Poetic devices are literary techniques that deal with the sounds of language. Poetic devices are NOT just used by poets (although we ALL are poets). They are used by good writers everywhere. They are used by novelists, journalists, and advertisers as well as poets. Poetic devices are pleasing to hear. The best writers and speakers pay attention to the sounds of our language. They think about the impact of these sounds and use them meaningfully.
Poetic devices are often lumped together with figurative language techniques (simile, metaphor, personification, understatement). I draw a distinction between these. On this page I will define poetic devices and provide an example or two of each. I cover the following techniques:
Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sound in words. An easier (though less exact) way to say this is that alliteration is when the first sounds in words repeat. Alliteration often works with assonance and consonance to make phonetically pleasing arrangements.
Despite their mother’s warnings, the children chose to chew with their mouths open.
The grass grew green in the graveyard.
Notice the repetition of the “j” sound in the first example? Alliteration is not always so jarringly obvious. Sometimes it is subtle, such as in the following example:
This example shows that even when one word starts with a “k” and another word starts with a “c,” it is still considered an instance of alliteration. When we study alliteration, we are concerned with the sounds of the words, not just the letters.
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds. It is often used in combination with consonance and alliteration to create sound patterns that are near rhymes.
Will she read these cheap leaflets.
The snow in the grove froze.
Notice the repetition of the “awe” sounds in the first example, the “e” sounds in the second example, or the “o” sounds in the third example? Assonance can be subtle and may go unnoticed if you’re not scanning for it.
Consonance creates cool sound patterns. When used with assonance, it can create off rhymes or slant rhymes. Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the middle or at the end of series of words. Using consonance is a sophisticated poetic technique that can create subtle yet beautiful lyrics or lines of poetry. Here is an example of consonance:
The satin mittens were ancient.
You could paddle through the spittle in the bottle.
The first of the above is also an example of personification, but we are more interested in the sounds here. Consonance is something that we hear with our ears. In that example we hear the repetition of the “nger” and “ng” sounds. If nobody is around you right now, say out loud, “hungry and angry.” Notice how similar the words sound? What you are hearing is consonance, or the repetition of the “ngry” consonant sounds.
Enjambment is when the writer uses line breaks meaningfully and abruptly to either emphasize a point or to create dual meanings. When reading a poem, speakers should make a slight pause (shorter than a comma) when transitioning from line to line. When a writer uses enjambment, he or she uses this space to spread an idea over more than one line. This may create an alternate interpretation of the lines. Or it may draw attention to the enjambed words. Here is an example:
When the word dead is placed on a line in isolation, it invites the reader to focus on that idea. Surrounded by empty space, the idea may resonate powerfully. Many poets use the space on the page in meaningful ways. Enjambment is a cool technique to practice doing this. Try using it in the next poem that you write.
Imagery is writing or speech that accesses the senses of the audience. By senses, I mean the five senses that we use to experience the physical world: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. This is also called using sensory details. Here are some examples of imagery:
The chirping crickets filled the empty night air.
I was awoken by the pleasing scent of the bacon as it wafted down the hallway.
As you read the first example, you might be visualize snow melting. This description accesses your sense of sight. When you read the second example, you may imagine the noises that crickets make. The imagery in the text references this sound. And as you encounter the third example, you may recall the aroma of bacon. These examples all access different senses. Imagery helps writers and speakers SHOW readers things. Good writers don’t just tell readers things, they show the reader by using imagery.
Repetition is when the writer or speaker knowingly repeats a word or group of words. This is a strong rhetorical technique that can also be used to build a theme in a speech or poem. It is not considered repetition when a writer or speaker repeats little words like a or the. Repetition is used intentionally.
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Love is a red, red rose.
In the first example, only one word in the sentence is repeating: nobody. In the second example a whole group of words repeats: Free at last. A poet may repeat a single word, a group of words, or entire lines and stanzas. Repetition may give a word or phrase greater impact. Or it may highlight the importance of an idea. Repetition can embolden a message.
Rhyme is when the end or final sound of two or more words are identical and the words are used together. If the end sounds are not identical, then the speaker or writer may be using consonance or assonance instead.
We often think rhyme is something used at the end of lines. This is true. But rhymes can also be used internally, on the inside of words or lines of poetry.
