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A Lesson Plan Creating Character Poems in Rhyming Couplets Using Roald Dahl Poems

written by: Sylvie Colette • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 2/8/2012

Roald Dahl offers English teachers a wonderful gift. Poems by Roald Dahl are perfectly suited for teaching a variety of poetry concepts in a way that engage the classroom. Introduce your class to the concept of couplets, then lead them to create their own fun character poem.

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    Rhyming Couplets and Character Poetry

    Students will enjoy analyzing the exuberant poems of Roald Dahl. His creative rhymes are an intrinsic part of his classic stories. They add a wacky break in the story line, while giving insight into the character or situation at hand. Roald Dahl poems pepper his books such as; The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach play an integral part in the stories.

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    Vile Verses

    Roald Dahl was very kind to English teachers when he wrote the many lines of verse. His poetry follows classic patterns, making it easy to incorporate his works into any study of poetry.

    For this lesson, I used the book Vile Verses, an anthology of Roald Dahl’s poetry from his books, as well as poems that were previously unpublished. He was a prolific writer who also retold nursery rhymes and described animals with a very different point of view.

    Roald Dahl poems can be incorporated into nearly any poetry lesson to punch it up with some humor. Take a poem from one of the Roald Dahl books you are already reading in class, or pull one out of the anthology for a nice surprise

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    Rhyming Couplets

    For this two part study for elementary students, wake the students up by reciting, Down With Children from The Witches. This silly poem is a fantastic way to get their attention and teach the concept of rhyming couplets.

    Rhyming Couplets

    Couplets are made up of two lines. At the end of the lines are words that rhyme and the two lines together make a complete thought.

    Have the students pick out the rhyming couplets that Roald Dahl used; in, skin, mash, bash, louder, powder, trice, mice and so on.

    Ask the class to brainstorm their own collection of rhyming words. Keeping a running list in a poetry notebook is a good idea for future lessons.

    Work on a building a piece of poetry using couplets that the students come up with.

    Start with a declaration or problem, such as “Better get up, Here comes the truck", or “I want to eat a pickle, But I’m all out of nickels"

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    Character Poem Using Rhyming Couplets

    Once the class gets the concept of rhyming couplets down, introduce another Roald Dahl poem such as this one from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Concerning Veronica Salt.This poem also makes good use of rhyming couplets and can be used as another excellent example, although for this lesson focus on Character poetry.

    1. Start by breaking the students into work groups of four or five.
    2. Recite the poem to the class, have handouts of the poem, if possible, to give to each group.
    3. Let them pick out the rhyming words in this poem and copy into their poetry notebook as a reference. Have the groups share the rhyming words they have previously come up with as well.
    4. Now, invite the groups to come up with a character.
    5. They will start by deciding if it will be a boy or girl, man or woman.
    6. What are the faults of this person? Describe them with lots of expression.
    7. Exaggerate how they look, talk and walk.
    8. How do they like to spend their time?
    9. Who are they related to?
    10. One of the students from each group can be the designated artist and draw the character as it is described.
    11. Have the groups put their thoughts together into couplets individually.
    12. Then let them string the couplets together to create a unique character poem.
    13. Share with the class.

    Roald Dahl poems will get reluctant writers to the page. Try incorporating his verse whenever your lessons start to get a little stale and watch the class perk up.