Poetry Race

by Bruce Lansky

One of my favorite things to do when I visit schools is to hold a "poetry race." I'm sure your students will enjoy this fun--and easy--poetry activity as much as I do. Whether you do this activity as a competition or simply for fun, your students will die laughing as they become totally unglued while trying to recite this tongue-twister of a poem.

The poem I use for the race is a traditional tongue tripper (and lip flapper), "Betty Botter." If you're going to stage the race as a competition, divide the students into teams or let them compete against one another individually. Then get a stopwatch, let everyone practice the poem a few times, and see who can say it correctly the fastest!
Betty Botter

Betty Botter
bought some butter.
"But," she said,
"the butter's bitter.
If I put it
in my batter,
it will make
my batter bitter.
But a bit
of better butter--
that would make
my batter better."

So she bought
a bit of butter,
better than
her bitter butter.
And she put it
in her batter,
and the batter
was not bitter.
So 'twas better
Betty Botter
bought a bit
of better butter!

--By Anonymous

How good a tongue twister are your students?

40 seconds and over:
Too slow. Your grandparents could say the poem faster.

30 to 40 seconds:
Not bad. You're probably a faster talker than the President.

20 to 30 seconds:
Pretty good. You've been gifted with a fast pair of lips.

15 to 20 seconds:
Excellent. You can out talk anyone around.

14 seconds or less:
You are a tongue tying champion!

If you're looking for a new challenge, try "Betty Botter's Biting Beaver" from Funny Little Poems for Funny Little People:

Betty Botter's Biting Beaver

Betty Botter bought a beaver.
But the beastly beaver bit her.
So she bought a biting badger.
And the badger bit the beaver.
Since the badger bit the beaver,
now the beaver will not bite her.
So 'twas better Betty Botter
bought a beaver-biting badger.

© 2002 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from Funny Little Poems for Funny Little People, published by Meadowbrook Press.

A word to the wise: the more often your students practice reading this poem out loud, the faster, and smoother, they'll be able to read it. Here's one more tip: tell them to take about three deep breaths before they start reading. They might be able to read the whole poem on a single breath of air. OK, Are they ready? Get set. Go try it again!

Poetry Race and Betty Botter poem copyright 1999 by Meadowbrook Press