A Hint on Humor

Contributor: Elephango Editors. Lesson ID: 10889

There once were some students at home -- who learned how to write a good poem -- the poems were so funny, their parents said, “Honey -- you’ve tickled my old funny bone!”


Literary Studies, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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limerick comic

The cartoon above mentions epics, or very long poems, and limericks, which are very short poems of five lines.

Limericks are an example of humorous poetry.

In this lesson, you'll learn about three kinds of humorous poems:

  • limericks
  • nonsense poems
  • dactyl poems

Here are some characteristics of humorous poetry (also known as light poetry or light verse):

  • often shorter in length
  • often include nonsense words and alliteration
  • may be based on a certain rhyme scheme or rhythm

Let's look at some of those terms.

Nonsense Words

Nonsense words are, obviously, not real words, but words that are made up.

Dr. Seuss was an expert at making up nonsense words. Consider these lines from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas:

He rode into Whoville. He brought back their toys.
He brought back their floof to the Who girls and boys.
He brought back their snoof and their tringlers and fuzzles,
Brought back their pantookas, their dafflers and wuzzles.

  • What, exactly, are floof, snoof, tringlers, fuzzles, dafllers, and wuzzles?
  • Who knows? But they sound good, don't they?


Alliteration is when sounds are repeated at the beginning of words.

Below is an example. Notice how many times a is used at the beginning of the words in this poem:

The Letter A
by Darren Sardelli

The letter A is awesome! It simply is the best.
Without an A, you could not get an A+ on a test.
You'd never see an acrobat or eat an apple pie.
You couldn't be an astronaut or kiss your aunt goodbye.

Rhyme Scheme

The rhyme scheme tells which lines of the poem rhyme.

  • Do the first and third lines rhyme, or the first and second?

There are many different rhyme schemes.

To describe the rhyme scheme, the first line is given the letter A. The next line, if it rhymes with it, is also called A. If it doesn't, it's called B, and the next line that rhymes with the B line is also called B.

Some of the most used rhyme schemes are:

  • ABAB
  • ABCB
  • AABB

The poems of Edward Lear, whom you'll meet later in this lesson, use the AABBA scheme.


The rhythm of poetry is a repeated pattern of stress on specific syllables.

A poet may use a lot of two-syllable words with the stress on the second syllable, such as expect, demand, and machine. Or, they may use a lot of three-syllable words with the accent on the first syllable, such as gratefully, memory, and attitude.


Watch The Limerick Song for kids, from Val Ryazan, for a quick overview of how limericks are written. As you're watching, pay attention to:

  • How many lines are in a limerick?
  • Which lines are supposed to rhyme?

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  • What did you learn about limericks?
  • Which rhyme scheme do they follow?

Many nursery rhymes are actually limericks. Take a look at Hickory Dickory Dock:

Hickory, dickory, dock.
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
And down he run,
Hickory, dickory, dock.

Notice that it has 5 lines and follows the AABBA pattern.

  • Would you like to try writing a limerick?

Nonsense Poems

Nonsense poems, as you've probably guessed, don't really make much sense. They're very imaginative and fun.

Edward Lear is famous for his nonsense poems. Watch this animated version of Lear's The Owl and the Pussy Cat from Gil Manor:

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  • Can you imagine writing a nonsense poem?
  • It may seem simple because you can make things up, but what might be difficult about it?


Watch as a poet and performer explains what a dactyl is in "The Dactyl Poem" by Allan Wolf:

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As you probably figured out from the video, dactyls are words of three syllables where the first syllable is accented and the other two are not.

Here are some examples:

  • poetry
  • elephant
  • nursery
  • radical

A dactyl poem is a special form of poetry that has two lines of two dactyls each, followed by a shorter line. The dactyls don't have to be one word but have to follow the pattern of a stressed syllable and then two unstressed syllables.

Below is an example. As you read it, try to keep emphasizing the pattern by tapping a finger or foot with the rhythm.

La-dee-da, La-dee-da
Dactyls are trickery
Poems with ridiculous
Syllable rules

Take so much effort, are
Accomplished only by
Poem-loving fools

  • Now that you've taken a look at some humorous poetry, which kind do you like best?

Jump over to the Got It? section, to read and analyze some more!

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