear and Limerick (Vol. 14,
page 37 & 38 )
Cerf, Bennett, Out on a limerick; a collection of over 300 of the world's best,
Chitty, Susan, Lady, That singular person called Lear: a biography of Edward Lear,
Atheneum, 1989, c1988.
Davidson, Angus, Edward Lear, landscape painter and nonsense poet, 1812-1888.
Hofer, Philip, Edward Lear. Oxford University Press, 1952.
Hofer, Philip, Edward Lear as a landscape draughtsman, Belknap Press of Har 1967.
Kamen, Gloria, Edward Lear, king of nonsense: a biography, Atheneum, 1990.
Kelen, Emery, Mr. Nonsense: a life of Edward Lear, T. Nelson 
Lear, Edward, How pleasant to know Mr. Lear: Edward Lear's selected works,
Holiday House, 1982.
-----, The complete nonsense of Edward Lear, Dover Publications [c1951]
-----, Later letters of Edward Lear, author of "The book of nonsense,"
-----, The nonsense verse of Edward Lear, Harmony Books, c1984.
-----, Indian journal; watercolours and extracts from the diary of Edward Lear,
-----, Letters of Edward Lear, author of "The book of nonsense," to Chi T.F.
-----, An Edward Lear alphabet, Lothrop, Lee & Shepa 1983.
-----, A book of bosh : lyrics and prose of Edward Lear, Puffin Books, 1975.
Lehmann, John, Edward Lear and his world, Scribner, c1977.
Levi, Peter. Edward Lear: a biography, Scribner, 1995.
Moss, Howard, Writing against time; critical essays and reviews. Morrow, 1969.
Noakes, Vivien, Edward Lear; the life of a wanderer. Houghton Mifflin, 1969
-----, Edward Lear, 1812-1888, H.N. Abrams, 1986, c1985.
-----, The Animal tale treasury , Putnam, 1986.
Reed, Langford (ed.), The Complete Limerick Book (1925)
Rosenbloom, Joseph. The looniest limerick book in the world, Sterling, c1982.
Vaughn, Stanton. Limerick lyrics, G. Sully and Co. [c1906]
Yrom, Thomas. Nonsense and wonder: the poems and cartoons of Edward Lear, Dutton,
Mr. Punch's limerick book; Loring & Mussey, 1935.
The Limerick: 1700 examples, with notes, variants and index. Citadel Press, 1979.
The Limerick : 1700 examples, with notes, variants and index. Bell Pub. Co., c1969.
Happy birthday, Moon and other stories for young children Children's
Circle [1989?], c1971.
The Pigs' wedding and other stories Children's Circle 1990.
Lear, Edward, Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense. (illustrated).
MAXIMA New Media, Kokhav Yair, Israel. c.1995
World Wide Web Sites ...
At the time of the writing of
this lesson plan these sites had no objectionable material, however things change and not
all links from these sites were checked. I suggest you download the limericks and check
them carefully before presenting them to your students.
MAXIMA New Media Creators of the "Animated
Artist Series," of which Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense is the first book. More
Nonsense is expected in Fall, 1996.
There once was a man from Nantucket...
An ongoing Progressive Limerick (original verses from 1925).
"Waiting Room Limericks" Not just for doctors!
The SETI League, Inc. Winning
The Toast Point Limerick
Contest - Structure
The "Italian" Edward
Lear. Lear spent a great portion of his life in Italy. Here's an Italian web site with
some very interesting material.
The WEBster: Limericks
and other Poetics
Creative Writing Lesson Plans
is produced by:
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Post Office Box 520
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All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Additional copies of this lesson plan are available from the above address.
Copyright © 1996 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
The Animated Artist Series - CD-Rom Gift Sets are published by Maxima New Media Ltd., Israel. They are distributed by Castlemoyle Books (see address above).
Copyright ©1997 by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
Edward Learís Book of Nonsense
Edward Lear is one of the most well-loved childrenís poets. Often compared to Lewis Carroll, though less well-known, his work has delighted children and adults for the past one hundred and fifty years. Best known for the Owl and the Pussycat, Lear is unique in that he was a multi-faceted artist. He started out as a naturalist illustrator, and his work is considered on par with that of Audubon. He came into his own with his nonsense illustrations. Lear anticipated animation in his drawings, and the movement embedded in his simple lines just beg to come alive.
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the original publication of Edward Learís Book of Nonsense the merritorious mouse plays a merry minuet on the piano-forte and the Fizzgiggious Fish dances to classical jazz on the new CD-Rom companion to the re-released book.
This gift package includes a book and a Multimedia CD-Rom. The book features more than fifty of the whimsical limericks and zany illustrations for which Lear was famous. The CD-Rom brings the charming illustrations to life. An audio-track CD, which can be used in a standard CD player, contains original music and narration.
ďEveryone in the family, from infants to grandpas, will get a kick out of this multiple media edition of Learís Book of Nonsense. Itís sophisticated and silly, classy and original, and guaranteed to be a scroobiously, gloriously runcible delight!!Ē Aron Trauring
1-888297-01-8 . . . . . . . . . . . $18.95
Castlemoyle's Home Page
Online Ordering Information
© 1997 Beverly L. Adams-Gordon -- Page Updated: 27-Feb-1997