Poetic Metre

By Josie Whitehead

Examples: In the DEPTHS of the FORest so DEEP - Get your children to walk across the desk on the heavy beats, or clap, and tell you how many beats per line.  (feet really).  Yes - 3.  They have to be natural heavy sounds for you would not say forEST just to fit it in.  Tell them this.  Often the verse may start on just one light sound followed by the heavy one for emphasis, or sometimes straight onto the heavy stroke:


Our DADdy has BOUGH us the STRANGest of TREES

When AUTtumn winds BLOW letters DANCE in the BREEZE

AUTumn is WEARing her BRIGHT golden CROWN

For she's COMing this MORNing to VISit our TOWN.



DACTYLIC METRE:  From one who's tried, it is much more difficult to write dactylic metre for how often do we end our sentences on two light beats?  Not often.  Here is my example, but you try to find some yourself.


CLIMBing up HIGH on a BEAUTiful MOUNTainside.

TRYing to WRITE a good POem that's BEAUtiful.

MAKing the MOST of a GOOD opporTUNity.


However, I have to say that I often start a poem off with a heavy beat, even though it is an anaepestic poem, for I want to emphasize the first word, especially if it is the subject.  Then I often finish the last line with two small beats, even if I am not writing in anapaestic metre but ordinary iambic metre, for it gives the last line a little flourish.  We do not speak in metre normally, and there are often little deviations and they do have names as you will discover.  Even the great writers didn't keep exactly to their "beats" for what do you do when you are supposed to finish on a heavy beat but the word you choose has "ing" or "ment" or "able" on the end?  No, poets do their best but are allowed deviations.


ANAPAESTIC METRE example:  Try "An Autumn Visit " remembering the heavy

first beat because it is my subject.  My poem "The Queen of the Night" is also a good example:  (Both in my books)


On four SOFT padded PAWS walks the QUEEN of the NIGHT.

Though her MOVEments are AGile her FOOTsteps are LIGHT.

    But this SOLitary FEline has NOTHing to FEAR

    And is DRIVen by HUNGer to SEARCH out the DEER.


SO, LET'S PRACTISE as I know the children have to write some lines in this unit:  I'll do some, you try some (teachers) and let the children see what they can do.


When I HEARD a loud KNOCKing I THOUGHT it was DAD.

Through the DOOR of the CARavan CAME a strange DOG.

In the MIDdle of NIGHT came an ALien from SPACE.

I'd no SOONer reTURNED when I HEARD a strange SOUND.

Pass the BUTter and JAM and some NICE crusty BREAD.


This is where you will see the pattern in poetry.  Take the children to the children's corner on here where there is some practise, but writing a few sentences each day as I've done is exactly the best way to improve your poetry writing and theirs also, and go through the Stephen Fry book.  It's well worth it.   If you're teaching children about metre, you need to have it clear in your own mind, and then you will see that I have done my best with my poems, but I am not one of the great poets of the past who would have studied metre night and day for years to get it correct.  Now - more . . . .


Dactyls:    OUT of the DARKness and INto the SUNshine.

VEGetable MARRows with PORK chops or SAUSages.

CHILdren are CARRying SWEETS in their COAT pockets.

DADdy is WONdering WHY we are WORRying.

GRANNy has ASKED us to GO to the PANtomime.

BRIGHT coloured PACKages TIED with BLUE ribbon.

MONey to BUY us some ICE cream or CHOColate.

ROGer has TAKen his BOOK to the LIBrary.     etc


Anapaests:   Can you PASS me a PACKet of STRAWberry CREAMS?

Are you TAKing your DOG for a WALK in the SUN?

Do you LIKE to hear MUSic and DANCE round the ROOM?

Will you PUT down your PEN and please STOP writing NOW.

When I TELL you to STOP, then you MUST all then STOP.


Remember that poems often start on a heavy note, though, even if they are written as anapaests, and they often finish their verse also with a heavy note, to denote the end.  Also, for emphasis, they can start with just one small "foot" or "beat" to emphasise the subject etc - and may end in this way.  Look at this poem:


Four WItches deCIded to GO out for LUNCH

    And then TALKED of a PROBlem they HAD.


AUtum is WEARing her BRIGHT golden CROWN

And this MORNing she's COMing to VISit our TOWN


But what about:  ReMEMber reMEMber the FIFTH of NoVEMber?  


Note:  The first of the two above examples is HEPTAMETER, ie 7 anapestic feet over two lines.

The second one is TETRAMETER, ie four anapestic feet on each line.  The rhyming with heptameter is abab and with tetrameter it is aabb.  Quite simple.



Send the children back to this page to do some homework:  Read these sentences again and compose some of your own using the two rhythms.  Then they might like to An Autumn Visit as a performance poem and if it is excellent, we could link a recording from your school website to the poem on mine, or you could do a real performance, wearing costumes, and get it filmed and link via You Tube???  Other children might like to see it.  



Another game is to start the week with one anapestic word pinned on your classroom wall, and ask the children to add their own.  Just a word, eg:  jenn i FER; el e PHANT etc. di di DUM


Then the following week do dactylic words:  GRASS hop per;  MIC ro scope etc. DUM di di etc


Then perhaps go on from that:  iambic words:  di DUM; toDAY; beFORE; beLONG or I AM; you ARE; we CAN; I THINK.


The opposite of IAMB is TROchee (heavy O): BREAKfast, DINner; SANDwich; MONkey; - very easy. DUM Di.


Have lots of fun with your weekly noticeboards and then move them on to doing sentences. I think the children will enjoy this so much and make them word sound conscious, (ie develop their phonological awareness which is great for literacy).  



















Ooom pa pa Main Poetry Index POETRY KS1 AND 2 Poems to Perform Pattern and Rhyme Patterns on Page Web Index My Favourite Wot Nots An Autumn Visit Skype visit to your class

ANAPAESTS:  In a nutshell:  Two light beats followed by a heavy one, ie di di DUM - an a PEST


See poems :  Anapaests and for anapaestic HEPtameter:  Endangered Species and many others

DACTYLS:  Think of "tum titty tum titty" or take your class to this music and clap to it:

Think:  "Waltz".  ie DAC tyl ic

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