It’s that time again here in Texas; kids are heading back to school. So, it’s time to dig up some poetry about school and school life, of course. Children often particularly enjoy poetry about school since most of their daily lives are spent there. The ups and downs of classroom life make fine grist for both humorous and serious poetry. Look for these books of poems about school and share them now and throughout the school year.
Abeel, Samantha.1993. Reach for the Moon. Duluth, MN: Pfeifer-Hamilton.
Bagert, Brod. 1999. Rainbows, Head Lice, and Pea-Green Tile: Poems in the Voice of the Classroom Teacher. Gainesville, FL: Maupin House.
Dakos, Kalli. 1990. If You're Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand; Poems About School. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Dakos, Kalli. 1993. Don't Read This Book, Whatever You Do! More Poems About School. New York: Four Winds Press.
Dakos, Kalli. 1996. The Goof Who Invented Homework and Other School Poems. New York: Dial.
Dakos, Kalli. 1999. The Bug in Teacher’s Coffee. New York: HarperCollins.
Dakos, Kalli. 2003. Put Your Eyes Up Here: And Other School Poems. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Frost, Helen. 2004. Spinning Through the Universe. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
George, Kristine O’Connell. 2002. Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems. New York: Clarion.
Harrison, David L. 1993. Somebody Catch My Homework. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Heide, Florence Parry and Pierce, Roxanne Heide. 1996. Oh, Grow Up! Poems To Help You Survive Parents, Chores, School, And Other Afflictions. New York: Orchard.
Holbrook, Sara. 1996. The Dog Ate My Homework. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1996. School Supplies: A Book of Poems. Simon & Schuster.
Kennedy, Dorothy M, comp. 1993. I Thought I'd Take My Rat To School: Poems for September to June. New York: Little, Brown.
Lansky, Bruce, comp. 1997. No More Homework! No More Tests! Kids Favorite Funny School Poems. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
Opie, Iona and Peter Opie, eds. 1992. I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
Paraskevas, Betty. 1995. Gracie Graves and the Kids from Room 402. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.
Prelutsky, Jack, comp. 2003. I Like It Here at School. New York: Scholastic.
Shields, Carol Diggory. 1995. Lunch Money and Other Poems About School. New York: Dutton.
Shields, Carol Diggory. 2003. Almost Late to School: And More School Poems. New York: Dutton.
Sierra, Judy. 2005. Schoolyard Rhymes: Kids' Own Rhymes for Rope Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun. New York: Knopf.
Singer, Marilyn. 1996. All We Needed to Say: Poems about School from Tanya and Sophie. New York: Atheneum.
Thurston, Cheryl Miller. 1987. Hide Your Ex-lax under the Wheaties: Poems about Schools, Teachers, Kids, and Education. Fort Collins, CO: Cottonwood Press.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2006. Dear Mr. Rosenwald. New York: Scholastic.
There are also several YA novels in verse that focus on school life for teens such as Nikki Grimes novel plus poetry, Bronx Masquerade (Dial, 2002), Ron Koertge’s verse novel, The Brimstone Journals (Candlewick, 2001), or Mel Glenn’s classic verse novels, Class Dismissed! High School Poems (Clarion, 1982) or Split Image (HarperCollins, 2000), among many others.
Choosing my favorite back-to-school poem is a bit harder, there are so many I like. Here’s one that just begs for participation and is particularly good for the beginning of the school year as we familiarize children with the routine of the school day (once again). It’s “Pledge” by Carol Diggory Shields, who is a librarian and poet who focuses on school and the curriculum in her various collections. This one is from Lunch Money and Other Poems About School (Dutton, 1995).
by Carol Diggory Shields
I pledge allegiance to the
Vanessa, stop pushing!
Hey, Joey, hey, Joey!
of the United States
I was here first.
Whadya bring for lunch?
and to the republic
Ow, move back!
for which it
Sam, you're on my toe!
one nation under God,
Crawling up your neck!
No fair, Jeremy's cutting!
A teacher friend, Ruth Tsay, suggested this poem be read aloud by alternating voices. The whole group can begin, reading alternating lines that are the lines of the Pledge of Allegiance (in red). Individual volunteers can each read one of the (italicized) lines that alternate with the pledge lines, such as “Vanessa, stop pushing!” or “Hey, Joey, hey Joey!” For maximum dramatic effect, line up and perform the poem with motions suggested by the words. It’s a humorous look at how wiggly children often behave during such recitations.
As a corollary, it might also be fun to look at the history of the pledge, with its interesting twists and turns. For example, did you know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written for the popular children's magazine, Youth's Companion?
That it was part of a marketing campaign to sell flags to schools in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the Americas?
That the original pledge was supposed to be quick and to the point and stated in 15 seconds, but was revised and expanded several times?
That it was first used in public schools on October 12, 1892, but not officially recognized as the national pledge until 1945?
Best wishes for a wonderful school year for all those who are academically inclined. My school year starts Monday!
Picture credit: school.discovery.com