Opening a Shel Silverstein book unveils an invitation for the imagination.
If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Immersing readers in a fanciful world of wonder and whimsy, Shel Silverstein published his first children’s book in 1963. Since then, he has written 12 books; each holding a magical collection of prose for readers young and old.
Checking out any of his books from a local library will prove their immense popularity with readers. This popularity, coupled with a diverse range of integrated literary devices, make his work excellent resources for a poet study.
Shel Silverstein’s Most Popular Books
- The Giving Tree
- Where the Sidewalk Ends
- Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back
- Every Thing On It
- Falling Up
- A Giraffe and a Half
- A Light in the Attic
- The Missing Piece
- The Missing Piece Meets the Big O
- Runny Babbit
- Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?
- Don’t Bump the Glump!
Activities to Connect Shel Silverstein's Work to the Classroom
Each of Silverstein’s poems and books present numerous language development extension opportunities as well as the exploration of literary devices. Within his poems, he uses metaphors, hyperboles, allusions, similes, allegories, alliteration, personification, irony, and onomatopoeia.
- Providing my students with copied versions of poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends, we employed a new approach to daily oral language. They would highlight parts of speech in different colors. For example green nouns, red verbs etc. Next, we would replace all nouns or verbs with newly chosen substitutes. They would then turn to a partner and share their Mad Lib version of the poem.
- Practicing spelling commonly misspelled words became a pleasure when we put them to verse. Taking inspiration from the following poem:
Ricky was “L” but he’s home with the flu,
Lizzie, our “O” had some homework to do,
Mitchell, “E” prob’ly got lost on the way,
So I’m all of love that could make it today.
We would act out our spelling words as a class. For example, using write and wipe signs 5 students would take their place at the front of the room spelling out “tasks.” After reading the word, we would state the restructured poem. Jose was “t” but he’s home from school (Jose sat down) Shelby, our “a” had homework to do (Shelby sat down). This activity allowed each individual to develop language and kinesthetically experience the spelling words. The lines of the poem can be easily adjusted to also incorporate events from the school day.
Explore more great ways to incorporate Shel Silverstein’s work with these great educational resources:
Name That Poem
After listening to snippets from a Shel Silverstein poem played with accompanying illustrations, young readers are prompted to guess the poem’s title from a provided multiple-choice list. This game is great for developing listening comprehension or reviewing classic poems.
Bringing new meaning to the term worksheet packet, this engaging PDF provides budding poets with the chance to complete a variety of engaging games, activities, and writing prompts.
Jump into the fantastic world of Runny Babbit in this detailed teacher’s guide. Activities for introducing and extending on the book are included as well as ways to incorporate poetry in the classroom. Mini-lessons on form, rhythm, and rhyme are the standout pieces from this package.