Apples, Bananas, Can You Think of More? Cantaloupe, the Dragon Fruit Makes Four!

Contributor: Kristen Gardiner. Lesson ID: 10648

Did you ever play the alphabet game? Apples, Bananas, Cantaloupe.... Did you know that you were creating a special type of poetry? Learn all about abecedarians through video, games, and brainstorming!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Oh no! What did Kevin do wrong this time?

abecedarians comic

Have you ever played this game with your family, teacher or friends? If you have, then you know Kevin was supposed to think of a word that begins with the letter "c" - not the letter "k."

What comes to mind when you think of the alphabet game? What does it mean to put words in alphabetical order?

Take a look at the title of this lesson with your teacher or parent: Apples, Bananas, Can You Think of More? Cantaloupe, Then Dragon Fruit Makes Four!

Talk to your teacher or parent about what you notice about the title.

Did you say that all of the fruit listed were in alphabetical order? If you did, you are absolutely correct. It does also rhyme, which is a signal that this is a poetry lesson! But remember, not all poems need to rhyme.

You have probably guessed that this poem will have something to do with alphabetical order, and you're right. We are going to study a form of poetry called the abecedarian.

The abecedarian is an ancient poetic form guided by alphabetical order. Generally, each line or stanza begins with the first letter of the alphabet and is followed by the successive letter, until the final letter is reached. The form was frequently used in ancient cultures for sacred compositions, such as prayers, hymns, and psalms.

To break that down for you, the abecedarian is a form of ancient poetry in which the first line begins with the first letter of the alphabet, and each line that follows begins with a word that keeps going in alphabetical order. This form of poetry used to be used for prayers and other religious types of chants and texts; however today, we use it as a way of memorizing things and as a way of learning the alphabet!

This may seem a little crazy at first, but the lines of the poem don't have to be long. Nor are we going to use all 26 letters of the alphabet. You can even come up with fun ways to tell your reader that you can't think of a word for a particular letter if you get stuck!

Once you get writing, you'll find that this is an easy and fun way to:

  • Teach a younger sibling the alphabet
  • Use poetry with the alphabet to help you to remember vocabulary words and concepts from other subjects
  • Write poetry

Abecedarian are rarely seen in the 21st century. The last of the abecedarian poems were those written for the purpose of education and entertainment by such authors as Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Edward Lear.

Read the following copy of Lear's Alphabet Poem with your teacher or parent and discuss:

  1. How the poem makes you feel
  2. The way the poem is structured
  3. Whether or not you like the poem
  4. Do you think it should be considered poetry?
  5. Does this poem remind you of anything?

Alphabet Poem by Edward Lear, 1812 - 1888 (

   A tumbled down, and hurt his Arm, against a bit of wood.
   B said, “My Boy, O! do not cry’ it cannot do you good!”
   C said, “A Cup of Coffee hot can’t do you any harm.”
   D said, “A Doctor should be fetched, and he would cure the arm.”
   E said, “An Egg beat up in milk would quickly make him well.”
   F said, “A Fish, if broiled, might cure, if only by the smell.”
   G said, “Green Gooseberry fool, the best of cures I hold.”
   H said, “His Hat should be kept on, keep him from the cold.”
   I said, “Some Ice upon his head will make him better soon.”
   J said, “Some Jam, if spread on bread, or given in a spoon.”
   K said, “A Kangaroo is here,—this picture let him see.”
   L said, “A Lamp pray keep alight, to make some barley tea.”
   M said, “A Mulberry or two might give him satisfaction.”
   N said, “Some Nuts, if rolled about, might be a slight attraction.”
   O said, “An Owl might make him laugh, if only it would wink."
   P said, “Some Poetry might be read aloud, to make him think.”
   Q said, “A Quince I recommend,—A Quince, or else a Quail.”
   R said, “Some Rats might make him move, if fastened by their tail.”
   S said, “A Song should now be sung, in hopes to make him laugh!”
   T said, “A Turnip might avail, if sliced or cut in half.”
   U said, “An Urn, with water hot, place underneath his chin!”
   V said, “I’ll stand upon a chair, and play a Violin!”
   W said, “Some Whiskey-Whizzgigs fetch, some marbles and a ball!”
   X said, “Some double XX ale would be the best of all!”
   Y said, “Some Yeast mixed up with salt would make a perfect plaster!”
   Z said, “Here is a box of Zinc!
   Get in my little master!
   We’ll shut you up! We’ll nail you down!
   We will, my little master!
   We think we’ve all heard quite enough of this sad disaster!”

(This poem is in the public domain.)

The abecedarian form of poetry eventually gave way to the acrostic poem, as well as various forms of nursery rhymes.

Now read along and listen to this much simpler version of an abecedarian poem:

A Apple Pie By Kate Greenaway:

What did you notice about the letter "I"? Also, what did the author do with the last group of letters? Why do you think she did this? Did this poem give you the feeling that the abecedarian poem, like most other poetry forms, follow very loosely structured rules?

Discuss your ideas with your teacher or parent.

In this lesson, we are not going to focus on writing a line for each letter of the alphabet; although you may if you'd like. Nor do you need to rhyme. The purpose is to introduce you to another form of poetry that was at one time very popular, but today has been replaced by an easier and clearer form (the acrostic).

So let's try to write a good, old-fashioned abecedarian, shall we?

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