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Major Poets
Multicultural, Poetry and Literature for Young Adults

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A poem by Shel Silverstein

Silverstein, Shel. 1996. Falling up. New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN: 0-06-024803-3. p. 77.

Introduction: I ran across this poem when I explored the site. Now the poem wasn't printed there but I was exploring Silverstein and came across the obituary posted in the New York Times. There I found in the archives, Shel Silverstein reading this poem. I was fascinated with the difference I heard from what I read to his way of reading. You might want to try this too.

"The Toy Eater"

You don't have to pick up your toys, okay?

You can leave 'em right there on the floor,

So tonight when the Terrible Toy-Eatin' Tookle

Comes tiptoein' in through the crack in the door,

He'll crunch all your soldiers, he'll munch on your trucks,

He'll chew your poor puppets to shreds,

He'll swallow your Big Wheel and slurp up your paints

And bite off your dear dollies' heads.

Then he'll wipe off his lips with the sails of your ship,

And making a burpity noise,

He'll slither away-but hey, that's okay,

You don't have to pick up your toys.

Extension: This poem leads to so many things: One is a drawing of the Terrible Toy-Eatin' Tookle. After reading this to the class, I would ask about what they are told to do at the end of the day to start a discussion and a building of their own poem about their end of day routine. This could be things like brushing their teeth, taking a bath etc. Students could do a collage of the things mentioned in the poem. I'd also want them to hear Shel Silverstein read the poem and ask them about how this changed the way they feel the poem. The rythmn is what changed dramatically for me but I'm sure I'd get a variety of answers from each of them. Asking them about who is talking in the poem would vary also depending on the family unit they have. Students could also write about their decision they would make if this poem had been read to them one night - would they pick up their toys? Why or why not?

A poem by Jack Prelutsky

Introduction: In middle school one of the dreaded things is to have homework, even if you enjoy school. This brings to my mind a universal way of groaning when the teacher gives that dreaded assignment. I certainly remember seeing all my free time disappear if the words got out before the bell rang.

Prelutsky, Jack. 1984. The new kid on the block. New York, NY: Greenwillow books. ISBN: 0-688-02272-3. p. 54-55.

"Homework! Oh, Homework!"

Homework! Oh, homework!

I hate you! You stink!

I wish I could wash you

Away in the sink,

If only a bomb

Would explode you to bits.

Homework! Oh, homework!

You're giving me fits.

I'd rather take baths

With a man-eating shark,

Or wrestle a lion

Alone in the dark,

Eat spinach and liver,

Pet ten porcupines,

Than tackle the homework

My teacher assigns.

Homework! Oh, homework!

You're last on my list,

I simply can't see

Why you even exist,

If you just disappeared

It would tickle me pink.

Homework! Oh, homework!

I hate you! You stink!

Extension: Have the students list things they would rather do than homework and put this list on the board. Have them keep the exaggeration and the rythmn as they compose their own poems, or even in groups. Illustrators can be used and then the ideas compared. Students should feel free to add other items to the list as they write their own thoughts of daring. Those students or groups that desire to can read their poems to the group. Choral reading and the cloze procedure would also work well with this poem. I wonder if someone can think of a tune that would allow us to sing this one as well.

A poem by Judith Viorst

Introduction: A discussion of the word bully and what makes a bully would fit well before introducing the poem. I found this poem delightful as it takes some of the scarey out of a bully. This could be helpful in middle school to lead into units on character building as it relates to cheating, fighting and bullying.

Viorst, Judith. 1981. If I were in charge of the world and other worries. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 0-689-70770-3. p. 11.

"Stanley the Fierce"

Stanley the Fierce

Has a chipped front tooth

And clumps of spiky hair.

And his hands are curled into

Two fat fists

And his arms are bulgy and bare.

And his smile is a tight little

Mean little smile

And his eyes give a shivery glare.

And I hear that he goes for seventeen days

Without changing his underwear.

But I don't think I'll ask him.

Extension: With the poem as a base, what other characteristics would Stanley have? Students might also enjoy thinking of other surprise endings to use in place of 'without changing his underwear'. Have the students react to the last line of the poem. Why won't this person ask Stanley about what they have heard about him?

What would you do? A class drawing could be done also of Stanley with each person or group drawing in one of the descriptions. This should be life-size and displayed in the room. The class could discuss then what parts of the description would worry them the most i.e. the chipped tooth, the fists etc. The discussion could also lead to what causes Stanley to be so fierce.

A poem by Douglas Florian

Introduction: This poem caught my eye because it makes up a word to describe something familiar in an unusual way. The imagery is strong from the inanimate to the animate. It helps students realize they can have fun with poetry by making up suitable words to get an idea or picture across to the reader.

Florian, Douglas. 1994. Bing bang boing. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Company. ISBN: 0-15-233770-9. p. 61.


The giant city bus

Looks like a hippopotamus

That lumbers down the busy street,

With rounded nose and rubber feet.

It swallows people whole

While charging them a toll,

Then carries them about

Until it stops and spits them out.

Extension: Have students list other animals that could replace cars, trains etc. Cartoons could be designed to show these similes/metaphors. This could introduce either a transportation unit or animals found in the wild. Students would then research the animals for the attributes that they need to include in their cartoons i.e. the speed, strength, sound etc.

A poem by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Introduction: This poem is a beautiful lead in to learning about single celled animals as well as microscopes. It's great that poetry can go into the curriculum in all courses. Hopkins has also produced books for math, insects etc. What a great way to introduce a new topic and set the scene for the activities. I feel sure students would remember more of the content when it relates to an entertaining poem like this.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1999. Spectacular science. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0-689-81283-3. p. 16.

"Under the Microscope"

Unseen with

An unaided eye



On a small

Glass slide.


One thousand times


Split in two-

It's miraculous


A microscope

Can do.

Extension: Students can stretch out the list of "what a microscope can do" as well as draw the two animals and/or a microscope to display in the science hall. This poem can easily open the lesson on using the microscope. Students can also compare the microscope with a magnifying glass and then explain why the poet uses the term miraculous.