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Shel Silverstein--A Project for Grades 5 & 6

Activities and poems prepared by Fran Sokel - sokel(at)netvision(dot)net(dot)il


The following ideas and activities were used in our English lessons, while the Grade 5 homeroom teacher worked simultaneously on some of the same material in Hebrew and added some more complex poems. She also went into more depth about Silverstein and his writing. Although Ronit and I built the project together, I needed to be more selective because not all of the material in English is of a suitable level of comprehension for elementary school learners.

We started a couple of weeks before Tu B'shvat, with the intention of working on The Giving Tree for the festival.

After reading each poem with the class, a discussion about the content usually followed. Sometimes it was necessary to introduce vocabulary prior to reading. It is usually possible to follow-up most poems with some creative activity. A 'Shel Silverstein' corner in the classroom, which offers the pupils a range of activities to choose from and work on at their leisure is always popular.

Listed below is a selection of activities that can be used with different poems in addition to some activities for specific poems. Wherever possible (and it almost always is) the pupils should work together – in pairs, or groups and be given an element of choice.

Follow-up activities which can be adapted to many poems

  1. Provide copies of a variety of poems for pupils to read and illustrate. eg The Sitter, Come Skating
  2. Cut poem up into sentence/line strips and pupils put in order. eg. Crowded Tub
  3. Pupils select a poem, read it and decide on a way to present it to the rest of the class (dramatise, with illustrations, puppets.)
    A poetry cube is an interesting addition to this activity. The poems are numbered 1-6. A cube is thrown, and whichever number shows up, the pupils then work on that poem. (I found this idea on the Internet)
  4. Make the poem into a small book. One line and an accompanying illustration on each page.
  5. Make an illustrated class book of poems – pupils record themselves reading the poem and make a tape to accompany the book.
Follow-up activities for specific poems.


This was our starting point in English.
After reading the poem, we asked the kids to come up with their own translation. We then read out the 'official' translation for the pupils to compare, and discussed the whole concept of translating. Some of ours were, in our opinion, closer to the original version in English!
Translating can be used for many poems of course, as long as you have the Hebrew version available as a comparison.


This poem led to a discussion about 'Things we are afraid of'.
Possible follow-up activities include:

The next two poems lend themselves to work on adjectives:


Tell me

Pupils write own version using the same format and substituting adjectives.

Hard To Please

Words rhyming with each pupil's name could be a basis for fun activities

It's important to use familiar vocabulary where possible.

Channels could lead into a topic about television:

An additional direction to go with this poem is:

The Loser could be used as a starting point for a topic on the body.

A Selection of Poems By Shel Silverstein to Use in the Elementary School Classroom

The Sitter

Mrs. McTwitter was the baby-sitter
I think she's a little bit crazy.
She thinks a baby-sitter's supposed
To sit upon the baby.

Come Skating

They said come skating;
They said it's so nice.
They said come skating;
I'd done it twice.
They said come skating;
It sounded nice….
I wore roller-
They meant ice.

Crowded Tub

There's too many kids in this tub.
There's too many elbows to scrub.
I just washed a behind
That I'm sure wasn't mine,
There's too many kids in this tub.


I went to the doctor-
He reached down my throat,
He pulled out a shoe
And a little toy boat,
He pulled out a skate
And a bicycle seat,
And said 'Be more careful
About what you eat.'


The baby bat
Screamed out in fright,
'Turn on the dark,
I'm afraid of the light.'


I thought that I had wavy hair
Until I shaved. Instead,
I find that I have straight hair
And a very wavy head.

Tell Me

Tell me I'm clever,
Tell me I'm kind,
Tell me I'm talented,
Tell me I'm cute,
Tell me I'm sensitive,
Graceful and wise,
Tell me I'm perfect-
But tell me the truth.

Hard To Please

(To be said in one breath)
Elaine gives me a pain,
Gill makes me ill,
Winnie is a ninny,
Orin is borin'
Milly is silly,
Rosy is nosy,
Junie is loony,
Gussie is fussy,
Jackie is wacky,
Tommy is balmy,
Mary is scary,
Tammy is clammy,
Abby is crabby,
Patt is batty,
Mazie is lazy,
Tiny is whiney,
Missy is prissy,
Nicky is picky,
And almost everyone
Makes me sicky.


Channel 1's no fun.
Channel 2's just news.
Channel 3's hard to see.
Channel 4 is just a bore.
Channel 5 is all jive.
Channel 6 needs to be fixed.
Channel 7 and Channel 8-
Just old movies, not so great.
Channel 9's a waste of time.
Channel 10 is off, my child.
Wouldn't you like to talk a while?


Mama said I'd lose my head
If it wasn't fastened on.
Today I guess it wasn't
'Cause while playing with my cousin
It fell off and rolled away
And now its gone.

And I can't look for it
'Cause my eyes are in it,
And I can't call to it
'Cause my mouth is on it
(Couldn't hear me anyway
'Cause my ears are on it),
Can't even think about it
'Cause my brain is in it.
So I guess I'll sit down
On this rock
And rest for just a minute…

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