Smart by Shel Silverstein: A Study in Point of View!

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SWBAT identify words and phrases that convey feeling of characters in a poem.

Big Idea

Shel Silverstein captured the “less is more” oxymoron in his poem “Smart.” Students capture the difference in point of view.

Get Ready

20 minutes

Gather students to the carpet.  Share Shel Silverstein’s poetry anthology Where the Sidewalk Ends. Tell them there are many fabulous poems in the book that capture an image or a feeling. Zero in on Smart. I don’t bookmark it, I use the table of contents and “think aloud” as I page through the book to find it. I explain I am reading them this poem because we are studying money, and the poem tickles me. Learning money is hard – it doesn’t make sense that a little dime is worth more than a bigger nickel, or that a dollar coin is smaller than a half-dollar.  Shel Silverstein captures that and makes me laugh, too.

I’m going to read this poem called “Smart.” Just listen and let’s wait to talk. You can smile at the end if you think it is funny, like I do, but wait to talk… Listen.

I read the poem. I am careful to read with expression and at a relatively slow pace. I want them to have time to process the story in the poem. I have a range of abilities in my class, and a few students who do take an extra few minutes to process aurally.  I read the poem a second time …

Boys and girls, often when I read poetry I read it many times. The story is sometimes a little shy to come into my head, and I like to hear it in my head a couple of times. I try to make the picture in my head that the poet is making with his words. Listen again, and make the story come alive in your head. We will talk about what you saw in a minute. Sometimes I can imagine myself in the story better when I close my eyes. Try that. Close your eyes while I read the poem again.

After the second reading I let the conversation flow. My objective is for each child to link his or her thoughts to language in the poem, so I am not too worried that this discussion is whole group, and some students, in a whole group situation are passive. I don’t guide the discussion much, other than prompting “what did you picture? Did someone else have a different reaction? Would anyone like to add to ________’s idea?” to include multiple responses.  


Get Set

20 minutes

After the conversation feels complete, I call for attention again, and introduce the task of identifying where in the text a “picture in my head” is supported. My goal is to train my readers to NOTICE WITH AUTOMATICITY what in the text draws them to certain conclusions. Keeping track of the who, and the why, etc, deepens their understanding as they read. 

Boys and girls, I’ve noticed that authors say things a certain way to invoke, or make, a thought or feeling in the reader. Listen again, and when you hear something that supports what you were thinking about how the son was feeling, just raise your hand briefly… like this.

(I wave my hand gently – not reaching for the sky! I want the students to realize that there may be more than one place and I DON’T want little Polly Perseverance to raise her hand in the first stanza and leave it up in the air the whole time I’m reading.)

I know you are all familiar with citing where you found the answer in informational text by using your crayons to match the answer and the question.  I read the poem again, and watch to see if students are engaged.  Do you remember what the words were that made you think what you did? Turn and tell a neighbor what Shel wrote that made you think the dad was feeling angry, disappointed, upset.  Turn to the other side and tell a neighbor what lines in the poem told you that the little boy was making a silly mistake, but he was delighted with himself. 

Go To Work

10 minutes

Okay, boys and girls, in a moment I will ask you to work with your 8 o’clock partner. See resource for Clock Partners.

You will tell your clock partner what you think. Tell each other why you think that. Where is evidence to support your idea in the poem? Remember WHAT YOU THINK means it is your opinion, and your partner may think you are exactly right -  OR your partner may think you are so NOT right. But guess what? It’s your partner’s opinion and s/he gets to have it! It’s okay! And it is okay for you to have an opinion that is completely different than your partners.


I tell them after they tell each other what they think about the poem, and have discussed how Shel told us how the boy felt, and the dad felt, they may come get a page to draw their ideas. See resource. I use the doc camera and go over the directions on the page.


20 minutes

Create a Smart bulletin board. As children finish the worksheet art/text evidence project, they bring them to me. I put them up right NOW, starting a new bulletin board. The title of the board is “Poetry: Words That Capture Images, Feelings, or Ideas…  "

I will also give them the poem to place in their song and poem notebook.