Shel SilversteinTeacher’s Guide: Shel Silverstein Poems, Lesson Plans, and Activities


Teacher’s Guide to Poems by Shel Silverstein


These poems by Shel Silverstein will help you teach the elements of poetry. This list of Shel Silverstein poems with teaching ideas will make teaching Shel Silverstein poetry a pleasant experience.


The Messy Classroom

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.

ELA Common Core Standards Covered

Teaching poems by Shel Silverstein covers the following ELA Common Core Standards.  This section is for your administrator, not your kids.  Kids need student-friendly objectives.

  1. RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  2. RL.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  3. L.9-10.5  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 
  4. L.9-10.5a  Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.
  5. Common Core Writing Standard 1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  6. Common Core Writing Standard 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Poems by Shel Silverstein for High School

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.

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “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.
  5. “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.

Teaching the Common Core Standards by Teaching Poetry Masters

Just because someone came up with a fancy set of standards doesn’t mean you can’t teach your favorite poets.

  1. Teaching the Poems of Emily Dickinson
  2. Teaching the Poems of Langston Hughes
  3. Teaching the Poems of Walt Whitman
  4. Teaching the Poems of Shel Silverstein
  5. Teaching the Poems of Carl Sandburg
  6. Teaching the Poems of Robert Frost
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