Your class can work in pairs or small groups. Each group will need a copy of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, this can be downloaded from our website.
A Shakespearean Sonnet is highly structured. It has 14 lines with a strict rhyme scheme and each line is written in iambic pentameter, which resembles a heartbeat-style rhythm. This means each line has 10 syllables with every second syllable accented or stressed. The rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
Firstly ask your class to read and make notes on Sonnet 18. Can they see any patterns, does the poem have an overall theme, if so what is it? At this stage no suggestions should be overlooked as poetry can be interpreted in many ways! Then as a class discuss the notes that each group has come up with. Now explain to the class the pattern Sonnet 18 is following.
For the main teaching activity pupils will be writing their own sonnets. Ask pupils to number lines 1 to 14 in their books. Explain their sonnets are being based on feelings and emotions. Ask pupils to suggest a word associated with this theme, then to write that on line 1. Ask the same for line 2. Then for line 3 the word must rhyme with line 1 and lines 2 and 4 must rhyme also. Continue this way so lines 5 and 7, 6 and 8, 9 and 11, 10 and 12 all rhyme. Lines 13 and 14 are a rhyming couplet and therefore must rhyme with each other. Ask the class in groups or individually, depending on ability, to write their own sonnet using the words you have just come up with.
This is a 5-10 minute activity. Depending on how the sonnets were written, ask pupils to work in pairs to read their poem to their partner or choose one person from their group to read their sonnet to the class. Their partner or the class is to provide feedback; something they like about the poem and a suggestion on how it could be improved.
This is a one-hour activity. Alternatively the introductory work can be done in class (20-30 minutes) and the poem can be written as homework.