Thursday, September 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Shel Silverstein - September 25!

Happy Birthday Shel Silverstein - (September 25, 1932 - May 10, 1999) .
Note: Some sites have him being born in 1930.

I can remember as a child checking out Where the Sidewalk Endsby Shel Silverstein numerous times from the library. Still now, whenever I come across this book, whether at a bookstore, garage sale, or at the library with my daughter, I have to pick it up and read "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out" on page 70. This often leads me to flip through the book to look for poems that I remember enjoying back in the day like "Boa Constrictor", "The Planet Mars" and "Warning".

Shel Silverstein's book, The Giving Tree, is another popular book read by children. It also is a gift often given to mothers on Mother's Day and fathers on Father's Day. I even received it as a gift in college from fellow Resident's Life colleagues as a part of our staff development program. Additionally, my wife and I gave copies of this book to our education professors thanking them for everything that they had taught us.

As a songwriter, Shel Silverstein, was nominated for an Academy Award for the song "I'm Checkin' Out" for the movie, Postcards from the Edge. Two of his most well known songs he wrote include "A Boy Named Sue" for Johnnie Cash and "Hello Muddah, Hello Fuddah" for Allan Sherman. In 1984, he won a Grammy Award for the Best Children's Album with "Where the Sidewalk Ends".

All these examples exemplify the talent of Shel Silverstein to write for people of all ages to enjoy. His strange and twisted poems accompanied by the memorable illustrations will always be a favorite of mine. This made this week exciting to experience with my students when I was in the classroom. It was very important for me to expose them to the poems I grew to love at their age and later appreciated even more at my age.

I actually spent two weeks celebrating Shel Silverstein's birthday when I was in the classroom. I discussed many different styles and forms of poetry with my students using a Poetry Notebook. The students were able to write haiku poetry, quatrains, biography poems, etc. The students were extremely motivated to write because each form was clear in its approach. We also typed our completed poems on the computer, added clip art, and added a decorative border to display in the classroom. I would check out Shel Silverstein's website, if the Poetry Notebook doesn't fit your needs. There is a "Celebrate National Poetry Month in April" packet available for download that discusses many different aspects of poetry. In addition to this packet has activities for children and a great biography.

Shel Silverstein's poetry collections, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up, gave students many choices for poems to recite for the class. I copied many of my favorite poems plus many others for the students to choose one to practice all week. Then on Friday we videotaped the reading of the poem and watched the edited footage on Monday. This is a repeated activity from the week of Jack Prelutsky's Birthday. The use of repeated readings is a research based approach, approved by the National Reading Panel, as an effective intervention for students struggling with fluency. The work of Dr. Timothy Rasinski, a leading fluency researcher recommends using poetry and repeated readings to increase a student's fluency.

In my latest research in preparation for this blog post I ran across a book titled, Poetry Galore and More with Shel Silverstein. It is full of worksheets, ideas for games, and activities to accompany many of Shel Silverstein's poems. I did not know of this book when I taught in the classroom, but would have used many of the activities including Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Garbage Game and the Band-Aids Game. This book has many activities that can be adapted to other poems with a little time and creativity.

Shel Silverstein has written many other books, Don't Bump the Glump and Other FantasiesLafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?, A Giraffe and a Half, The Missing Piece, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O. The latest book to the collection is called The Runny Babbit. There is a study guide available at This book is clever in its manipulation of words to make a new language. Switching the beginning sounds of words make the poems fun to read for people of all ages. The book is full of characters like Ploppy Sig, Rirty Dat, and Flutterby. A great suggestion from the study guide is to have students act out the poems. Here is an example:

A Bittle Laby For Runny?
Narrator: Sticky Dork came flyin' down to Runny from the blue.
Sticky Dork: Surprise! I cot the gutest kid here - just for you.
Runny: This pid's a kig that's fink and pat and wet!
Sticky Dork: We all have got to take the gid we ket.
- Shel Silverstein, Runny Babbit

I hope everyone has a hilarious and exciting week reading Shel Silverstein's books and poetry. Please post a comment to this blog, if you have other lessons or ideas to celebrate Shel Silverstein's Birthday.

Check out the latest collection from Silverstein, published in 2008:

1.  Shel Silverstein's Website
2.  Lesson Plan Poetry Shel Silverstein Packet from Happy Birthday Author
3.  Runny Babbit Teacher's Guide - HarperCollins
4.  National Poetry Month Guide w/activities -
5. Shelebrate National Poetry Month 2009 packet - HarperCollins
6. Shel Silverstein's Teacher Page - Full of Activities
7. Don't Bump the Glump Activity Kit - HarperCollins
8. Shel Silverstein on The Johnny Cash Show - YouTube
9. The Giving Tree Animated Video - YouTube
10. The Missing Piece - YouTube


  1. shel silverstein was born november 23rd 1932

  2. There has been some discussion about his birth date because he was very private person. Most sources go with September 25.


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