The origin of limericks is fuzzy, but they seem to have come on the scene in early 18th century England, although some attribute the form to Limerick, Ireland. Wherever limericks originated, it wasn't until the late 19th century when British poet Edward Lear made this a very popular poetry form.
Interestingly, Edward Lear never referred to his poems as limericks. He simply called them nonsense rhymes. He inspired other poets of the day to adopt the form, such as Carolyn Wells in her book, The Jingle Book. Many of Edward Lear's limericks are not very PC by today's standards. A good many of his limericks would now be considered racist or culturally insensitive at the very least.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of funny examples of limericks for kids that are appropriate for elementary school. It's also fun to teach students how to write a limerick, but they will certainly be much more successful if they get to see lots of good exemplar poems first.
Limericks play with language—especially spelling and multiple meaning words.
Limericks are often silly or nonsensical, and are meant to be humorous.
Limericks follow the rhyme scheme: AA, BB, A
The A lines (typically) have 8 or 9 syllables.
The B lines (typically) have 5 or 6 syllables.
Here are some funny examples of limericks for kids:
There was an Old Man of the Hague, A
Whose ideas were excessively vague; A
He built a balloon, B
To examine the moon, B
That deluded Old Man of the Hague. A
There once was an Ichthyosaurus,
Who lived when the earth was all porous,
But he fainted with shame,
When he first heard his name,
And departed a long time before us.
There was a young lady of Niger,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride,
With the lady inside,
And a smile on the face of the tiger.
There was a young farmer of Leeds,
Who swallowed six packets of seeds,
It soon came to pass,
He was covered with grass,
And he couldn’t sit down for the weeds.
There was a young boy in Quebec,
Who was buried in snow to his neck;
When they said, “Are you friz?”
He replied, “Yes, I is--
But we don’t call this cold in Quebec.”
(This fun limerick was written by Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book.)
1. First read lots and lots of limerick examples such as the ones above.
2. Clap the syllables to get a feel for the unique rhythm of limericks. Pay attention to which syllables are accented.
• Lines 1, 2, and 5 (usually) have 8 or 9 syllables.
It will (usually) be the same number of syllables for the three lines.
• Lines 3 and 4 (usually) have 5 or 6 syllables.
It will (usually) be the same for both lines.
3. Practice with these fill-in-the-blank limericks:
There was a young ____________________ of Glenn, (8 syllables)
Who never took care of her hen. (8 syllables)
It finally got out, (5 syllables)
And clucked all about, (5 syllables)
That hungry and harried _______________ hen. (8 syllables)
There was an old ________________ who was glum.
He always played songs on his drum.
The music was bad,
His sister was ______________,
But still he would _____________ with his thumb!
There once was the tiniest rat,
Who never knew where she was at,
She looked round and round,
and stared at the ____________________,
When boots came and ________________________________!
How to write a limerick: Guided Practice
Rhyme Scheme: AABBA
Line 1 There once was a _____________________________ made of clay, A (8 syllables)
Line 2 That loved to eat ______________________________ every day. A (8 syllables)
Line 3 It started ___________________________________________, B (6 syllables)
Line 4 And ______________________________________________, B (6 syllables)
Line 5 ________________________________________________________. A (8 syllables)
Illustrate your limerick:
This limerick plan can above also be found in the Mentor Poem collection of Limericks.