How to Write a Sonnet: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

In this lesson, you will learn how to write one of the most well-known forms of poetry: the sonnet. Made popular by William Shakespeare, the sonnet has a very specific structure of rhyme and rhythm that must be followed. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of this type of poetry.

What is a Sonnet?

A sonnet is a specific form of poetry. You may have heard that poetry doesn't have many rules, and that anything can be a poem. But that isn't the case if you want to write a sonnet. Sonnets were originally written in Italian, but they became best known when William Shakespeare wrote more than 150, often about love. Shakespeare also included many sonnets in his plays. Modern sonnets by poets like Robert Frost and e.e. cummings follow the same overall structure, but don't always follow the rules.

Get Ready to Rhyme!

One of the first things you will need to be able to do to write a sonnet is follow the rhyme scheme. A rhyme scheme is a pattern of rhyming sounds in a poem. Your sonnet's rhyme scheme will be: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. You can practice by just coming up with rhyming words in that pattern before writing full lines to your poem. Check out the example below to see how the pattern will work:

Cat (A)

Trick (B)

Fat (A)

Thick (B)

Rob (C)

Cut (D)

Sob (C)

Mutt (D)

Back (E)

Lot (F)

Pack (E)

Rot (F)

Play (G)

Stay (G)

Notice that lines marked with the same letters rhyme (cat, fat). Eventually, you will write lines to your poem so that the ending words follow the rhyme scheme.

How Many Lines?

The traditional sonnet has 14 lines. Poems are also made of groups of lines, called stanzas. Stanzas are almost like paragraphs. A traditional sonnet will have four stanzas. The first three stanzas will each have four lines; these are called quatrains. Remember that the prefix 'quad' means 'four'. The last stanza is a pair of two lines called a couplet.

Find the Beat

Once you have figured you the rhyme scheme and structure, it's time to apply the correct meter to your sonnet. Meter is a unit of rhythm for a poem. It describes the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, or sounds. To figure out which syllable is stressed, try saying a word out loud like 'open'. Do you say it O-pen or o-PEN? The first syllable is emphasized, or stressed; you can hear that it sounds strange to stress the second syllable. Short, connecting words like 'the' and 'to' are usually unstressed.

A Shakespearean sonnet uses a meter called iambic pentameter. This meter has five iambs in each line. An iamb is two syllables: an unstressed, then a stressed syllable. It sounds like da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM.

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