Activities for Teaching Quatrain Poems

The quatrain is a stanza of poetry that contains four lines and typically follows one of four end rhyme patterns. Many poems make use of the quatrain, so understanding the quatrain is an important step for students first learning poetry. Build a basic understanding of the quatrain using simple reading activities before moving onto writing activities and more advanced reading activities.

Quatrain Rhyme Comparisons

Quatrains can have four possible end rhyme patterns: AABB, ABAB, ABBA and ABCB, where matching letters represent lines with rhyming end words or syllables. Briefly explain the difference between these end rhyme patterns to your class, providing one or two simple examples for each type. Afterward, pass around a handout of additional, unidentified quatrains. Use examples from famous poets or examples you create on your own. Ask students to identify which quatrains follow which end rhyme type. In doing so, students train their ears to pick up on rhymes more readily while familiarizing themselves with how quatrains make use of rhyming. This makes writing their own rhyming quatrains easier later on.

Individual Writing Exercise

Writing a quatrain poem grants students an opportunity to work with the quatrain format in the most direct manner possible while also giving them a chance to exercise their imagination. After explaining the basic quatrain form, instruct students to write their own quatrains. You can assign a theme, such as family, school or hobbies, or you can let students write about any topic they choose. Additionally, you may assign an end rhyme pattern for students to use or allow them to choose from the four patterns themselves.

Joint Writing Exercise

A joint writing exercise builds further awareness of the quatrain form while allowing students to work on their teamwork skills. Divide students into pairs. Have each pair construct a quatrain with an ABAB rhyme pattern. The first student in each pair writes the first set of AB lines while the second student writes the concluding AB lines. Assign a simple, universal theme for students to write about and allow pairs the chance to decide on a specific topic before writing.

Holiday Poems

Holidays and other special occasions provide the perfect opportunity to capture young students' attention for a lesson on poetry. Kids get excited about special occasions, and building an exercise around these occasions channels their natural excitement into a constructive learning experience. Search online or in anthologies for quatrain samples revolving around major holidays, like Christmas and New Year's, or minor holidays, like Presidents Day or Groundhog Day. Alternatively, write your own examples to use in class. Read through these sample poems as a class and discuss the quatrain form as you go along. In addition to learning the basic quatrain form, students learn how poetry connects to reality and how it describes familiar experiences.

Poems Containing Multiple Quatrains

Once your students possess an understanding of the basic quatrain form, move on to examples of poems that contain multiple quatrains. This allows students to see quatrains act as a basic building block in poems of varying complexity, further emphasizing the quatrain's value. Ask students to identify the poem's overall end rhyme pattern and discuss how breaking up the poem into quatrains affects the rhythm of the poem. Learning about rhythm opens the door for later lessons on poetic meter -- like iambic pentameter -- and provides students with a foundational understanding of what distinguishes poetry from prose writing. Include poems that use quatrains alongside other stanza types if you wish.

The sonnet, for example, contains three quatrains and ends with a couplet.