How to Write a Limerick

by Bruce Lansky

To help your students get started, here's some helpful information about writing limericks. To begin, a limerick is a funny little poem containing five lines. The last words of the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other (A), and the last words of the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other (B). Here's an example:

There was an old man from Peru, (A)
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
who dreamed he was eating his shoe. (A)
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
He awoke in the night (B)
da DUM da da DUM
with a terrible fright, (B)
da da DUM da da DUM
and found out that it was quite true. (A)
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

When your students write a limerick, make sure that it has the same AABBA rhyme pattern. And make sure it also has the same Da DUM da da DUM da da DUM rhythm pattern. To make sure, recite your student's limerick, substituting "da" for all unaccented or unstressed syllables and "DUM" for all the accented or stressed syllables, as I have done above. If your students' poems don't have a similar rhythm pattern, then they will need to be adjusted.

Ideas for new limericks can come from almost anywhere. For example, your students could write about their city, state, country, or name. If one of your students is named Tim or Jim, he could write something like this:

A Clumsy Young Fellow Named Tim
A clumsy young fellow named Tim (A)
was never informed how to swim. (A)
He fell off a dock (B)
and sunk like a rock. (B)
And that was the end of him. (A)

Notice that the rhyme pattern (AABBA) and the rhythm pattern (da DUM da da DUM da da DUM) are identical to the patterns in the "Man From Peru" limerick.

OK, now that you know how to write a limerick with the correct rhyme and rhythm pattern, get going! Your students will love this poetry exercise.

If any of your students writes a great limerick, be sure and enter it in our Limerick Contest!

—Bruce Lansky

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