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How to Write a Backwards Poem

by Bruce Lansky

Backwards poems are great fun. They're not only easy to write, they're very funny as well.

To help you get your students started, I'm going to give you the first and last couplets of a poem by Doug Florian that's published in Miles of Smiles. It's called, sensibly enough, "Mr. Backward."

 
Mr. Backward lives in town.
He never wakes up, he always wakes down.
(Insert your students' couplets here.)
He goes to sleep beneath his bed
While wearing slippers on his head.

Rhythm and rhyme: As you'll discover, the rhythm pattern in the last couplet is cleaner (more consistent) than the first couplet, so that's the one to follow:

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (A)
da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (A)

As you can see, both lines feature four iambic (da DUM) beats. And both lines rhyme. Pretty simple, isn't it?

Now that you've got the rhythm and rhyme, all you need is a list of stupid things Mr. Backward does. For example, in the poem above Florian has him raking leaves off trees and baking a cake with antifreeze.

As usual, I suggest you start a list on your classroom board to get your students' creative juices flowing. Then send them home with the assignment to come up with a list (and a poem) of their own.

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    Miles of Smiles