Shel Silverstein's Poems: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lindsey Hays

Lindsey has taught Elementary Education, Spanish immersion, and ESL. She has a MS in Elementary Education with a BA in Spanish.

If you're looking to laugh or daydream about imaginary things, Shel Silverstein's poems are the things to read! His poems are silly, fantastical, and memorable. In this lesson, we'll look at some characteristics and examples of Shel Silverstein's poems.

Shel Silverstein

What would it be like to fall up instead of down? To walk to the edge of the sidewalk where the earth ends? To become friends with a tree that could talk? In Shel Silverstein's poems, he creates these silly, fantastical scenarios through his creative rhyming and descriptions. Let's look at some characteristics of Shel Silverstein's poems as well as some excerpts and examples.

Silly Whimsy

Shel Silverstein's poems can only be described as unique! He uses lots of humor that can sometimes be dark but often appeals to kids. His characters are usually fantastical, spurring from his own creations, like the ''One-Legged Zantz'' and the ''Glub-Toothed Sline'' from Don't Bump the Glump!

Silverstein never studied poetry, but instead created it from his own imagination. His poetry doesn't follow the mold of other poets. He has a variety of moods, or feelings he creates, in his poems. Some are lighthearted and funny, others are somewhat twisted and even sad.

His writing is so unique, in fact, that one of his first pieces, The Giving Tree, had a hard time getting published. People thought it was too short or too sad, but it's now sold around 5 million copies. His whimsical, silly poetry has become a staple in many classrooms and homes around the country.


Silverstein often uses themes that kids can relate to, like ''Whatif'', a poem about anxiety and fears, The Giving Tree a story about growing up, or the poem ''Messy Room'', which we can all relate to! He often uses rhyming words, and his illustrations are always simple black and white drawings, like outlines made with a pen. Let's look at some excerpts from some of his work.


''I Cannot Go to School Today''

''I cannot go to school today''

Said little Peggy Ann McKay.

''I have the measles and the mumps,

A gash, a rash and purple bumps...

What? What's that? What's that you say?

You say today is..........Saturday?

G'bye, I'm going out to play!''

''One Inch Tall''

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