5 Silverstein- Inspired Classroom Activities!
1) Make a "Giving Tree"
This activity will get students thinking about a time that they received something special to them.
Step 2: Ask students to think of something special to them that they were given (this could be before or after reading Shel Silverstein's book "The Giving Tree") and have them write that special thing down on a leaf. You could then have them hang up their own leaves on the tree, or you could add them on later.
Step 3: Enjoy your decorative and thoughtful collage as you continue teaching your Silverstein unit!
2) Illustrate for a Silverstein Poem
This activity encourages students to interpret some of Silverstein's unillustrated poems, and learn how to mimic some of Silverstein's artistic techniques.
As an author, poet and illustrator, Shel Silverstein adapted a unique and surreal style when drawing pictures for his writings. His drawings are known for: being in black and white, incorporating stippling and oftentimes uneven/ sloppy lines. Although he drew pictures for a lot of his productions, he left a few poems unillustrated.
Step 1: Have students point out some of Silverstein's signature techniques he uses in his drawings. Give them time to practice a few of them on a piece of scratch paper.
Step 2: Split students into groups of 3 or 4. Assign each group a different Shel Silverstein poem that was published without illustrations (such as the one above), and provide the groups with one piece of white construction paper, and a thin-tip sharpie.
Step 3: Have each group decide who they believe to be the best artist (this can be more than one person within the group) judging by their scratch paper from step 1.
Step 4: Next, have the group collaborate together on how they want their picture to turn out, using ideas from Silverstein's artwork. The artist will first sketch it out lightly in pencil, then go over the piece in sharpie, erasing any left over pencil marks.
3) Living Clothes Poem
This activity will help students build awareness about adjectives and poetry formats.
Step 2: Talk about what other items of clothing may do (for example: the "Thinking Hat" or "Shrugging Shirt"). Begin an interactive writing exercise where students help to come up with new adjectives to describe the item of clothing that's been chosen to write about. Then have students explain words they could replace to work well with the new item of clothing that rhyme (such as "seat"/ "pleat" to "hair"/ "flair"). Be sure to write down all the new words that the class comes up with.
Step 3: Replace the words- format your poem to look the same as Silverstein's, writing it down on a large piece of paper, and hanging it next to "Dancing Pants" for students to compare the two poems.
4) Drawing a Geometric Picture of Shapes
Students will visualize a story from a poetic format, and illustrate it using geometric shapes
Step 1: Hang up Shel Silverstein's Poem: Shapes (above) and pass out cut outs of one square, one rectangle, one triangle and one circle to each student. (Or, if older, have them draw the shapes themselves)
Step 2: Read the poem aloud as a class, and have students place their shapes in a way that demonstrates what happens in the poem using all shapes.
Step 3: If needed, glue the shapes on a piece of paper, and hang them next to the poem for all to see!
5) What is your "Dreamplace"?
In this activity, students will think about a perfect place or a "dreamplace" for them to do something they love doing, and then write a short poem and draw a picture of it.
Step 1: Introduce Shel Silverstein's poem: Poet's Tree above. Discuss rhyme patterns and word choice. Then discuss the mood of the poem, and the content. "Why would Silverstein write about a tree for poets?" Eventually discussing that this was a special or "dream" place for Silverstein because poetry is what he loved to do.
Step 2: Have students brainstorm what their special or "dream" place is. "What do you love to do?" "Where is the best place to do it?" "Have you been there? Is it made up? Do you plan to go there?"
Step 3: Have students create their own short poem with rhyme schemes and great word choice about their "special" place.
Step 4: Allow students to pair up and proof- read the poems, checking each other's pieces for: rhyme schemes, word choice, and rhythm.
Step 5: Have students type up their poems and illustrate them. Collect all poems to copy and bind together for a classroom book!