The Tabloid Ballad. Author: Poetry Outloud

This lesson will teach your students about the typical metrical forms of the ballad (how they sound), and the typical narrative moves of the ballad (how they tell their stories), by having them write ballads based on comic, even outrageous source material. In doing this, they will join a long tradition of sensationalist journalism written in ballad form: the tradition of “broadside ballads,” like the one that Shakespeare mocks in The Winter’s Tale. Stories like this now find themselves told in The Weekly World News and other outrageous supermarket tabloids. Your students will turn the clock back, and rewrite them as ballads.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3001.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different audiences and purposes.
CLE 3002.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different audiences and purposes.
CLE 3003.3.1
Write in a variety of modes, with particular emphasis on persuasion, for different purposes and audiences.
CLE 3005.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different purposes and audiences.
GLE 0401.3.2
Write in a variety of modes and genres (e.g., narration, description, personal expression, imaginative writing, response to literature, response to subject...
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Listen to the sounds of several ballads being spoken
  • Listen to how ballads tell stories
  • Learn to hear, and to write, the typical rhythms of the four-line ballad stanza, with optional variations
  • Write a comic ballad themselves, using those rhythms and narrative structures
Essential and guiding questions: 
  • Did the ballad use some version of the traditional ballad stanza?
  • Did it tell its story quickly, moving scene by scene and using dialogue to move the plot forward?
  • Did it use typical ballad tools, like repeated lines or phrases?
  • Was it memorable?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 

Helpful Hints

Materials and Resources:
To teach this lesson you will need:

  • The Poetry Out Loud CD oraccess to the online Poetry Out Loud Audio Guide
  • A CD player or computer
  • Copies of supermarket tabloid articles, either in the newspapers themselves (The Weekly World News, The Star, The National Enquirer, and so on) or clipped selectively from the papers by you, or in an anthology of such stories like Bat Boy Lives! The WEEKLY WORLD NEWS Guide to Politics, Culture, Celebrities, Alien Abductions, and the Mutant Freaks that Shape Our World,available in the Humor section of many bookstores
  • Optional: computer access, so that students can read ballads from the Poetry Out Loud online anthology