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Text type: Poetry

Range of poetry

Poetry is a very wide-ranging type of text and has many purposes and forms. Often written or spoken for an intended reader, it may also be composed for a personal outcome because the concise and powerful nature of poetry conveys emotion particularly well. Like oral storytelling, poetry has strong social and historical links with cultures and communities.

The fact that poetry often plays with words makes it an attractive text type for children and one that they experiment with in their early language experiences. Features of other text types are frequently used as the basis for a poem, e.g. lists, dialogue, questions and answers. As children become familiar with a wider range of poetic forms and language techniques they can make increasingly effective use of wordplay to explore and develop ideas through poetry.

Purpose:

Poems can have many different purposes, e.g. to amuse, to entertain, to reflect, to convey information, to tell a story, to share knowledge or to pass on cultural heritage. Some forms of poetry are associated with certain purposes, e.g. prayers to thank, celebrate, praise; advertising jingles to persuade; limericks to amuse.

Although a poem may share the same purpose as the text type it is related to (e.g. to recount), the context for writing does not always mean that a poem is the most appropriate choice of text type.

A table showing core elements and aspects of poetry to support teaching and learning
Generic structureLanguage featuresKnowledge for the writer
Poems are often grouped for learning and teaching by theme, structure, form or language features.

Themes: poetry selections or anthologies often group poems by their content or subject matter and include different examples of structures. link to Sensational!

Structure: Poetry has an extremely wide range of structural variety, from poems that follow a rigid textual structure to those that have only a visual or graphic basis. The most common structures include patterns of rhyme (e.g. ABABCC) or metre (di-dum di-dum di-dum). Structures based on syllable counts (such as haiku and some versions of cinquains) are also common. Other structures rely on repetition of grammatical patterns rather than rhythm. For example, some list poems, dialogue poems and question and answer poems follow a specific structure even though they don’t include rhyme or follow a pattern of line length.

Poems use the same language features as other text types but each feature is often used more intensively to achieve a concentrated effect, e.g. of mood, humour, musicality: frequent alliteration, use of imagery or repetitive rhythm. Rhyme is used almost exclusively by poetic texts.

The language features used depend on context, purpose and audience and also on the intended style of a poem.

Different poetic forms tend to use different language features. The most common are rhyme, metre and imagery.

Rhyme: many traditional forms use particular rhyme patterns which are usually described using an alphabetic system. AABBA is the usual rhyme pattern of a limerick. Other common patterns in children’s poetry are AABB and ABABCC for each verse. The usual order of clauses or words is sometimes deliberately rearranged to create a rhyme at the end of a line. For example, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the lamb make thee? (William Blake ‘The Tyger’.) Playing with rhyme and creating nonsense poems is an important element in exploring and manipulating language. Children also need to learn how to avoid the danger of ‘forced rhyme’ where they use a word simply because it rhymes, not because it is what they want to say.

Metre: rhythm, stress patterns (e.g. dum-de, dum-de or de-dum, de-dum), syllable patterns (e.g. 5, 7, 5 syllables in the three lines of a haiku).

Imagery: e.g. simile, metaphor, personification. The effective use of imagery is often a key ingredient in powerful, memorable poetry. Children usually begin using imagery by comparing one thing with another and by saying what something was like.

Rich vocabulary: powerful nouns, verbs, adjectives, invented words and unusual word combinations.

Sound effects: alliteration, assonance (repetition of the same vowel phoneme in the middle of a word, especially where rhyme is absent: cool/food) onomatopoeia (where the sound of a word suggests its meaning: hiss, splutter).

When a poem does not use rhyme at all, it is often the distinct combination of metre, imagery and vocabulary that distinguishes it from prose.

The language effects found in poems can be different across time and cultures because poems reflect the way that language is used by people.

Depending on the kind of poetry being written:

  • observe carefully and include detail, drawing on all your senses;
  • when writing from memory or imagination, create a detailed picture in your mind before you begin writing;
  • be creative about the way you use words – use powerful or unusual vocabulary, or even create new words and phrases;
  • when using few words, make every word count;
  • play with the sounds or meanings of words to add an extra layer of enjoyment for your audience, e.g. use alliteration or assonance, a pun or double meaning;
  • use imagery to help your reader/listener visualise what you are describing but don’t weigh the poem down with too many adjectives or similes;
  • use the poem’s shape or pattern to emphasise meaning, e.g. make an important line stand out by leaving space around it;
  • read the text aloud as you draft, to check how it sounds when read aloud or performed;
  • improve it by checking that every word does an important job, changing the vocabulary to use more surprising or powerful words;
  • use images that help your reader easily imagine what you are writing about – think of comparisons they will recognise from their own lives;
  • try to think of new, different ways to describe what things are like and avoid using too many predictable similes (her hair was as white as snow).
Links to units by year group
Year Unit title Additional text-based units
1 Poetry - Unit 1 - Using the senses (themed poems, rhythm and rhyme)

Poetry - Unit 2 - Pattern and rhyme (rhyme, language patterns, simple structures)

Poetry - Unit 3 - Poems on a theme (themed poems, patterns)
2 Poetry - Unit 1 - Patterns on the page (structural and language patterns)

Poetry - Unit 2 - Really looking (themed poems, language choices)

Poetry - Unit 3 - Silly stuff (humorous poems, language play)
Additional text-based units - Really Looking (themed poems, language choices)
3 Poetry - Unit 1 - Poems to perform (patterned language and structure, repetition, rhyme, alliteration, oral language, performance)

Poetry - Unit 2 - Shape poetry and calligrams (themed poems, shape poems, calligrams)

Poetry - Unit 3 - Language play (language play, rhyme)
4 Poetry - Unit 1 - Creating images (imagery {similes}, performance)

Poetry - Unit 2 - Exploring form (structure, form and purpose: e.g. syllabic  forms {haiku, cinquain}  prayers, songs, rhyming forms {couplets} example couplets, list poems, shape poems, alphabet and number poems, question and answer poems, monologues, free verse)
5 Poetry - Unit 1 - Poetic style (free verse)

Poetry - Unit 2 - Classic/narrative poems (structure, language techniques for effect in narrative poems, performance)

Poetry - Unit 3 - Choral and performance (language techniques for effect in performance poems, performance )
Additional text-based units - The Highwayman
Additional text-based units - Sensational!
6 Poetry - Unit 1 - The power of imagery (personification, imagery)

Poetry - Unit 2 - Finding a voice (authorial choices {selecting from a repertoire for a particular purpose: theme, style, form, structure})
Additional text-based units - The Highwayman and Additional text-based units - Sensational! (structure, language techniques for effect in narrative poems, performance)

Year 6 - Revision - Unit 3 (language techniques for effect in performance poems, performance)