Rhymes may be monosyllabic (a one syllable) or polysyllabic (two or more syllables). such as in the following examples:
I drove a race car to the space bar.
We saw a butter fly flutter by.
This is the technique that students most often associate with poetry. Many students think poems NEED to rhyme. But I encourage my students to try writing free or blank verse. Poetry is about expression and the beauty of language. Rhyming is fun but poems don’t need to rhyme.
Rhythm is when words are arranged to create an audible pattern or beat when read out loud. A good way to check if a text has rhythm is to hum the sounds that the words make rather than clearly pronouncing them. If you can hear a song or identify a form in the sounds, then the text has rhythm.
I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny / but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Instead of just reading these examples, trying humming them. Do you hear how they sort of bounce? This is a rhythm.
Poetic Devices Video Game
Poetic Devices Worksheets
Poetic Devices Activities
Poetic Devices Lesson – Teach students about the sounds of poetry with this PowerPoint slide show. Covers onomatopoeia, rhythm, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, and consonance.
Poetic Devices Lesson PowerPoint
Preview Poetic Devices Lesson in Your Web Browser
Poetic Devices Illustration Project – Students will define poetic devices and create an example showing understanding. They will then illustrate their examples. Great artifacts for displaying on a bulletin board.
Poetic Devices Illustration Project RTF
Poetic Devices Illustration Project PDF
Preview Poetic Devices Illustration Project in Your Web Browser
Common Core State Standards Related to Poetic Devices
View All CCSS Standards Related to Poetic Devices
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 – Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5 – Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
ELA Standards: Literature
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)
ELA Standards: Language
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.5 – Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.5a – Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors (e.g., as pretty as a picture) in context.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.5b – Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.5a – Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.5b – Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.5a – Interpret figures of speech (e.g., personification) in context.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.7.5a – Interpret figures of speech (e.g., literary, biblical, and mythological allusions) in context.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8.5a – Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5a – Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5a – Interpret figures of speech (e.g., hyperbole, paradox) in context and analyze their role in the text.
Common Core Lesson and Unit Plans
Understanding Common Core State Standards
James/ June 26, 2021
This website is a great resource. Thank you so much.
Mr. D/ September 26, 2019
My students are having an issue with level 4 on Poetry Cat. I think there might be a glitch.
Mr. Morton/ September 26, 2019
Hello. I just played through level 4. I didn’t experience any glitch. Maybe they just haven’t figured out that you have to HOLD UP on the springs to jump higher. Level 4 of Poetry Cat exists to teach players this functionality, which is important for later in the game. Level 4 will not let you complete it until they learn to superbounce on springs.
Unless you’re experiencing something else.
If so, please describe what is occurring.
Thanks for playing!
peninah/ August 6, 2019
so helpful thank you so much.
Pulkit Singh/ July 19, 2019
Please sir help me to identify clauses and phrases i can’t understand
Cool/ December 5, 2016
I am using this to learn for my exams. Thanks a lot!
Subha Poduval/ October 24, 2016
Very helpful site for teachers.Thank you
Ms. Marie/ May 9, 2016
Very helpful, thank you. Just the right examples and articulation I needed for my Year 8s. Bless U
Kaylyn Coleman/ January 6, 2016
I love this website! I use this all the time and it helped me with my finals thank you so much! I am hoping for more I had got an A on my finals. Thanks So Much!
Betsy/ November 17, 2015
Our whole language arts department depends heavily upon your wonderful website. We fight over which grade level gets to use which resources!
Mr. Morton/ November 18, 2015
How flattering. I am working toward a day when your department will have worksheets leveled for all grades. Thank you for your comment.
sayan/ September 27, 2015
thanxx helped me a lot in my english examintion it was really good of u!!!
V. Diaz/ March 26, 2015
Thank you so much for sharing. I had a son that had doubts and had an exam tomorrow. We do not speak English and he doesn’t understand anything of this in English. Thanks to your work he could study and I got surprised when I realized that his English teacher used your examples too (ha). Blessings!
Mr. Morton/ March 27, 2015
I am touched by your comment. Thank you for taking the time to leave it. Best wishes now and in the future.
