Poems for the First Day of School

Smiling young teacher sitting at desk.
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A humorous poem on the first day of school might be just what the doctor ordered for nervous or jittery students. Whether it is silly lines about teachers with tentacles or a manifesto against homework, a funny poem can ease anxieties and set a friendly tone in the classroom.

1 Shel Silverstein's 'Sick'

"Sick" is a classic poem about Peggy Ann McKay, who does not want to go to school. Giving every excuse to stay in bed that she can think of, Peggy suffers from the chicken pox, sprained ankle, painful sliver and blindness in one eye. The excuses go on and on until she hears that today is Saturday, which brings on a miraculous recovery that allows her to play outside. Every schoolchild can appreciate the humor in Silverstein's popular poem. The author published several collections of his poems for children, including, "Where the Sidewalk Ends," "A Light in the Attic" and "Falling Up." These books are full of silly yet meaningful poems that appeal to children and adults alike. As a response to the poem, ask the students to list, draw, write or act out their feelings of anxiety about the first day of school.

2 Kenn Nesbitt's 'Getting Dressed for School'

A poem that memorializes the difficulties that children and teachers might encounter in the poem, "Getting Dressed for School" describes a sleepy student who makes some silly mistakes. Whether it's a shirt that won't stay tucked in, mismatched socks or purple underwear in place of a hat, this student need not worry. He makes it to school and his friends think he looks cool. Nesbitt's poem is found in his book "When the Teacher Isn't Looking." He has authored several other books, including "The Aliens Have Landed at our School" and "The Revenge of the Lunch Ladies." Ask the students if they have had similar experiences of trying to get dressed for the first day, but can’t find the right clothes. Ask them what they would do in this situation.

3 Judith Viorst's 'First Day of School'

From the author of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," the poem "First Day of School" addresses the concerns many students have on their first day in a new class. Students who worry about getting lost, losing their lunch or finding themselves in an embarrassing situation will appreciate hearing that others have the same concerns. This is a good poem to begin a group discussion about school-related anxiety. It has an easy format that students can model to write poems of their own. You can also ask students to act out their feelings, which will help relieve their anxiety about the first day of school.

4 Jack Prelutsky's 'Homework! Oh Homework!'

In "Homework," children will find many things students would rather do instead of homework. A child can decide if he agrees that petting a porcupine, bathing with a shark or eating liver is really better than completing the work his teacher assigns. Prelutsky's insightful poetry for children appeals to their sense of extremes and sympathizes with their workload. You can send them home with a smile and a few lighthearted lines to complete their first day of school. Prelutsky is the author of numerous books for children, which include, "A Pizza the Size of the Sun," "The New Kid on the Block" and "The Headless Horseman Rides Again," a collection of scary poems perfect for Halloween activities.

Valerie Taylor holds a master's degree in ancient history and a bachelor's degree in education and literature. She coauthored an article on Spartan religion for the "Journal of Sparta" in 2010 and has written numerous, history-related articles for Internet publication. Taylor enjoys hiking, gardening and running half-marathons.