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Poetry
You Can Write a Ballad



You Can Write a Ballad
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   high interest, readability grade 4
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.24

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    abcb, bolded, burning, Casabianca, chieftain, childlike, excerpt, repeated, acceptable, ballad, repetitive, based, dialogue, stanza, entire, scheme
     content words:    Dudley Randall, Felicia D.


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You Can Write a Ballad
By Brenda B. Covert
  

1     You may have heard of a ballad; it's a song that tells a story. This lesson isn't about that kind of ballad. There is a type of poem called a ballad. It tells a story, but it's not set to music. Any poem that tells a story is called a narrative poem. A ballad is made up of strong rhythm and rhyme. It often includes lines that are repeated. If you have a story to tell, you may enjoy telling it in the form of a ballad.
 
2     How can you know when a poem is a ballad? It will have rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. It will normally have some dialogue within the poem. A ballad's stanzas each have four lines. The first and third lines have four beats; the second and fourth lines have three. The usual rhyme scheme is abcb, but abab is also acceptable.
 
3     Here is an excerpt from the "Ballad of Birmingham" by Dudley Randall. This poem was based on the bombing of an Alabama church in 1963 in which four girls died. The words that define the beat are bolded for your benefit.
 
4     
For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.

She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
"O, here's the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?"
 
5     The complete poem is eight stanzas long. Each stanza has four lines. In this excerpt, the rhyme scheme is abcb. The stanzas follow the 4-3-4-3 rhythm. There are two lines that are spoken. If you read the entire poem, you will find lines that repeat in several of the other stanzas.

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