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Patterns on a page in the poetical sense can either be a poem which is a shaped poem, as with my "The Christmas Tree Fairy" and other poems, or teachers can see a pattern which is associated with the rhythm of the poem and also with the rhyming scheme of the poem.




The usual common rhyming themes in English children’s poetry are:




Four iambic or anapaestic feet per line with rhyming on the first and second line (tetrameter) or seven iambic or anapaestic feet (heptameter), usually written over two lines, with the rhyming on the second and fourth line.  You can have the seven feet on each line, but it does tend to make the line of poetry rather long, eg:


           I know a friendly scarecrow, who loves to dance to rap.

           He wears a baggy jacket and a flippy floppy cap.

             You'd never guess a scarecrow could dance to rap like he,

              But when I go to see him, how he loves to dance with me.


I often split my poems up into the two lines (ie 7 feet over 2 lines) thus: The Scarecrow Rap:


                             I know a friendly scarecrow

                                  Who loves to dance to rap.

                              He wears a baggy jacket

                                   And a flippy floppy cap.


Whichever way I present this poem, the rhyming is at the end of the seven beats.


Here is an example of a verse which has four clear beats (feet) per line and which is therefore rhymed on the first and second lines, followed by new rhyming on the third and fourth lines:  Ships of Fluffy Down:


                             They float across their sapphire sea,

                             And are they looking down on me -

                                   Those sailing ships of fluffy down

                                    Which sail across our busy town?


The above was written in iambic feet, ie:  ti TUM ti TUM ti TUM ti TUM - ie a light beat followed by a heavy beat.




The other very popular pattern of metre for children's poetry is called anapaestic metre: diddy dum diddy dum diddy dum etc.


So many poems of mine have been written in this lovely gentle walking metre, and if you go to see Queen of the Night you will see it quite well:


                   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.


Another pattern for you to explain to your children comes in ballads when you not only have a pattern in the poem itself but also a refrain which divides up the verses:  See "Ode to the Bluebells".


I have not written the above poems just to fit into this section of the National Curriculum syllabus as you will well know.  I write with form, or pattern within my poems because I especially loved the poems of my own childhood which were almost always written this way, and modern-day children told me they also liked poems with rhyme and rhythm, so I was pleased to write poems this way for them, but of course, I have also written some free verse poems because they also have to learn about this too.  I hope that my explanation of these patterns will help those of you who have to teach it though and from these patterns, encourage your children to write in this way also.  It is lots of fun but does need regular practice to improve.  Tell yourself that if children wish to learn to play the piano or to dance, they have to learn patterns within music and dance, and poetry is closely linked with these subjects so it also needs regular practice if you are to write it well.    

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By Josie Whitehead