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Poetic Devices

Poetic devices are literary techniques not exclusively limited to poetry. Poetic devices are used by good writers in all professions, from novelists, to journalists, to advertisers. This is because poetic devices are pleasing to hear. The use of poetic devices is separate from the study of poetic devices. For example, someone can have an advanced perception of what words sound good next to each other without knowing the technical terms applied to these techniques (perhaps you can think of a musician to whom this description might apply). Conversely, one might have mastery of the technical terms without any ability to create original poetic assemblages.

Poetic devices are often lumped together with figurative language techniques (simile, metaphor, personification, understatement).  Often, state tests evaluate both skills simultaneously, but I find that it’s better to teach these skills in separate units as the material is more digestible if taken in small bites.  I will define each poetic device and provide an example or two, as well as offer some worksheets and activities to help you or your students review.


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.

Jakia jumped in the jar of jelly.
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 very subtle, such as in the following example:

Though this example is still pretty obvious, it 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.

He saw the cost and hauled off.
Will she read these cheap leaflets.
The snow in the rose garden groaned.

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.


Also known as near rhyme, off rhyme, or slant rhyme, consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the middle or at the end 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:

Her finger hungered for a ring.
The satin mittens were ancient.
You could paddle through the spittle in the bottle.

Though the first of the above examples is also an example of personification, we are interested in 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 a poem is read, the reader will conventionally 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, either creating an alternate interpretation of the lines or drawing attention to the enjambed words.

Rolling through the field in the
of winter.

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. Though enjambment could be used during a speech, the term “enjambment” is generally applied to the study of poetry.


Imagery is when the writer or speaker uses their descriptions to access the senses of the reader of listener. Sometimes this is called, using sensory details. When I say “senses” or “sensory,” I am referring to the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

An old lump of snow melted in the corner.
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, because the description accesses your sense of sight. When you read the second example, you may imagine the noises that crickets produce, as the imagery in the text references this sound. And as you encounter the third example, you may recall the aroma of bacon based on the imagery in the sentence. Good writers don’t just tell you things, they show you things by using imagery.


Repetition is when the writer or speaker knowingly repeats a word or group of words for effect. This is a strong rhetorical technique that can also be used to build a theme in a speech or poem. It is important to note that it is not considered using repetition when a writer or speaker repeats essential articles, prepositions, pronouns, or conjunctions that are frequently used unintentionally as the mechanics of language dictate.

Nobody, oh nobody can make it out here alone.
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. Nonetheless, this is still considered repetition. A poet, writer, or speaker may also repeat more than one word to have a greater impact or to highlight the importance of an idea, such as in the second example. In the second example a whole group of words repeats: Free at last. Each method of repetition can effectively embolden a message.


Rhyme is when the end or final sound of two or more words are identical. If the end sounds are not identical, then the speaker or writer is using consonance or assonance instead. Rhymes can also occur internally or on the inside of words or lines of poetry. A rhyme may also be monosyllabic (a one syllable rhyme) or polysyllabic (rhyme two or more syllables), such as in the following examples:

I left my punch card on the lunch yard.
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, but I encourage my students to try writing free or blank verse, as it takes much poetic skill to freely maneuver within the confines of a rhyme scheme.


Rhythm is when the arrangement of words creates an audible pattern or beat when read out loud. A good way to check to see if a passage of text is using rhythm is to just 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 is rhythmic.

There once was a guy from Chicago / Who drank away all of his problems.
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 Review Game – This is a fun a free game that you can play on tablets or computers to help you review poetic devices. Play as a cat and try to collect balls of yarn. When you get hit by an enemy, you have to answer a question to proceed. This game is fun and educational.

Poetic Devices Worksheets

Poetic Devices Worksheet – Help students reinforce their skills with onomatopoeia, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, alliteration, and consonance. Students identify the techniques and explain their answer.
Poetic Devices Worksheet RTF
Poetic Devices Worksheet PDF
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Identifying Poetic Devices Worksheet – Students identify poetic techniques and uses of figurative language in examples from poetry and speech. Also, students should explain their answers. 4 pages – over 25 problems.
Identifying Poetic Devices Worksheet RTF
Identifying Poetic Devices Worksheet PDF
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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
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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
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Common Core State Standards Related to Poetic Devices

Anchor Standards

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.

Expand to View All Common Core State Standards Related to Poetic Devices
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.

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Common Core Lesson and Unit Plans
Understanding Common Core State Standards


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  1. Mr. D

     /  September 26, 2019

    My students are having an issue with level 4 on Poetry Cat. I think there might be a glitch.

    • 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!

  2. peninah

     /  August 6, 2019

    so helpful thank you so much.

  3. Pulkit Singh

     /  July 19, 2019

    Please sir help me to identify clauses and phrases i can’t understand

  4. Cool

     /  December 5, 2016

    I am using this to learn for my exams. Thanks a lot!

  5. Subha Poduval

     /  October 24, 2016

    Very helpful site for teachers.Thank you

  6. Ms. Marie

     /  May 9, 2016

    Very helpful, thank you. Just the right examples and articulation I needed for my Year 8s. Bless U

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     /  January 6, 2016

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     /  November 17, 2015

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    • How flattering. I am working toward a day when your department will have worksheets leveled for all grades. Thank you for your comment.

  9. sayan

     /  September 27, 2015

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    (- _-)—

  10. 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!

    • I am touched by your comment. Thank you for taking the time to leave it. Best wishes now and in the future.

  11. Fizza malik

     /  February 8, 2015

    that was so amazing….it helps me alot preparing my English test… 🙂

  12. thank you so much. Just needed these to explain how to use metaphors correctly

  13. Earl Adrian

     /  November 9, 2014

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  14. 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.

    • Awesome.

      I’ve got like 4 more worksheets to add to this page.
      I’m going to do some big updates this summer.

  15. 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.

  16. Linda

     /  September 25, 2013

    thank you very much… so helpful…

  17. Kimberly

     /  June 4, 2013

    Thank you so much!!

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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!!!

  21. Lis

     /  March 8, 2013

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  22. T. Griffin

     /  February 18, 2013

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     /  February 15, 2013


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     /  January 13, 2013

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  26. Meagan

     /  November 30, 2012

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  27. Dee

     /  May 27, 2012

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  28. 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 🙂

  29. Mrs. C Peterson

     /  May 1, 2012

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     /  April 29, 2012

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     /  April 26, 2012

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     /  April 20, 2012

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  33. J. Knapp

     /  February 8, 2012

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     /  December 15, 2011

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  35. 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!

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