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Poetry for Children
Poetry Break #5

Folk poetry

Ladies and jellybeans,
Reptiles and crocodiles,
I stand before you
and sit behind you
to tell you something
I know nothing about.
There will be a meeting tomorrow night
right after breakfast
to decide which color
to whitewash the church.
There is no admission,
just pay at the door.
There will be plenty of seats,
so sit on the floor.

From Tomfoolery: Trickery and foolery with words
collected by Alvin Schwartz (Lippincott, 1973)

Introduction
Alvin Schwartz has collected many, many examples of folklore particular to the United States. He is probably my favorite collector of American folk poetry. And remember, folk poetry generally has no known author or poet. This example is always a hit with children because of the contrasting opposites and utter nonsense. Challenge yourself to perform this one--perhaps from memory! Use it as an introduction to future Poetry Breaks, if you like.

Extension
As we start to look for poetry all around us (on billboards, on television, in conversation), I would challenge children to copy down any poems or verses they hear or know. We could then build our own collection of local folk poetry, perhaps even interviewing community members for neighborhood contributions.