Find Me Treasure!
You can't think of pirates without thinking of buried treasure. Likewise, you can't think of buried treasure without thinking about a treasure map. Why would someone make a treasure map? So they could find the treasure at a later time, of course!
Just like treasure maps help you find where the treasure is located, poetry is also organized to help readers find information in a poem. So how do poets organize poetry? Well, you don't need to wait for a peg-legged, parrot-wearing treasure hunter to draw a map - let's go!
Line by Line
Have you ever been to see a movie at the movie theater? If you have, you know how important it is to find the best place to sit in the rows of seats in front of the screen. In poetry, a line is kind of like a row of seats in a movie theater. Lines are the text that takes up one line, or row, in a poem. Poems can have any number of lines. How many lines can you find in the Kenn Nesbitt poem, 'The Cough'?
If you said 10 lines, then you're right! Each row of text is a line, and there are 10 rows of text.
Lines are important in poetry because some types of poems depend on the number of lines in them. For instance, haikus and lanterns both have only 3 lines. Limericks and cinquains are examples of poems with exactly 5 lines. Sonnets, however, contain 14 lines of poetry. Poems would not be poems without lines.
Stand By Your Stanza
What's your favorite book? Is it about space aliens or secret-agent chickens? Whatever your favorite book is about, it most likely has paragraphs. These paragraphs group sentences about the same topic together to help you understand the story. If you're reading about stealthy chicken agents, then you'll probably find a paragraph about them ''hatching'' a plan to get the bad guy.
In poetry, stanzas are just like paragraphs in a story. Stanzas are lines that are grouped together and set apart from other lines and usually describe the same topic. There can be any number of stanzas in a poem.
Look at the poem titled ''The Crocodile'' by Lewis Carroll. How many stanzas are in this poem?
If you said 2, then you're right! You can tell that there are 2 stanzas because the first 4 lines are listed together followed by some space before the second set of 4 lines is listed. The first stanza talks about the crocodile's tail, while the second stanza talks about how he hunts fish. If you were a fish, you probably wouldn't think the crocodile's jaws were gentle or smiling. Yikes!
Stanzas can have any number of lines; however, many poets divide their poems into the following types of stanzas:
- Couplets have 2 lines.
- Tercets have 3 lines.
- Quatrains have 4 lines.
- Quintains have 5 lines.
- Sestets have 6 lines.
Look at the poem ''My Shadow'' by Robert Louis Stevenson. How many and what type of stanzas does the poet use in this poem?
The poem has 4 stanzas with 4 lines in each stanza. Stanzas with 4 lines are referred to as quatrains.
Without a ''shadow'' of a doubt, poems wouldn't exist without lines and stanzas!
All poems contain lines and stanzas. A line is a row of text in a poem similar to a row of seats in a movie theater. A stanza is a group of lines that are set apart from other lines, similar to a paragraph in an essay.
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Find and Create Stanzas and Lines of Poetry
In this activity, students will explore many examples of poetry identifying the number of lines and stanzas of each. Then they will compose a poem with a given number of lines and stanzas.
- Multiple books of poetry or access to poetry sources (such as the internet)
- Review the concepts of 'stanzas' and 'lines' with your students.
- Instruct your students to find three poems with different numbers of lines and stanzas. They will need to:
- Write down the name of the poem.
- Write down how many lines the poem has (remember, each poem must have a different number of lines).
- Write down how many stanzas the poem has (remember, each poem must have a different number of stanzas).
- (Optional) Write a brief summary of the poem.
Compose Your Own
- Now, give your students a target number of lines and stanzas for their own poems.
- You may want to give them a range, such as:
- Between 10 and 20 lines with at least 2 stanzas.
- You may want to give them exact numbers to reach.
- You may want to just give minimum numbers and allow students more creative freedom.
- You may want to give them a range, such as:
- Allow time for your students to share their poems with you and/or each other.
- Instructing students to compose a poem that will teach the lesson learned about lines and stanzas will further solidify these concepts in their minds; however, this may not be appropriate for all skill levels.
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