Levels: pre-intermediate to intermediate.
Ages: older kids; teens; young adults.
Type: using limericks to teach sentence stress, rhythm and revise English word order.
Skills: speaking; listening; reading; writing; pronunciation (sentence stress, conveying emotion through emphasis).
Language focus: vocab – extending through finding English rhymes; textual cohesion.
Note: I THINK this idea is one of my own – though, like most plans, it seems an amalgam of bits and pieces from forgotten places…
Materials: copies of the limerick below for each student; a whiteboard and pen.
Preparation: prepare one copy of the following limerick for each student:
There was a young lady from Niger
who went for a ride on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
with the lady inside
and a smile on the face of the tiger.
- Board these words: “meat,” “feet,” “sheet” and “sheep”. Ask which is the odd one out (answer: “sheep” – all the other words rhyme). Show the phonetics (/miːt/ /fiːt/ /ʃiːt/ /ʃiːp/) to show why only the first three fully rhyme. Explain that the final sounds of words are the most important.
- Board “tiger” and “(to go for a) ride” with their phonetics (/’taɪɡə/ and /raɪd/) and elicit meaning.
- Give students one minute to think of as many English rhymes for “tiger” and “ride” as they can. Board their answers and give feedback, boarding only full rhymes and explaining why any others are not.
- Ask students to close their eyes and to relax. Explain that you will recite a short poem in English, and they should listen just for the words that rhyme, which will come at the end of each line of the poem.
- Recite the limerick above.
- Ask the students to open their eyes, pair them and ask each pair to tell each other which words they heard that rhymed.
- Recite the limerick again.
- Ask each student to reconstruct the poem. Allow 5 minutes for this.
- Put the students in pairs to compare what they have written.
- (only if you have plenty of time, or if your class is low-level) New pairs – again, students compare what they have written.
- Recite the limerick again. Students check what they have written.
- Give a copy of the limerick to each student and ask them if they have written the same.
- Ask the students to stand up and form two lines – they will be two opposing teams (Team 1 and Team 2).
- Ask them if they have ever played tennis, and elicit the scoring system (15-love, 30-love, 30-15, 30 all, 40-30, deuce, advantage, game)
- Explain that they will now play a game of rhyming tennis. Ask them if they have played this before.
- The first student in Team 1 “serves” a one-syllable (this can be two-syllable if your class is high-level) word to Team 2. The first student from Team 2 then has 20 seconds to “return” the word by rhyming it (e.g., “fish” –> “dish”). If this student is successful, the second student from Team 1 has 20 seconds to find a rhyme, and so on. If they cannot find a rhyme, then the other team scores a point. You can be the umpire and decide successful rhymes, or you can ask the students from each team to say “stop” if they think they have heard a non-rhyme.
- Either continue play until one team has won a game, or stop the activity after 5 minutes, when every player has had at least one turn at finding a rhyme.
Creating short poems
- Ask the students to sit down and to think of words that rhyme with their school (e.g., I work at St Giles, so might hear words like “files,” “miles,” “tiles,” “piles,” etc.)
- Pair the student and ask them to write a short poem about their school. Allow ten minutes for this.
- Ask each pair to recite its poem as expressively as possible. Listening students can award points for expressiveness, and for how interesting or amusing they found the limericks.
- Pairs give feedback to each other; then you give feedback on pronunciation of rhymed words – and award prizes for the pair with the most points, if you like.