Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Miss Hasler's English Class: 7

Settle down everyone! Timmy, that includes you. Back at your own desk now, there’s a good boy. You’ll have plenty of time to play doctors with Sophie later.

Today’s lesson, you’ll all be happy to hear, is another on poetry. Do you remember our last lesson? When we learned that lines in poems are made up of feet, and that the rhythm in a poem is called meter? Good. I do like it when you remember things.

Today we are going to look at a particular type of poem: a type called a limerick.

Limericks are very short. Yes, Natasha? Yes, dear, short like your skirt. Does anyone know how many lines a limerick contains? No, not ninety-three. Stop giggling back there, Ana! It’s quite a small number. You can count it on one hand.

That’s right, Andrea – the answer is five! Good girl. ANA! SIT STILL! I won’t tell you again.

Limericks have five lines, and they use rhyme at the end of each line. The rhyme scheme goes:


This means that lines one, two and five rhyme with each other, and lines three and four rhyme with each other.

So we know how many lines we have and the way they rhyme. But what about the length of the lines? How many syllables do they contain?

A traditional limerick has lines of nine and six syllables, with the pattern matching that of the rhyme scheme: nine, nine, six, six, nine. But we know that there is more to poetic meter than the number of syllables, don’t we? The rhythm of the lines – the places where the emphasis, or stress, is placed – is just as important.

Do you remember the funny word we learned in the last class, to describe a metrical foot that went da-dum? That type of foot is called an iamb. There are lots of other funny words for other types of feet, and limericks often use one called an anapest. Emily, stop smirking. The anapest has three syllables rather than two, and goes da-da-dum.

If we apply this to our traditional limerick, that has lines of nine and six syllables, we get:

da-da-dum da-da-dum da-da-dum
da-da-dum da-da-dum da-da-dum
da-da-dum da-da-dum
da-da-dum da-da-dum
da-da-dum da-da-dum da-da-dum

That’s a lot of da-da-dums, isn’t it! This pattern tells us exactly how a traditional limerick is structured, and gives us a basis for writing our own.

Now. I’ve used the word ‘traditional’ several times today, and that is because there is more than one way to write a limerick. I personally prefer to write them with shorter lines – containing eight and five syllables – and to use a meter that goes:

da-dum-da da-dum-da da-dum
da-dum-da da-dum

I call these poems Pennylicks, because my name is Penny, and because it’s a funny word to use. Yes, Daniel... even teachers have first names.

These lines use another type of foot, one with a very strange name: the amphibrach. Sounds like a dinosaur, doesn’t it? This foot goes da-dum-da. And we see that, long or short, the lines all end with an iamb: da-dum.

Emma, you look confused. It’s alright, dear. The names of feet don’t really matter, and lines can be broken down in a variety of ways. Think of a line in terms of a cake: the cake might be twelve inches across but you can cut it into however many slices you like. Look at the patterns on the board again and you’ll see what I did to make a limerick a Pennylick. I simply snipped the opening syllable off each line: the rest of the line is identical.

Shall we write a Pennylick? Let’s try.

There once was a beautiful girl
Who ran everywhere in a whirl.
She dashed home for tea
Bounded in with “yippee!”
And fell off her chair with a twirl.

What a silly girl! I’m glad I don’t have any silly girls in my class.

Do you see and hear how the rhythm works? It’s easiest to write lines that have short words, but if you’re careful and listen to the word in your head you can use longer words like ‘beautiful’. Just think about where the stress is placed in the word and you’ll put it into your line at the right place.

One more thing. Look at line four. Do you notice anything different about it? That’s right: it has six syllables instead of five. I added a syllable at the start of the line to demonstrate that it’s all right to vary things in poetry. I know that I’ve described the structure of limericks in quite a rigid way, but that is just to give you a general starting point. You are free to experiment and bend the rules. Unlike, of course, in school.

Now children, would you like to try writing a limerick (or a Pennylick)?


  1. I dont' know that I can write a pennylick but I'm adding that into my dictionary and will use it in a sentence daily... :) Love a pennylick.

    There's an ice cream advert here for an ice-cream called a 'licker'. Well, I'm already thinking dirty things when I read that - then I read the advert and it goes 'I like a licker'. You got me thinking of it with Pennylick.

    Sorry, really inappropriate and just weird. I can take a pic of the advert if you like??? Cute post and thank you for the lesson. xoxo

    1. Not inappropriate at all - I love it! :)

      I'd love to see a pic, thank you. And you are more than welcome for the lesson!

  2. I think I can do this! My inspiration is a girl from last year's class. Her name is Penny, too. What a coincidence! Anyway, she was always getting into trouble, all by herself with no help from anyone. So here goes:

    Meet Penny, a student from Britain.
    Her conduct in class didn't fit in.
    The word reached her Daddy,
    Was he ever mad-dy!
    So poor Penny's standin', not sittin'.

    <puts pencil down, grins proudly>

    1. That's a lovely poem, Bruno! You deserve a gold star for such good work.

      What a funny coincidence about the naughty girl being called Penny! And English, too! But then I suppose not all Pennys can be as well-behaved as me.

  3. Ooo! Ooo!

    A Pennybird likes her candy,
    but tots on the ground are sandy,
    Emily's jellies,
    nicer in bellies.
    Always make Pennybird. . .

    I can't think of a last word. . . :D

    1. Very good work, Emily! Your sense of meter is excellent, and the imagery you create is most enjoyable. You can come to my desk and take a sweet as a reward.

  4. I'm certain that Penny's been bad
    Cause she has been avoiding her Dad
    The truth he will find
    And bare her behind
    And blister her bottom like Mad !!

    1. Another lovely poem, about another naughty girl called Penny! There must be lots of them around, I think. Very good work!

  5. I was always amused by a lolly called "Juicy Lucy" ...)

    I'll keep my mind on the Pennylick

    Our Penny's a naugty young girl
    Who puts all our minds in a whirl
    Although to be frank she likes a good spank
    When her uniform panties unfurl..

    1. Another naughty Penny! It really must be a common name.

      Your poem is wonderful, Mr X - well done! You are a very good boy for listening so carefully and writing so cleverly. If you like you can stay behind after class as a treat.

  6. Here's one of mine :)

    A fat bottomed lady from Crewe
    Whose rump was whacked red, black and blue
    Said, "My mate used a kipper
    Instead of a slipper
    And now I smell horrible too!"

    1. What a funny poem, Lucy! You definitely deserve a gold star. Just imagine being spanked with a fish, hehe!

  7. Sorry I am so tardy. Here's one Miss -

    There once was a boy from france,
    who tried to sneak peeks of gilrl's underpants.
    But his teacher did see
    And took him over her knee.
    Then the girls saw his red botom dance.

    1. Excellent, Billy - well done! You are a very good boy and you can come and collect a gold star.

  8. Penny pranks earn her big spanks ,very nice blog,love and spanks,Timx