Posted by: jockmackenzie | July 15, 2009

“Poetry and Song” – ENTRY 8 – Acting Out A Poem


clapboard-snappedClip art from

CHAPTER SEVEN – Quatrains and Other Short Poems

Every year, in the month of May.
The rest of the world takes the time to say
Thanks to their mothers for what they’ve done
But I know a culprit – he’s me, your son.

The saddest part of this tale I tell
Is that, as a mom, you’re more than swell.
But for Mother’s Day I often forget
To say how I feel – and that I regret.

Father’s Day comes later each year
By then I’m reminded to get in gear.
Dad’s presents are bigger, bought with more care.
I always feel guilty ‘cause that isn’t fair.

At last I’ve remembered ahead of the date
To write something special to tell you you’re great.
I hope in the future, for your special day,
I’ll be right on time and ready to say


From “Happy Mother’s Day” by J. Z. Kaeminec

For me, the quatrain is the best of the best. Writing quatrains allows students to create one short rhyming stanza or two or three or . . .  The quatrain can employ any of a variety of rhyme schemes (for my money, the abcb or aabb are excellent starting places), and can have lines of any length.

I think it helps students to understand the different forms that a poem can take if they have a mental picture. Further, I think it helps paint this picture if students are shown how to act out a poem.

• To act out a quatrain, ask four students to stand at the front of the class. In many cases, the length of lines in a quatrain is relatively equal. To this end, choose students who are about the same height.
• Ask the students to stand side by side, facing the class.
• To dramatize a rhyme scheme of abcb, the second and last person in the line-up has to do something that the other two don’t. This isn’t necessarily a mime (although you could do it that way) so spoken words or sound effects may be employed.
• One possibility would be to have
–    the first person say:     dah dum dah dum dah dee
–    the second person say:     dah dum dah dum dah DOT
–    the third person say:    dah dum dah dum dah day
–    the fourth person say:    dah dum dah dum dah BOT

Ask another four students, two tall and two short, to stand to one side of the foursome already at the front. The second foursome might line up in a short, tall, short, tall sequence. They could be instructed to say:

–    first person:     dah dah dum dah dah dum da DOO
–    second person:     dah dah dum dah dah dum dah dah dum da ROO
–    third person:    dah dah dum dah dah dum da DING
–    fourth person:    dah dah dum dah dah dum dah dah dum da RING

This second “quatrain” is acting out uneven yet still patterned lines and a rhyme scheme of aabb.

The variations are considerable. Students could be given actual quatrains and be asked to perform them – no “dah dum’s” but real words.

The same “acting out” works for limericks, rhyming couplets, clerihews, cinquains, et cetera, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, and like that.

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