Teaching with the Web:
A Collection of Online Treasure Hunts and Webquests


SONNETS: An Online Treasure Hunt For Third Year High School (English)

Authored by E. Santos and P. Arinto


Sonnets, like any form of poetry, express deep feelings and emotions in a unique way. In this lesson, you will become familiar with the forms and other aspects of sonnets.

Working in groups of three, you will read Web resources on sonnets. Your reading will be guided by questions, each of which you have to answer using information from the websites. Write down your answers and be ready to discuss them in class. When you are done with the questions, work on the Big Question.

Everyone in the group should work together. Observe courtesy at all times.


  1. What is a sonnet? What are its distinguishing characteristics?
  2. Differentiate the Italian sonnet from the English sonnet in terms of form and rhyme scheme.
  3. Depending on type, sonnets are made up of three quatrains and a couplet, or an octave and a sestet. What do these terms mean?
  4. What is more important than the rhyme scheme and rhythm (typically the use of the iambic pentameter) in a sonnet? Hint: This has to do with the structure or organization of meaning in a sonnet.
  5. Read Elizabeth Barret Browning’s sonnet “If thou must love me” (in Sonnets from the Portuguese). Analyze it using the following questions as guide:
      a. Who is speaking in the poem?
      b. Who is the speaker in the poem speaking to?
      c. Why does she not want to be loved for her “smile”, her “look”, or “her way of speaking gently”? Answer in your own words.
      d. Why does she say “do not love me...for pity’s sake”? Answer in your own words.
      e. What is her main message? State this in your own words.
      f. At which line does the volta (the “turn” where the second idea of the poem is introduced) in Browning’s sonnet begin?
      g. What basic structure does the sonnet follow? Is it Shakespearian or Petrarchan in structure? Hint: Consider the rhyme scheme.
  6. Are sonnets good only for the Italians and the English? And are they good only for people who lived in an earlier time? What is their appeal, if any, to you and your generation? Hint: Consider the subject matter of sonnets.


The Sonnet Tradition in English Literature

Basic Sonnet Forms

The Italian/Petrarchan Sonnet

Love Poem Basics

Sonnets from the Portuguese

Big Question

Write your own sonnet! Here are two websites that teach you how to write a sonnet.


Write the sonnet as a group (only one sonnet per group). If you choose to write a Shakespearian sonnet (or a sonnet following this form), you can divide the labor among the three of you by having each one write a quatrain and then together writing the last couplet.

To get you started, may I suggest that you write a sonnet about friendship or a topic that is familiar to you. Your sonnet can be humorous, too.

You have two days to write your sonnet. Happy writing.