Updated: Jan 4
Teachers and early childhood educators who have recently bought our Willow the Wonderer picture books are telling us they love using it in class! Encouraged by their feedback we are developing a series of teaching guides to accompany the books. These will cover the basics like developing literacy and numeracy skills to more advanced subjects such as creative writing, art, folk literature, poetic rhythm and meter, and of course explore the philosophy and wisdom of happiness. This guide focuses on using the book to introduce the concept of poetic metre. Hope these make our educators lives easier and is a resource that parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles find useful as well!
Willow the Wonderer & Poetic Meter
When you read our picture book, Willow the Wonderer, out aloud you will notice that it has a discernible rhythm to it - the rhythm that it's written in is what is referred to as it's poetic metre or simply the metre.
Not all poems rhyme but every poem is written to a rhythm - getting the rhythm right is rather important when writing in verse.
The technical definitions of rhythm and metre are as follows:
Rhythm is a pattern of sound created by the series of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line
Metre is the way in which rhythm is measured or represented.
I like to think of these very simply (and non technically) as the beat of the poem; it's where I bob my head, tap my foot or flick my fingers, not dissimilar to when listening to music
Willow the Wonderer's consistent and structured rhythmic pattern makes it perfect to introduce the concept of poetic metre (i.e. writing to a rhythm) to young children. This is the focus of this teaching guide.
I will leave it to teachers and educators to determine the appropriate age group but from my read, children have an innate ability to pickup any form of musicality (and spontaneously respond to it by dancing like no one is watching :) ...
I've therefore kept this teaching guide 'non-technical' so that young children can appreciate the concept and are able to pick up the rhythm in all pieces of poetry they encounter, without getting bogged down in the technical definitions of the metre that a piece is written in, which can start feeling like a memory test...
For those interested in the more technical aspects, I have included some links to good online resources below. These explain how metre is represented and the common ones used in the English language.
How to approach teaching:
My suggested "teaching" approach is as per usual, naturalistic ie simply involves reading out the story aloud and then giving students a bit of a treat by asking to 'read' it in different ways.
Get a student to read the first few stanzas of the book out aloud
Ask them to read it out aloud again – but without using the words – just humming it
Just for fun, ask if someone can ‘rap’ the stanzas - this is going to be a hit ;-)
See if anyone can 'sing' the book to a different rhythm
Follow up with the discussion questions
For older students, may be end the session with a more technical definition of rhythm and rhyme, and poetic meter
Could you hear a rhythm (a pattern of sound)? What is the rhythm?
What do you think is creating the rhythm?
Can you pick up a beat - the place where you would clap / click your fingers / bob your head?
Is the same rhythm all the way through in the book? Can you pick up where it changes?
Why do you think the writer switched to a different rhythm in some sections?
Why do you think poets write in a rhythm at all? Does all poetry need to have a rhythm?
Here’s a video of our ‘book trailer’ which includes the first stanza set to a song – when you write to a rhythm it is easy to make it into a song. Could be fun to play this in class
101 on poetry from the folks at masterclass
A simple explanation on rhythm and meter from Mr Nance from youtube, a teacher making the study of literature fun
Used this teaching guide? Let us know what you thoughts.