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"I am a pirate with a wooden leg": Stomping Iambic Pentameter

Teachers' Rating:
  47 ratings

Newes from sea, of two notorious pyrats Ward the Englishman, and Danseker the Dutchman. London, 1609 (Detail)

January 2005
Gregory Taylor, Hillside Junior High School, Boise, Idaho.

Plays/Scenes Covered
This lesson may be used before reading any Shakespeare play or sonnet.
What's On for Today and Why
Students will learn the basics of iambic pentameter by studying the rhythm of blank verse orally, aurally, visually, and kinesthetically. This lesson will take one class period.
What You Need


Overhead template
What To Do
1. Using the attached document as an overhead template, review the idea of meter. Be sure to explain the idea of "feet", the smallest repeating ryhthmic units (in Shakespeare's case, the iamb is the metrical foot.) Also teach the word "iamb", a foot of two syllables with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

2. Introduce the term "iambic pentameter". Have the students puzzle out the meaning through morphological analysis of the component parts "meter", "iambic" and "penta" - a five foot metrical line of weak followed by strong syllables.

3. Have students repeat a line of five "I am"'s with the emphasis on the "am" syllable. Explain that this is one way to remember the iambic rhythm. Practice saying some sentences that begin with "I AM" in a weak-STRONG pattern: "I AM a great student; I AM going to be nice to my little brother."

4. To really feel the iambic rhythm, get students up on their feet and say the next line, "I am a pirate with a wooden leg," dragging their wooden legs on the unstressed syllables and stepping strongly on the stressed syllables. Have students draw parentheses around the iambs and note that some divide in the middle of words: meter is about sound, not spelling.

5. Have students read some lines from the play you will be reading.

6. Finally, have students write their own iambic pentameter lines in pairs, as a conversation. Use the last two sentences on the handout as an example. After a few minutes, have some of the pairs perform their conversations. Be sure they understand how the meter works in this blank verse.
How Did It Go?
Can students explain and demonstrate iambic pentameter? Can they write proper lines of blank verse? Can they begin to see and understand some of the uses of meter in Shakespeare's writing?

If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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  Common Core State Standards

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How To

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