Timid Tanya Thanked Tina for the Tall Tulips

Contributor: Kristen Gardiner. Lesson ID: 10649

Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers? Take a tour of tackling tongue twisters. Learn alliteration, rhythm, and rhyme through games, online interactives and fun word play!



English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


cookie tongue twister

Do you recognize the type of poem above?

Try this. Ignore those yummy-looking cookies for just a moment, and try reading the words. Once you have it memorized, try saying it faster and faster!

Now try saying it really, really fast. What happened? Did your words get all jumbled together? Ask your teacher or parent to try saying it a few times fast? Could he or she do it? Did his or her words get all jumbled as well?

If you could say all of the words quickly without getting stuck, then you have excellent pronunciation and diction. If you couldn't say all of the words clearly, that's ok. Just about everyone has a difficult time with tongue twisters.

What are tongue twisters?

Tongue twisters are a fun type of poetry that follow rhyme scheme, use alliteration, and have a definite rhythm. In addition to usually having a silly and nonsensical topic, tongue twisters are called that for a reason: they are typically pretty difficult to say, especially when you try to say them quickly.

Here is another very popular example of an American tongue twister:

     Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. 
     A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
     If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, 
     Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Look at this tongue twister with your teacher or parent. Take a minute or two to discuss all of the things you notice about this little poem that makes it unlike any other poem you have studied.

What did you notice about the poem? Did you mention all of the words that begin with the letter "P?" Good observation! The repetition of the "P" sound is called alliteration.

Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound or letter at the beginning of each, or most, of the words in a sentence. The easiest way to use alliteration would be to repeat the starting letter of the words, as we see in this tongue twister.

Okay, what about the rhyme scheme or pattern? This should be easy to spot since the words in every other line rhyme. For example, the end word in line one is "peppers." The end word in line two is "picked," so we know lines one and two do not rhyme with each other. However, the end word in line three is "peppers," which not only rhymes but matches with line one. The end word of line four is "picked," which is again an exact match with line two.

So, given that lines one and three rhyme, and lines two and four rhyme; what type of rhyme pattern do we have? Think about our patterns lesson when we assigned letters to our rhymes. What if we called the sound of line one A, and the sound of line two B. How would this pattern repeat itself throughout the poem?

ABAB, that's right. Now we know that this tongue twister uses an ABAB rhyme scheme as well as alliteration of the "P" sound. That leaves one primary element left to study, and that's rhythm.

Usually, when we think of rhythm, we think of music. But what specifically is rhythm, even regarding music?

In music, we know rhythm as the pattern of pulses and beats. Rhythm is what carries the music; it's the drum beat; it's what makes you tap your foot or makes you want to dance.

In poetry, it is very similar. Rhythm gives poetry and similar types of writing a sing-song like quality. Take a Dr. Seuss book, for example. Read a few lines or ask your parent or teacher to read a few lines out loud to you. You will notice a certain beat to the words. A pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. That pattern is the rhythm.

Let's first take a look at the following sentence:

My mother ate an apple, and my father ate a pear.

  • Read the sentence out loud a few times until you can hear the stressed syllables.
  • Can you hear that every other syllable is stressed?
  • Here is one way that you can write the sentence to show the rhythm:
    my MOTH-er ATE an AP-ple, AND my FATH-er ATE a PEAR.

Now let's try this quote from Dr. Seuss' famous, The Cat in the Hat:
    “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny,
    but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”

  • First, read the quote out loud to your teacher or parent. See if you can tell where you are putting the most stress on the syllables.
  • Next, ask your teacher or parent to read the quote out load to you. This time, re-write the quote and mark the syllables that you think are being stressed. Think carefully about the words that have two or more syllables. Typically only one syllable will be stressed. Repeat the words several times until you think you've got it!
  • You should have something that looks like this:
    i KNOW it IS wet AND the SUN is NOT sun-NY, but WE can HAVE lots OF good FUN that IS fun-NY
  • Again, this line shows a pattern where every other syllable is stressed starting with the second syllable in the line. Therefore, we can say that the rhythm pattern is:
    da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA

This particular pattern gives us 12 syllables per line, which is fine for our tongue twister. Now all we need is a topic and some words that begin with the same letter. Then we need to put them all together and test it on someone.

Let's start collecting words!

  1. First, pick your letter. I'm going to choose the letter "T."
  2. Next, make a list of common nouns that begin with the letter that you selected. Don't be shy. Think of at least eight for each list. It will make things easier later:
    town, taxi, trumpet, tiara, telephone, tiger, tape, t-shirt, tacos, toddler, train, truck, tent, tulips, toys
  3. Third, make a list of proper nouns beginning with your letter:
    Tori, Tanya, Tammy, Timmy, Tommy, Tina, Terrance, Todd, Tara
  4. Next, make a list of verbs that start with your letter:
    takes, took, topples, tramples, torpedoed, teaches, teasing, thanked, ticked, tickled
  5. Finally, we need some adjectives and adverbs that begin with the selected letter:
    tall, tiny, thoughtlessly, timid, thrilled, talkative, talented, tasty, terribly, tearfully

Once you have your word lists, write down the first line of a story that makes sense. Be sure to keep with the rhythm of: da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA.

  • This means we need 12 syllables, with the stress on every second syllable.
  • For example: The talkative toddler talked to timid Tara.

Add a second line, using words from your list, that advances the story.

  • For example: Timid Tara tried tickling the tiny toddler.
  • Clap count the syllables, and say the lines out loud to make sure that they fall into the rhythm pattern.

Once you have the first two lines, try to work on the last two lines. These will be more of a challenge since you need to include end rhymes.

  • The rhyme pattern is going to be ABAB.
  • Make sure that your rhythm stays:
    da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA (A)
    da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA (B)
    da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA (A)
    da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA (B)
  • A good place to look for words that rhyme with "tiara" and "toddler" is a rhyming dictionary, such as RhymeZone or Rhymer.
  • You may find that you need to use what is called a near rhyme: a word that has the same end sound and, in this case, begins with the same letter but does not have the same starting or middle vowel sound like the words "clamp" and "damp."
  • To continue my poem, I will simply use the same words as rhymes with themselves.
    The tearful toddler terribly troubled Tara.
  • And my final line...
    So Tara gave her tiara to the toddler.

Now let's put all four lines together, and see how it works as a tongue twister:

     The talkative toddler talked to timid Tara.
     Timid Tara tried tickling the tiny toddler.
     The tearful toddler terribly troubled Tara,
     So Tara gave her tiara to the toddler.

It's no Peter Piper, but it's pretty good for a first try. You can revise for rhythm and rhyme once you have your four lines of 12 syllables each.

Check out these 12 Silly Tongue Twisters to Try Telling at considerable.com for more inspiration!

Now let's practice what we've learned!

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