Poetry: Exploring sound devices with couplets

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Poetry is a special form of writing that allows a student to express ideas, emotions, or experiences directly through words in verse.  It is probably the most artistic of all genres of writing because of the delicate juggling act of (a) rhythms, (b) sound devices, and (c) subject matter

The sounds of the words in a line of poetry make a rhythm that is similar to the rhythm in music.  This rhythm is established by stressed and unstressed syllables.  The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem is called its meterIt’s important to pay attention to rhythm because it’s key to understanding the full effect of a poem.

Some poets use sound devices as a strategy to create an emotional response by the listener.  Sound devices are special tools the poet can use to create certain effects in the poem to convey and reinforce meaning through sound.  The four most common sound devices are repetition, rhyme, alliteration, and assonance.

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Subject matter for any form of poetry writing is limitless.  Subject matter is the topic that is being written about and serves as the foundation for the text. 

Are you aware that incorporating poetry lessons throughout the school year can actually improve your students’ writing in other genres?  Poetry writing helps students develop language, vocabulary, and word choice skills.   Each word in a poem is packed with meaning to show instead of tell, so good poets carefully choose each word for the effect its meaning and sound will have on the listener.  They choose words that will bring about sensory images in the imagination and emotional responses in the heart.   

Personally, I think couplets are a fun way to begin teaching students about the basics of rhythm and rhyme, using any subject matter of interest.  A couplet refers to two successive lines of poetry that rhyme and have the same meter.  A couplet can consist of only two lines, or it can have multiple rhyming stanzas, consisting of two lines each.

Take a look at these examples:

I do not like green eggs and ham
I do not like them Sam I am.

 - Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!

 - Nursery Rhyme

Here’s some more information you need to understand about couplets:  Couplets may be formal or run-on.  A formal (or closed) couplet has a grammatical pause at the end of each line or verse.  On the other hand, a run-on (or open) couplet allows the meaning of the first line to continue to the second line.  This is also called enjambment.

Couplet Writing Activity:

Divide into small groups.  Each group selects a subject based on the current season. (For example, if the season is fall, a group could select Halloween, football, falling leaves, etc.) Each member of the group writes a couplet with multiple rhyming stanzas, consisting of two lines each to declare the chosen subject matter.

Then, each group creates a mural or collage to celebrate the chosen subject matter.  Each group tells about its subject in both the poem and artwork.  Discuss the artwork and couplets and how they made you feel about the selected subject matter.  Be sure to follow the Rules for Discussion and the Guidelines for an Oral Presentation:

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Haiku Review: the Valentine's Day Edition

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Need a new idea to get the creative juices flowing in your classroom?

The Haiku offers that opportunity to your students by channeling their creativity into this unique form of Japanese poetry. 

Here is a great lesson plan to get you started. (By the way, you can find this lesson, along with many others, in the Unit Studies Section of your Shurley English book!)

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You can adapt the directions by creating an example with your students that focuses on the desired holiday or season.  For this example, I focused on creating a haiku to include in a valentine for a mother or grandmother in the life of the student.



Loving me each day

Never giving up on me

My Valentine Mom.


Missing you today

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom

Hugs up to heaven.


She wakes me each day

With a smile and a big hug -

Now filled, love others!



No other mother

Can fix my crushed, broken heart

She’s just right for me!


Just Grandma and me

Baking her special cookies

Making memories!


Of course, the students can use whatever craft supplies you provide to design a special valentine card, which includes their haiku to bring a smile to someone. Just think, you can help to create lifelong treasures in the families represented in your classroom! I saved many of the special creations of my own son, most of them prompted by his wonderful teachers throughout his elementary school years.  What a privilege you have to be a part of making memories to last a lifetime!

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Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.