Author: British Council | Published 1 November 2022


Using rhymes is a creative way to help learners with sentence stress

A limerick is a particular type of English rhyme, with 5 lines, that is fun to read and say. The rhyming words help learners with sounds. The rhythm helps learners with sentence stress.  


Listen to 2 limericks. 

[play audio] 

There was a young lady from Niger,

Who smiled as she rode on a tiger. 

They returned from the ride

The lady inside,

And a smile on the face of the tiger.

There was a young boy from Rwanda,

Who wanted to visit Uganda.

He travelled all night

And when it was light,

He travelled back home on a panda.

Notice how the rhyme pattern is always the same – a, a, b, b, a. Notice which words in each line are stressed (mainly verbs and nouns) to create the rhythm of English.  


Say a limerick two or three times. Ask two or three questions: Where was the boy from? Where did he want to go? How long did he stay in Uganda?

Example activities

1. Elicit the words of the limerick and write them on the board. Ask learners to copy it in their books. Tell them to work in pairs, practise saying the limerick and answer the questions: How many lines are there? Which words rhyme? 

2. Write the lines of the limerick on the board in the wrong order. Ask learners to write the lines in the correct order. 

3. Use the limerick on the board. Say: “There are 2 stressed (strong) words in each line. What are they?” Mark the stress over the words. 

4. Ask learners to practise saying the limerick in pairs. Monitor stress and rhythm.  

5. Help learners to create their own limericks in pairs:

  • Give them starting lines, e.g. There was a young man called …. There was a young girl from …
  • Give them sets of rhyming words for lines 1,2 and 5, e.g. Mark, park, dark; Hussain, train, again; Imani, Malawi, safari.  
  • After, they could write the lines in the wrong order, swap with another pair and order the lines. 
  • Learners say their limericks for the class. The class votes on the funniest. 


Elicit: How a teacher gets information from learners e.g. asking questions, prompting.

Limerick: A funny poem with five lines, which often has the rhyme structure AABBA. 

Rhythm: A strong pattern of sounds and words.  

Sentence stress: The pattern of stressed and unstressed words across a sentence. Normally this emphasis is on words that carry important information, although this can change significantly, depending on the specific meaning the speaker wants to communicate. 

See also