Sonnets are a kind of lyrical poem – a poem with a kind of musical flow that is easy to read and adapts to some musicality. These compositions convey the emotions of the author creatively and memorably.

The word ‘sonnet’ is Italian in origin from ‘sonnetto,’ which means ‘small song.’ Like songs, sonnets vary in the kind of rhyming pattern, or rhyme scheme, that they utilize.

Shakespeare's sonnet folio

Sonnets can be challenging to understand without considering how they are written and sound.

How to Compose Sonnets

Sonnets are lyrical poems written in a particular way. They are composed of 14 lines. The rhythm in each line is set by the use of five groups of syllables, each of which contains one unstressed syllable and one stressed syllable. This type of syllable grouping is referred to as an “iamb,” and using five in each line qualifies this arrangement as an iambic pentameter, which is a complicated way of saying “five groups of unstressed and stressed syllables.” See a full definition of a sonnet.

The most common sonnets in Western culture and education are Shakespearean sonnets. These follow a definite rhythm, which was perfected by the great ballad and literary genius William Shakespeare. Emulating Shakespeare is not as easy as copying his style, however, as the essential act of composing a poem in the particular style of a Shakespearean requires considerable skill and talent. This is one of the fields where procuring the assistance of an essay writer to guide your structuring is essential… or you can give it a go yourself, using this handy guide to writing a Shakespearean sonnet.

How Sonnets Help in Education

As challenging as they are, sonnets are an incredibly powerful tool for teaching literature and sculping young minds to capture abstract concepts effectively. The composition of a sonnet requires a lot of not just their writer, but of their audience too.

The poetic nature of sonnets requires substantial intellectual dexterity to properly understand. They implore learners to think outside the box and understand what the words used mean. They are also defined by their lyrical quality. This, therefore, requires readers to appreciate what the musical nature of a piece adds to its meaning.

Sonnets are thereby beneficial to shaping the malleable minds of willing learners to conceive by taking a step back and considering what the whole piece means. This kind of education is fundamental to artistic fields that demand practical wisdom, such as architecture and engineering. They also help students foster empathy in fora, where meaning is obscure, which is the bane of complex social interactions. Sonnets can help prepare students for life in this way and are well worth teaching for that reason.

How to Teach Sonnets

An important step in teaching sonnets is the exploration of the linguistic and cultural backdrop that inspired the writer. Because they can be very obscure and technical, the reader of a sonnet needs to have a strong appreciation for the context of the composition they want to understand.

teaching sonnets in the classroom

The first step is, therefore, an exploration of the culture informing the structural construction of a sonnet. The second step is an expression of the cultural zeitgeist, inspiring the symbolic construction of the poem.

Structural construction is considerably easier to teach since it is predominantly an exploration of the prevailing art that exists around the context of the sonnet and artist. This is communicated through lessons on the history of art surrounding the composition. Once this is completed, it is possible to understand how the structure informed artists’ preferences on how to communicate meaning. This requires considerable practice and personal considerations on how words are shaped by prevailing historical factors. This is the hard part of teaching sonnets as relaying an archaic construct of emotional understanding to non-contemporaneous students requires an appreciation of how to communicate foreign concepts to often disinterested minds.

Sonnets Recommendation for Educational Purposes

Literature teachers must navigate the hurdle of dyssynchronous conceptions of linguistic expression and context to teach sonnets. Fortunately, they are aided by a plethora of exemplary sonnets that are deeply rooted in the literary traditions and conceptual context of their times, but that convey emotions that are relatable to a transgenerational audience.

One such work is ‘My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun’ by the prototypical sonnetist William Shakespeare. The work is imbued by all the features that make sonnets interesting, but also conveys universally-relatable emotions that can bridge gaps in education, culture, and time to introduce new minds to this ancient but beautiful art form.

As a fundamentally expressive artform, there really is no definitive exemplar as far as sonnets are concerned. Each poses a unique challenge to readers, and teachers more so, that must be charted anew.

Guest Blog Post by George Thomas
Guest Blog Post by George Thomas George Thomas is a digital advertising & marketing specialist with nearly 5-year long practices of offering direct-to-business and reseller services. He enjoys helping his clients scale with clear and measurable results. Off duty he is a passionate poetry lover and amateur writer.

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