The Busy Bumblebee

poem by Sara Matson , illustrated by Niña Nill

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to understand and interpret a range of poetic devices so that I can experiment with them in my own writing.

Success Criteria:

  • I can define the term alliteration and explain why a poet might use it.
  • I can identify examples of alliteration in a range of unseen texts.
  • I can experiment with alliteration in my own writing.

Essential Knowledge:

The Australian Curriculum Glossary defines alliteration as, “A recurrence of the same consonant sounds at the beginning of words in close succession (for example, ‘ripe, red raspberry’).”

Visit the NSW Government Education Site on Stage 2 reading - Literary Devices for a comprehensive definition of alliteration and accompanying activities.


Display the title of the poem to the class. Ask students to identify the topic of the poem (a bumblebee). Then ask students to predict which letter they would expect to hear the most in a poem about a bumblebee and why they have chosen this letter. The most likely answer is “b” as the plosive sound imitates the sound of the bee as it buzzes between flowers and its hive.

Without displaying the text, read the poem aloud to the class. Alternatively, if you have a digital subscription you can listen to an audio version on The School Magazine website. As students listen to the poem, they should write down the repeated letters/sounds that they hear: b, h, s, n, z and c. (Note that the s sound is sibilance and is repeated at the start as well as the middle of words).

Explain that a common language technique in poems is called alliteration. Provide students with a definition and ask them to identify the examples in the poem. For example:

Busy, whizzy bumblebee

humming as you hustle

Then lead a class discussion on why poets choose to use alliteration. Students should recognise that alliteration adds a musical quality to poems, which makes them sound different to prose (continuous writing). You may wish to take this analysis further. Alliteration can often mimic the sounds that appear in the poem. Students may identify specific examples of this effect; for example, napping/nests has a drowsy sound and zest/zeal sounds like a bee zipping around.

Finally, provide students with time to experiment with alliteration themselves. Use the steps below:

  1. Ask students to choose their favourite animal (example: crocodile).
  2. Students locate an image of this animal. They identify key physical features. Each physical feature should be turned into a noun group, with the adjective matching the letter of the animal (example: coarse scales).
  3. Students then identify key personality traits. These should also be turned into alliterative noun groups (example: confident swimmer).
  4. Finally, students use their brainstorming to compose a poem that features extended alliteration. You may challenge students to use the same rhyme scheme as ‘The Busy Bumblebee’ but the primary aim is to experiment with alliteration.

For example:

Crunchy munchy crocodile,

Confidently cruising.

Your coarse scales cutting through the creek,

Creeping close to animals snoozing.