Using Limericks to help students improve intonation, timing, and word stress.
A limerick is a humorous, five line poem where the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme. The third and fourth lines rhyme too (i.e. AABBA rhyming). Often, the lines that rhyme also have the same number of syllables.
After the bear caught the fish 7
A genie gave him a wish 7
The bear didn’t know what to say 8
So, he sent the genie away 8
“I already have the fish!” 7
Limericks (and other poems) can be great for helping students improve speaking skills. They give English a little bit more structure and repetition makes it easier to feel intonation, timing, and word stress patterns.
When students write enough of their own poems, they’ll begin to instinctively write lines with the same number of syllables. This is when you know they’re really getting English patterns down.
Moreover, if students are paying attention to the syllable counts, they’ll begin to see how we can play with English to create new effects. Exceptions to rules drive students crazy, but not native speakers. We use and create exceptions to make English work for us. To wit: subjects don’t have to come at the beginning and words like “everyone” can be pronounced with three or four syllables.
The only problem is that limericks often have so much new vocabulary and strange grammar that teaching them can be tricky. So, with apologies to actual poets, we wrote four limericks that you might use in the classroom. Can you add anymore? Post in the comments!
There once was a sad man with a beer 9
From the side of his face fell a tear 9
Yes he was so sad, 5
His heart felt so bad, 5
When he saw his face in the mirror! 9
The rain fell upon the once dry ground 9
And sent everyone running around 9
They didn’t want to be wet 7
So they were filled with regret 7
For warm summer sunshine they moaned 9
Tim rode his blue bike to school 7
Brad took his time like a fool 7
Judy wandered alone 6
Bobby talked on the phone 6
Tim was all alone at school 7