Using Limericks for Fun and Information
The name limerick comes from the Irish county and town of
Limerick, where this type of poem started as a game in which
participants would take turns composing lines or verses
following the given rhyme scheme and meter. The game included the
singing of a refrain, which ended with the line, “Come all the way up to
Limerick.” Using limericks as a “Creative Works” activity is a lot of fun; WITH
the added benefit of learning more about your residents. To help you begin
writing limericks, here’s some helpful information :
A limerick is traditionally a funny little poem containing five lines. It has a
very distinctive rhythm and rhyme pattern.
Rhyme Pattern: The last words of the first, second, and fifth lines all rhyme
with each other. The last words of the third and fourth lines rhyme with each
Rhythm Pattern: The first, second, and fifth lines all have this rhythm
pattern: (da DUM da da DUM da da DUM). Say, “There once was a fellow
named Joe” out loud. Now say, “da DUM da da DUM da da DUM” out loud.
Notice that both have the same rhythm. The third and fourth lines have a
different rhythm pattern: da DUM da da DUM (notice there are 2 DUMS or
beats). Say, “Daily lemons of yellow” out loud. Now say “da DUM da da
DUM” out loud. Notice that both have the same rhythm.
When you write a limerick, make sure that it has the same rhyme pattern.
Make sure it also has the same 3 DUMS, 3 DUMS, 2 DUMS, 2 DUMS, 3
DUMS rhythm pattern, too. To be sure, recite the poem, substituting “da”
for all unaccented or unstressed syllables and “DUM” for all accented or
stressed syllables. If your poem doesn’t have a similar rhythm pattern, then
you need to make some adjustments.
Ideas for new limericks can come from almost anywhere, but using a
resident’s name can increase your knowledge of that person:
A Mellow Fellow Named Joe
1. There once was a fellow named Joe,
2. Who when young sold produce for dough,
3. Daily lemons of yellow,
4. Made him a happy young fellow,
5. But he had to have salt or no go.
OK, now that you know the rhythm and rhyme patterns of a limerick you’re
ready to write one. Here are five simple steps to writing a limerick:
1. Start by picking a resident’s name.
2. Make a list of words that rhyme with the last word in the first line by
having others in the group provide descriptive words about the resident.
3. Write the second line using one of the rhyming words.
4. Ask the resident about something that is important to him or her or an
interesting story. For instance:
Joe worked pushing his father’s cart around the city selling produce
before they were able to buy a truck;
His only pay was all the lemons he could eat; and
He always kept a salt shaker in his pocket because he only ate the
lemons with salt on them.
5. Go back to the list of rhyming words to find one that can end the poem.
As you can see, this can lead to great conversations, laughter, and insight
into the resident’s past. (We now make sure Joe gets a lemon with salt
Once the limericks are done, use the computer to decoratively print each
limerick individually. Laminate or frame the limericks, and display them for
others to see and share. After a few weeks on display, give the resident his
or her limerick to treasure.
Now try it yourself!
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