The Ghost and the Skeleton

poem by Anonymous , illustrated by Greg Holfeld

Learning intentions:

I am learning about the relationship between structure, rhythm and content of limericks so that I can use them to engage and entertain an audience.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify the structure and rhyme scheme of a limerick.
  • I can identify examples that demonstrate the nonsensical and light-hearted purpose of limericks.
  • I can compose my own limericks and read them aloud to an audience with the purpose of entertaining them.


Prior to reading the text, watch the video Write a Limerick with Matt Abbott to help students understand the structure and rhythm of a limerick. Following this, read the text aloud, maintaining the rhythm from the video. Choose a student to read it aloud again, also maintaining this same cadence. Follow this with a few more students, each having a chance to read aloud without breaking the rhythm. Discuss the absurdity of the text (a skeleton and a ghost fighting over which one should be scared of the other).

Ask students to recall the rhyme scheme (AABBA) and the author’s advice from the video for writing a limerick. Answers should include:

  • Get the rhyming words and ideas first, then start putting them together.
  • Generally, the last line is what makes it funny because it is surprising, breaks a rule, or reveals something.
  • It’s meant to be fun and silly, not factual.
  • The idea should be a little absurd, then build on what would happen if it were true.


Model a limerick on the board, such as:

There once was a dog who loved hats

He used them to dress up the cats

One hid in a fedora

So nobody saw her

‘Til she snuck up and scared all the rats!


Ask students for suggestions of some rhyming words and absurd ideas to link them, then use the suggestions to compose a limerick as a class. Inform students that it is their turn to come up with their own limerick. Explain that the topic can be anything they choose, but their goal is to make their classmates laugh. Give students a set time (10-15 minutes is recommended) and ask them to write as many limericks in that time as they can.

At the end of this time, tell them to choose their favourite of the limericks they have written and come together to stand in a circle. Choose a student to read their limerick aloud first, then work your way around the circle so that each student has a chance to read theirs to the class. You may wish to choose a winner based on who got the loudest laughs from their classmates!