Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Cool School Poetry

Barbara Hirst


The students draw ideas from words supplied by the entire class on fifteen subjects of school life, and compose a four line poem using AABB, ABAB or AAAA rhyme, in the same manner as Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky


The student understands that word choices can shape reactions; perceptions, and beliefs.


-Fifteen sheets of lined 8 x 11 paper
-3 or 4 sheets of lined school paper per student
-Examples of Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky poems


1. Be prepared to read aloud selected poems from Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein that suggest frustration, exaggeration, humor or repulsion.
2. Write on a poster board the rhyming patterns: AAAA, AABB, ABAB, and display the board in a prominent place for student reference.
3. Create a few silly four line poems with the class for examples. Be careful to create poems that evoke a reaction of some sort.
I ate my favorite hat; I really can't say why; I don't think I'll get fat; but I do think I might cry! (ABAB)

Why is it I will say; I'll be good all the day; When all the time I know; It really isn't so (AABB)

I have a little cat; who looks a little fat; but when she sleeps upon a mat; she looks a little flat. (AAAA)

4. Be prepared to discuss the rhythm of the words in each line. Practice tapping out the rhythm of a selected poem with pencils or fingers against the desk. Practice rewriting the example poems to demonstrate good and awkward rhythms.


1. Tell the class that they are going to write a 4 line poem much in the same manner as Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky. Share examples of the poems.

2. Write 15 school related topics on the board, ie., cafeteria, playground, homework, language arts, etc. leaving enough room for approximately twenty words to be listed under each topic.

3. Instruct the class to think of words associated with each of the 15 topics. An example may be given by the teacher for the topic of cafeteria. The words eat, meal, chew, tongue, swallow might apply.

4. Call on students to add associated words to each topic list. Write the words on the board as the students offer suggestions.

5. Instruct the students to select a topic that appeals to them , and using one or more of the words under that topic, the students write a four line poem. The words in the poem should evoke a response from the reader, ie., laughter, repulsion, frustration, exaggeration. To help the students understand this, recite the poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to the class. Ask the students what kind of emotion does this poem evoke. Does the poem evoke a feeling of frustration, humor or exaggeration? The students discuss how word choices affect the way the reader feels after reading a poem. Share other examples of poetry from Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky and discuss emotional reactions and word choices.

6. Explain the patterns of the four-line poem, and discuss poetry rhythm. It is a good idea to tap out the rhythm with pencils or fingers against a desk. Show the students that they can chose different words or words can be put in a different order to attain a better rhythm. Use the three example poems by changing some of the words to create an awkward rhythm, and then change them back to show how the words can be moved around.

7. Students write the poems.

8. As students finish their poems, walk around the room and select willing students to read their poems aloud. This tends to inspire the students still creating their poems.


Use the following rubric to assess the student poems.
Great Poet: uses one of the three rhyming patterns, maintains rhythm with the words in all four lines, and uses words that made the reader respond with an audible or extreme emotion (laugh, grimace, remark out loud (such as -YUK!)
Good Poet: uses one of the three rhyming patterns, maintains rhythm with the words in at least three lines, and uses words that made the reader respond with a mild emotion (smile, shudder)
Budding Poet: uses one of the three rhyming patterns, maintains rhythm with the words in at least two lines, and uses words that made the reader get a mental image.


The class can create a Big Book using all of the students' poems. In keeping with their ability to evoke a reaction with their poems, they should create the title of the Big Book in the same manner. After the Big Book is finished, they may want to see if a first grade or second grade class might welcome them to their class to hear these wonderful poems.

Web Links

Web supplement for Cool School Poetry
Poetry Teachers

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