If your students are finding poetry a little stiff and boring, then it’s time to introduce limericks! Despite their short length, having students write their own limerick poems can provide quite the challenge–even for older students! In this post, you’ll find some tips for teaching limericks!
(Want to expose your students to more types of poems? Check out this post with tips for teaching odes!)
Looking for a done-for-you limerick lesson? My Limerick Writing Lesson includes everything you need!
Why Teach Limerick Poems?
Limericks are funny and sometimes nonsensical. This makes them a delightful reprieve from “stuffy” forms of poetry that might be more commonplace in an academic setting. Your students will have fun both reading and writing them!
But just because limericks are short and funny doesn’t mean they’re easy. Limerick writing can still be quite a challenge for students of all abilities.
Limericks have a pretty rigid form. They’re only 5 lines and follow a AABBA rhyme scheme. Those A lines have 7-10 syllables and the B lines have 5-7 syllables.
Furthermore, limericks need to tell a quick story or create a funny situation. Juggling humor, a rhyme scheme, and syllable counting will be more difficult for your students than they expect!
Limerick writing is the perfect lesson if you’re looking for something that’s both fun and rigorous. (It’s also the perfect activity if you’re looking for a way to enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day while emphasizing writing skills.)
Teaching Limericks Step #1: Introduce the Form and Its Structure
Before your students can begin writing limericks, they first have to understand what a limerick is.
This can be tricky if your students haven’t had much exposure to writing poetry with strict forms before. You may need to review counting syllables or teach marking rhyme schemes.
(If these are lessons you want to incorporate regularly in your classroom, check out this post on poetry analysis warm-ups.)
You may even need to review some basic literary terms like line and stanza. (My free “I Am” Poem Writing resource is great for going over those.)
Once students have a working knowledge of the vocabulary needed, you can go on to teach them the form and structure of the limerick.
Teaching Limericks Step #2: Provide Examples
I include a few examples in my Limerick Writing Lesson, but your students can never have enough examples.
Unfortunately, finding examples of limericks that are classroom appropriate isn’t always easy. (And let’s be honest–the funniest ones are not classroom appropriate!)
If you’re struggling to find examples, check out Edward Lear who published (and illustrated!) an entire book of them. Many can be found for free online.
Once your students begin writing their own, don’t forget to save the best ones as future examples!
Teaching Limericks Step #3: Brainstorming
Once students have an understanding of both the form and humorous tone of a limerick, they can begin brainstorming topics.
Students may be tempted to begin writing immediately, but encourage them to slow down and create a list of topics first. Remind them that the topic should be short–a quick observation or a very short anecdote.
Encourage students to think about something that would be silly or nonsensical to see.
Only once they have a few ideas should they move on to writing.
Teaching Limericks Step #4: Emphasize the Importance of the Final Line
As students write, you may want to walk around the room and peek over their shoulders. Students might focus so much on getting words on the paper, counting syllables, or coming up with rhymes that they forget to include a punchline!
But that final punchline at the end of a limerick is the most important part. Keep reminding them that the twist, unexpected, or humorous feature of their topic should be revealed in the final line.
Teaching Limericks Step #5: Edit, Tweak, and Practice
Chances are your students will not produce a flawless limerick on their first go. Remind them to double-check their rhyme scheme and syllable count. Then, encourage them to swap poems with a peer and edit one another’s work.
You may even want to require students to write two, three, or four limericks at first. Then, they can choose their best one for peer editing.
It will take some practice before they become efficient limerick machines. As with all English skills, the only way is for students to continue practicing!
Your students may never have to write a limerick in the “real world,” but the skills they use to write one in your classroom are widely applicable to other tasks.
They’ll have to review literary terms, practice their comedy, and learn how to write a “big reveal.” More importantly, they’ll have to be careful and very precise with their word choice in order to meet both the syllable and rhyme requirements.
If you choose to have students create their own limericks, you’ll be rewarded with challenged students and a bunch of fun poems to read with your class. Use these tips to help your students master the form and unleash their creativity!
Excited to get your students writing limericks but don’t have time to plan? Grab my no-prep Limerick Writing Lesson today!