Ballad Poetry Activities

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Ballads are popular forms of poems, and ones that are fairly easy to write. These activities can help your students learn more about poetry through in-class and creative exercises.

Ballad Poems

The ballad is one of the most straightforward and popular forms of poetry in the English language. This is partly because ballads likely derived their origins from folksongs, designed to be easily memorized and performed. Ballads can be lots of fun for students to work with, making this a good opportunity for some literacy development. The following in-class activities are designed to be easily adaptable for most classrooms.

Ballad Poetry Activities

Present a Ballad

Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a different ballad. In their groups, students will read through the ballad and get a sense of its rhythm and rhyme structure. They will then rehearse a recitation of this ballad, ideally presented as a simple folksong. Give students a chance to prepare their ballad with their groups, then ask the groups to present to the class.

  • Materials: Selection of ballads

Ballad Prompts

Display three bowls. In the first bowl, place slips of paper containing a character/characters. In the second bowl, place slips of paper containing a setting. In the third bowl, place slips of paper containing a situation/scenario/problem. Each student will select one slip of paper from each bowl at random. Using these slips of paper, students will write a ballad in either the abab or abcb format. Remind students that a ballad should tell a simple story.

  • Materials: Slips of paper with characters, settings, and scenarios for a simple story, writing supplies

Modern Ballad

Start by asking students to free journal and reflect on possible topics for a ballad. Alternatively, you can consider assigning them a topic for this ballad, and give them time to reflect on this topic. Provide students with a list of modern, popular songs. Many popular songs follow a basic ballad format; these may work best for this activity. Students will write their original ballad, in the abab or abcb form, set to the tune of one of the songs on this list.

  • Materials: List of popular songs, writing supplies

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