The Origins of Teaching Shel Silverstein Poems
I felt great. I had just taught an amazing lesson on analyzing poetry. Finally, my students could write intelligent analysis in their poetry essays.
My joy turned to horror as I read "this poem is rad" 9,117times. I curled up in a corner and meowed as horrified students pelted me with milk bottles. Seconds before peppering the class with broken milk bottle glass, I had an idea: maybe I should teach Shel Silverstein poetry. I was already familiar with several Shel Silverstein poems and had had success in the past with teaching poems by Shel Silverstein. I put the milk bottles in the trash can, called the dairy, and ordered some donuts for our Shel SIlverstein poetry party.
I had work to do. I had to create a list of Shel Silverstein poems with teaching activities for Shel Silverstein poetry. Here’s what I came up with:
Poems by Shel Silverstein
Yes, you can teach Shel Silverstein in high school and middle school. Poems by Shel Silverstein make a good introduction for annotating and analyzing a poem. They’re easy to understand. They’re fun to read, and they contain elements of poetry and literature, the most noticeable being irony.
- "The Messy Room" – Focus on the last few lines of "The Messy Room" as an example of irony. Use these short stories for teaching irony lesson ideas for help. Instruct students to imitate the poem by describing their room.
- "A Boy Named Sue" – Speaking of irony–try this lesson plan. Play the Johnny Cash song of the same name. As a journal activity, instruct students to write a poem about a lesson they learned:
- Example: I wanted to holler / my dad took my dollar / He hid the remote control / I knew where it was / and so did my cuz / We hid it under my bed / He made us the bet / I made up the bed / It was nowhere to be found / I couldn’t find it / Not with a hound / "Never take another man’s bet" he exclaimed / If I lose a sucker bet, my daddy can’t be blamed.
- "Where the Sidewalk Ends" – Poets enjoy nature. Silverstein is no exception. Use a compare/contrast chart (a venn diagram for example) to compare this poem to one by Wordsworth or Shelley or Whitman.
- "Cloony the Clown" – Don’t let the title fool you. "Cloony the Clown" contains a powerful message on false appearances and human nature. Many teenagers can relate to the clown who carries with him a deep sorrow that people laugh at. Silverstein proves once again he is the master of irony. Compare the "Cloony the Clown" to "Richard Cory" by Edward Arlington Robinson.
- "One Inch Tall" – This poem provides a good lesson in perspective. Instruct students to write a short story or poem from the perspective of someone who is different–12-feet tall, someone who’s handicapped, weighs 300 pounds, or has a disease.
This post is part of the series: Teaching Famous Poets
- A Teacher's Guide to Poems by Langston Hughes
- A Teacher's Guide to Poems by Robert Frost
- A Teacher’s Guide to Poems by Carl Sandburg
- Teaching Shel Silverstein Poems
- A Teacher's Guide to Poems by Emily Dickinson