It’s February, and we all know what that means: Valentine’s Day is coming.
So… I thought it would be fun to revisit one of my favorite Valentine’s Day lessons Corny Quatrains and give it a little extra spin.
Because this lesson is a “one-shot,” just one day is spent on it, it can provide a fun break in the midst of a longer unit. It also provides a mini review on some poetry terms.
Students will be able to:
- write a quatrain with an ABAB or ABCB rhyme scheme
- evaluate and revise their own work
- point out the strengths in the work of others.
Post this old gem where everyone can see it:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.
Ask: Can anyone identify what form this poem takes?
Hopefully someone will come up with the term quatrain or stanza. If no one does, move on.
Remind your students that poems can be written with a specific rhythm or rhyme schemes, and that poems can be divided into stanzas. It helps to liken a stanza of poetry to a paragraph of prose.
Ask: How many lines are in this poem?
Wait for the answer: Four
Explain: Stanzas with four lines are called quatrains.
Go back to the original poem and ask: which lines rhyme with which?
Explain how to label the rhyme scheme by focusing on the sound at the end of each line, and labeling each line with a letter denoting its unique end rhyme.
Go over the original poem and label the lines together.
- Roses are red, ends in “ed” with a short “e” sound label: A
Violets are blue, ends in “ue” with a long “u” sound label: B
Sugar is sweet, ends in “eet” with a long “e” sound label: C
And so are you. ends in “ou” with a long “u” sound label: B
Point out that even though they are not spelled the same, “blue” and “you” rhyme because they share the same end sound. Conclude that this quatrain takes the ABCB form.
Explain: A quatrain can have other kinds of rhyme schemes besides the ABCB, for example:
- ABAB—where the first and third lines rhyme, and the second the fourth lines rhyme
- AABB—where the first two lines rhyme, and the second pair rhymes
- ABAA—where all but the second line rhymes.
If your students are keeping learning journals, you might have them jot down some of these terms with their definitions as you introduce this material: stanza, quatrain, couplet, rhyme scheme, and the four quatrain rhyme schemes. However, please be selective so you keep this introductory part of the lesson to less than 15 minutes, because the rest of the lesson is where the fun comes in.
Write a couple of corny quatrains as a class. Start your first one with the traditional “Roses are red…” line.
Write a second one starting with a different noun/adjective pair. Here’s one I wrote:
Candy is sweet,
Please say you’ll be
Inevitably, someone in class will get silly and suggests a not-so-nice valentine. That’s okay. Keep your sense of humor. Then…
Challenge your students to write their own corny quatrains. First, require them to write something sweet (after all, it’s Valentine’s season, and we did begin by talking about corny quatrains). Then, if they wish, allow them to write something “sour”—one of those not-so-nice valentines. Require them to write a total of 2 quatrains with at least one of them sweet.
Here is an example of a “sour” quatrain should you need one to share:
Saliva is sticky,
Snot, like glue,
You stick like gum
On the sole of my shoe.
Remind your students that good poetry plays with sound and rhythm, and employs specific word choices to express strong ideas with a minimal number of words.
Tips For Students Who Get Stuck:
- Spend a minute or so brainstorming for a topic for the second half of the quatrain, the third and fourth line.
- For a sweet poem, think of someone or something you know and like, and come up with the last two lines first, then it will be easier to think of noun/adjective lines for the beginning.
- For a “sour” poem think of someone or some specific thing or situation you do not like and come up with the last two lines first.
- The similes, or metaphors for the first two lines are easier to craft if you know the conclusion of the quatrain
Tips to Keep This Activity Safe:
- No matter which type of quatrain they are writing, instruct students that absolutely no names or other personal identifier is to be used.
Also require that content maintain a G rating.
Give your students 10 minutes to write their quatrains.
While the students work, pass out a criteria sheet for them to use in revising their quatrains.
- Create a quatrain containing 4 lines
- Use an ABAB or ABCB rhyme scheme
- Use sound effects like assonance, consonance, repetition, onomatopoeia, or internal rhyme
- Begin with 2 similes
In addition, while students are working give each 4 stickers (sticky notes will not be sticky enough), and tell them to set these aside as they are for the final part of the lesson. Before class, randomly assign each student a number and have these stickers prepared for passing out.
When the 10-minute writing time is up, instruct your students to revise their quatrains using the handout, select the one they like best, and copy it onto a fresh piece of paper without their name on it.
Now’s the Time for Fun!
When you’re down to ten or fifteen minutes of class time, instruct the students to put one of their stickers on their rough draft and one on the page with their polished quatrain then wad up the polished copy into a paper “snowball” which they must hold until you instruct them further
When all are ready, tell the students to face toward the center of the room and throw their snowballs. Each student is to catch or pick up one snowball and return to his or her seat.
Instruct the students to read the quatrain they “caught,” place one of their remaining stickers on the bottom half of the page, and write one thing they liked about this quatrain.
Ideas for Ways to Praise:
- Tell the students to refer to their revision criteria or to react as a reader by pointing out something the writer did that generated a positive response. Examples:
- Connecting with Text: the way you talked about ____ reminded me of _____
- Emotional Response: when you wrote ____ it made me feel ____
- A Thematic Response: I can see that ____ is important to you by the way you wrote about ___
Give them about 3 minutes. Emphasize that the response really only needs to be one sentence.
When the time is up, instruct them to again wad the paper up and stand when they are ready. Once everyone is ready, toss the “snowballs” again, instruct all students to “catch” one, and return to their seats to place their last sticker on the page along with one-sentence of positive critique of the quatrain.
After this point you can continue to snowball, and invite students to share the quatrain they are holding.
At the end of the period, collect all rough drafts and “snowballs” (a basket or gift bag might be handy for this).
I would suggest evaluating for the following qualities
Praise the strengths of the quatrains shared.
Collect the quatrains and score according to the following criteria:
- 1 Sweet Quatrain
- 1 Sour or Sweet Quatrain
- Ideas and Content
- Word Choice
- Well Thought out Praise of Others’ Quatrains (use the stickers to check for each student’s praise)
I loved doing both Snowball and Corny Quatrain exercises with my class. What’s a favorite Valentine’s activity you have tried with kids?
Please share your comment in the box below. Let’s encourage one another!