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Lesson Plan

Choosing One Word: Summarizing Shel Silverstein's "Sick"

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Choosing One Word: Summarizing Shel Silverstein's "Sick"

Grades 1 – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • read and discuss a selected text.

  • choose a word they think is the most important.

  • justify their selection to the class.

  • work independently and in groups.

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Session One

  1. Read the poem “Sick” by Shel Silverstein to the students.

  2. Invite students to tell you what the poem is about, using their own words. Record their responses on chart paper or the board.

  3. Explain to students that they have just summarized the poem.

  4. Talk a bit about what they word summary means.

  5. Ask the students to brainstorm when they may need to summarize material. Stretch their examples to cover all of the content areas.

  6. Reread the students’ summaries of the poem “Sick” by Shel Silverstein.

  7. As a class, count the number of words in the summary. Record that on the board or chart paper.

  8. Now, tell the students that they will also be summarizing poems; but their summaries can only be one word. Allow time for students to share their reactions to this assignment.

  9. Read the poem “Sick” by Shel Silverstein to the class another time.

  10. Again, ask students to summarize the poem, choosing the one word that captures the meaning of the entire poem.

  11. Record students’ selections on the board or chart paper. When students give an answer, ask them to explain why they have selected the particular words that they did.

  12. Once students have contributed their words, review the list of words, and ask the class to choose the one word that best represents what is happening in the poem.

  13. Ask students to explain and justify their choices.

  14. When the discussion is complete, have the class vote on the one word that sums up the entire poem.

  15. Tell the students that they will be working on this activity in groups during the next session.

  16. To end this session, students can read and explore different types of poetry; or they can further practice this skill by using the Line Break Explorer. Here two poems are presented. Students can select and drag away the one word they think represents that poem the best. Students can print when they are finished to show which word they selected.

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Session Two

  1. Begin this session by having students describe the activity from yesterday: after reading a text, students chose one word they thought best described the text.

  2. Invite students to choose a poem from the classroom collection of poetry or from one of the children's poetry Websites listed in the Resources section.

  3. Individually, in pairs, or small groups, ask students to read their poems. Suggest that they read the poem several times.

  4. After multiple readings, ask students to choose one word that captures the poem.

  5. When all of the students have completed the activity, ask them to share with the class by reading their selected poem to the class and explaining the word they selected and the reason that they selected it.

  6. As the students are presenting, the teacher should be observing and taking notes as an assessment.

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  • This comprehension activity can also be completed using picture books, short stories, novels, and other types of texts.

  • Using the Fridge Magnets, students can create their own poems. Then, they can invite their friends to select the one word that best captures that poem.

  • This activity asks students to select one word to represent a poem. Ask students to do the opposite and write a poem after being given only one word. To focus on the specific word, try using the Acrostic Poem interactive.

  • Have students learn more about poet Shel Silverstein, using the ReadWriteThink Calendar Entry on Shel Silverstein and the Shel Silverstein Entry from poets.org.

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Anecdotal records documenting student responses in both whole class and individual settings can help assess students’ understanding of the text they have been asked to summarize.

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