English 301: Literature for Children and Adolescents    

Poetry Assignments

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Ferrum College


Children's Literature Home Page

F 9/22

Watch video labeled Children’s Poetry: "12345, Keep Poetry Alive” in class or on reserve in library, with children and prominent British poets reciting their poetry. In Angel discussion forum, write your observations about what you learned from the children and poets in the video.

M 9/25
Finish reading intro. to Riverside chap. 1, and pp. 42-63:
Games, Riddles, Lullabies, and Folk Songs

There are many, many version of "John Henry" in folk songs, ballads, picture books, films, etc. If you are interested in this African American tall tale hero, use this link for more details. It will lead you to some online versions and interesting background.

For the next three classes, read Introductions and selections (as outlined below) from Riverside chaps. 2 and 3, pp. 64-158.

Required Discussion Forum Assignment:

Choose one poem from each section that you are prepared to discuss in class, and also write your observations about that poem in the discussion forums that will be set up in Angel the week of Sept. 25.

Dr. Hanlon has the following books with fascinating illustrations (some are illustrated versions of one poem). Feel free to borrow them in connection with your individual assignment or just to look at: The Tyger by William Blake, The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Corrin and Errol Le Cain, A Visit to William Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard, Block City by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Highwayman by Noyes, Pigericks by Lobel, Hiawatha's Childhood by Longfellow and Errol Le Cain, Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl ("Little Red Riding Hood" and other parodies).

W 9/27 Riverside chap. 2: “Voices of Nonsense”
Read selections by Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Heinrich Hoffmann, C. Rossetti, Ogden Nash, Theodore Roethke, John Ciardi, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and as many others as you have time for.

"The Owl and the Pussy Cat" is in your text but also at this link with Lear's illustrations.

F 9/29
Riverside chap. 3: “Voices of Childhood”
Read at least 3 of the traditional ballads in the first section of chapter 3 and the narrative poems in the next section.
We may have time to comment on the folk songs we didn't discuss from chap. 1 today.
(Also recommended: prose adaptation by Jane Yolen, Tam Lin, on reserve)

If you prefer some other ballad not in the book, you can bring it to class and discuss it (but it must be a ballad you would read with a child or teenager). Many old ballads are available online.

Robert Browning, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” is in your text, but it's online with famous illustrations by Kate Greenaway at this link.

M 10/2 
Read at least 5 poems from each of these sections: poems of the child’s world, poems of nature, poems of imagination, poems of reflection.
Concentrate on studying selections by the following authors, as well as sampling some of the poems that have no identified authors but come from oral traditions of various cultures.

Other recommended poets: N. Giovanni, C. Sandburg, e e cummings, E. Dickinson

Remember while reading this section that "Morning Has Broken" (which we listened to on the first day of class) started as a children's poem by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931, which became a Christian hymn set to an old Gaelic melody, and became a popular song sung by Cat Stevens when your professor was in college.

Optional: "The Duel" by Eugene Field, about the Gingham dog and the Calico Cat, illustrated by Mary Ellsworth. Several other poems and tales are at this site with similar illustrations, including "The Owl and the Pussycat."

General Guidelines on Poetry

Be familiar with the following terms, categories and techniques of poetry:

If you want a supplementary, concise explanation of types and techniques of children’s poetry, see Chap. 7, “Poetry” from David Russell’s Literature for Children, 2nd ed. (on reserve)

There are many other handbooks and dictionaries of literary terms that will give you explanations of the terms listed above, if you feel the need for more background on studying poetry (available in the library, bookstores, English professors’ offices). Lukens’ Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature is one example.

Think about differences between reading or studying poetry as children and as adults. Are there any differences or surprises in your reactions to poems in this anthology for children by authors that are known primarily as writers for adults (such as Shakespeare, W. Blake, C. Rossetti, T. Hardy, W. Whitman, E. Dickinson, C. Sandburg, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, R. Frost, D. Thomas, D. H. Lawrence, C. Cullen, J. Updike)? Are some poems more appropriate or appealing for children at different ages than others?

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