Friday, April 18, 2008

Poetry in the Classroom - School Daze

My friends in K-12 schools are gearing up for the last 10 weeks of the school year and tests galore, while things here are winding down. As I prepare to wrap up the spring semester and plan for summer school, I'm thinking a lot about the academic year. This cycle of school days puts me in mind of some wonderful books of poetry about school.

I Thought I'd Take My Rat to School: Poems for September to June, selected by Dorothy Kennedy and Illustrated by Abby Carter, contains 57 poems that describe the range of experiences children have in school, from classroom pets, to school supplies, recess, mean kids, and more. Poems in this volume are written by Gary Soto, Bobbi Katz, Judith Viorst, Karla Kuskin, Eve Merriam, and many others. There are at least three different poems on the topic of homework. Here is an excerpt from each one.
by Russell Hoban

Homework sits on top of Sunday, squashing Sunday flat.
Homework has the smell of Monday, homework's very fat.
Heave books and piles of paper, answers I don't know.
Sunday evening's almost finished, now I'm going to go

Homework! Oh, Homework!
by Jack Prelutsky

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.

by Jane Yolen

What is it about homework
That makes me want to write
My Great Aunt Myrt to thank her for
The sweater that's too tight?
This is an entertaining collection of poems with many gems that are sure to please students.

School Supplies: A Book of Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Renée Flower, contains 16 poems about the school paraphernalia we simply can't do without. If you have kids who get excited about pencils, paperclips, crayons, and other such schoolroom tools, then this book will grab them with its artwork and its poetry. For the aspiring writer in your class, there are poems about new notebooks, writer's notebooks, and lots of writing utensils. For the kids who lean towards illustrated writing, there are poems on crayons and Popsicle sticks and glue. There is a homework poem in this one too. Here is an excerpt.
by Barbara Juster Esbensen

It rustles it
shifts with no wind
in the room to
move it
the blank white
needs your attention.
While these first two books are out of print, this last one is brand-spanking new. Do Buses Eat Kids?: Poems About School, by Laura Purdie Salas, is a collection of 15 school-themed poems. Each one is accompanied by a gorgeous photograph. Topics include school buses and bus rides, pencils, lockers, sports and more. Any yes, there is a homework poem! Here's an excerpt. See if you can imagine what the photo it's paired with looks like.
Oh, Did You Need that Homework?

I've crunched your numbers
torn them up
'cause I'm a homework-
chomping pup

Thanks for leaving
out your pack
Your problems made a
tasty snack
This one not only includes poems, but also an informational section on the language of poetry that includes definitions of poetic forms and devices. These descriptions are connected to examples in the book. After this you will find a glossary of words from the poems that early readers may not know, and a list of related books and Internet sites.

Here are a few other school-themed poetry books that I enjoy.
Finally, here are some additional resources for thinking about school-themed poetry.


  1. Thanks, Tricia, for the nice words about Do Buses Eat Kids. That was the hardest one to write for me (too many pictures of people!).

    I love School Supplies and Lunch Money. Those are two school poetry books I just adore!

  2. Ooh, thanks for these! My students already love that Russell Hoban poem, and I'm definitely going to look for these other books.