Fizza malik/ February 8, 2015
that was so amazing….it helps me alot preparing my English test… 🙂
jm/ November 16, 2014
thank you so much. Just needed these to explain how to use metaphors correctly
Earl Adrian/ November 9, 2014
Thank you very much! Because of you I passed my exams with flying colors!!! More power to you!!! 🙂
Gayaneh/ March 30, 2014
Thank you so much for the quizzes, I am going to use them in my course on stylistics and I find them very useful.
Mr. Morton/ April 21, 2014
I’ve got like 4 more worksheets to add to this page.
I’m going to do some big updates this summer.
Hermain Qadir/ December 8, 2013
Thank you! This has really helped me for my English exam 🙂 I think now I will visit this site more often as there is so much material to view.
Mr. Morton/ December 18, 2013
I look forward to your visits.
Linda/ September 25, 2013
thank you very much… so helpful…
Kimberly/ June 4, 2013
Thank you so much!!
Cheryl Rowe/ April 4, 2013
I really appreciate your worksheets with the common core emphasis that makes them explain. I would love to see something to teach etymology! Also something would be appreciated on the parts of plot: identifying exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution in sample excerpts.
Mr. Morton/ May 1, 2013
Thank you for saying so. I will be adding the specific standards that each page addresses shortly. In the meantime, check these out:
elizabeth/ March 31, 2013
Thank you, thank you. I have been writing poetry since grade one (about 74) years, and never knew how. Now I can edit and reword and feel proud of my work.
Send me what I need from step 1. om om (universal sound) e
Mr. Morton/ May 1, 2013
Wow! I’m sure that you’ve crafted some gems. Share them with the world.
mrs. poirier/ March 13, 2013
I don’t know who creates the lessons for this website, but I am immensely thankful for the great ideas and useful practice through the worksheets!!!
Mr. Morton/ March 21, 2013
Thank you for your appreciation. Best wishes!
Lis/ March 8, 2013
Your website is amazing and great for worksheets for students. THANK YOU SOOO MUCH
T. Griffin/ February 18, 2013
I really appreciate your time, hardwork and dedication. Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!
Mr. Morton/ March 3, 2013
Thank you for saying so. Best wishes!
HEMALI PAREKH/ February 15, 2013
JUST KNOWLEGABLE, EXCELLENT, TOTAL PACK; THANKS ALOT TO THE CONCERNED.
E Rodriguez/ January 16, 2013
I have been searching for so long and everything I needed is so beautifully done here on your site. Thank you!
iklygn/ January 13, 2013
Meagan/ November 30, 2012
I’m an Aussie teacher and I love this site! I use it so often, especially the powerpoints as a source for many of my mini lessons. Then the accompanying worksheets are perfect for a short, sharp skill practising task.
I’ve shared this resource with many of my colleagues too. Thank you so much!
Dee/ May 27, 2012
Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge. Your web site is great! We need more people like you who share the knowledge! Thank you again. 🙂
Max Antonioni/ May 8, 2012
This website is amazing and it help me out loads. I had an English exam due in 2 days and I was studying for it and as soon as I found this website I knew I would pass! Thanks 🙂
Mrs. C Peterson/ May 1, 2012
LOVE this! Worked great for my kids. Thank you so much!
Yolanda/ April 29, 2012
I’m a first-year teacher and your worksheets are helping me a great deal. Thank you so much for sharing and caring!
Mr. Morton/ May 3, 2012
Thanks for visiting!
Jaina L. Paraiso/ April 26, 2012
Great resources we have here. Thank you very much for sharing.
J. Filemu/ April 20, 2012
Your worksheets and PowerPoint material are exactly what I need. Thank you!
J. Knapp/ February 8, 2012
Your worksheets are wonderfully done and much appreciated. Thank you so much!
Sharanda Payseur/ December 15, 2011
I absolutely love what you have collected here. It is exactly what I needed. Fantastic work! Thank you for sharing.
Mr. Morton/ January 14, 2012
It’s my pleasure. I have a couple more worksheets to add to this page, if I can ever get around to it…
Laurie Thompson/ October 31, 2011
I love your website. I was wondering if you would ever consider adding a few more to your website. Please consider the following: tone/mood, symbolism, analogy, and author’s viewpoint. Thanks in advance. You save me so much time with your great worksheets. 🙂
Mr. Morton/ October 31, 2011
Thanks for the suggestions. I believe I have those “author’s viewpoint” worksheets, but I’d love to get around to adding materials on those other topics. Thank you for visiting!