Steam Shovel By Charles Malam Analysis Essay

Poetry Study


For grades 2-5
Unit and notebooking pages prepared by Jimmie


This unit is based on the folllowing book-- Random House Book of Poetry for Children:  A Treasury of 572 Poems for Today’s Child selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel
ISBN: 0394850106


Structure of poem study for each poem:

Read the title and poem aloud while the children listen.

Ask them what they heard – this is narration. They tell back all they understood from the poem. This may include the topic, descriptions, specific words and images.

Read the poem again, and repeat the narration.

Hopefully this time the children can offer even more details.

Allow them to ask questions about things that are still unclear.

You can ask specific questions of the poem as well if you want to draw out certain aspects of the poem. For more help, use this Responding to Poetry handout.   This is also where you will insert the questions listed below in the unit study.

The child can read the poem aloud now, if you desire.


For each theme, there are at least two choices of notebooking pages. The child can copy the appropriate poem onto the themed paper for handwriting practice or for copywork.


Definition:  A form of figurative language when a thing or abstract concept is given human characteristics.

Questions for each poem below:  What is the thing that is being personified? What human attributes or abilities is it given? Why does the poet use personification?


1.  Things to Do If You’re a Subway, Bobbi Katz p. 92

2.  Fog, Carl Sandburg p. 96

This poem is in the public domain, so a notebooking page with the poem’s text is included. The student can draw a picture to go along with the poem.

3.  Paper Dragons, Susan Allan Schmetlz p. 40

4.  Steam Shovel, Charles Malam p. 216

5.  DandeLion, Hilda Conkling p. 25


Kite 1 Notebooking Page
Kite 2 Notebooking Page

DandeLion Notebooking Page


Definition: Descriptive words and phrases used to create a mental picture (image) in the reader’s mind. Visual imagery is the most common, but imagery can also appeal to the other senses – touch, hearing, smell, or taste.

Questions for each poem below:  Identify all the imagery in the poem. What senses are being used (sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste)? Why does the poet use imagery instead of simply using a single adjective?

1.  A Dragonfly, Eleanor Farjeon p. 75

2.  The Rain Has Silver Sandals, May Justus p. 29

3.  The Toaster, William Jay Smith p.217

4.  Dreams, Langston Hughes p. 225

5.  Keep a Poem in Your Pocket, Beatrice Schenk de Regniers p. 226

6.  Concrete Mixers, Patricia Hubbell p. 94


Rain Notebooking Page
Dragonfly Notebooking Page 

Poems of Imagination

These poems require you to read between the lines and imagine alongside the character in the poem.

Questions for each poem below: What does the character in the poem say and what does he/she actually mean? How is imagination used in this poem? Why doesn’t the poet tell you that the character in the poem is using his/her imagination? Is it easy to tell that the character is using his/her imagination? What clues do you have?


1.  People Upstairs, Ogden Nash p. 93

2.  One Day When We Went Walking, Valerie Hobbs p. 129

3.  They’re Calling, Felice Holman p. 139

4.  The Runaway, Robert Frost p. 138

5.  Poem: The Bed Book, Sylvia Plath p. 217


One Day When We Went Walking Notebooking Page
Bed Notebooking Page


Poems of Sound – alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, rhyme, nonsense words


Alliteration is the repetition of beginning consonant sounds, as in

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds, as in

Consonance is the repetition of final consonant sounds, as in

Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates an actual sound, as in

Questions for each poem below:  Identify the alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, and rhyme in the poems below. (It may be helpful to make a copy of the poem, and let the child highlight various sound elements.) What do these sound elements add to the poem? What other words could be used to express the same ideas? If they were not there, how would the poem be different?


1.  Eletelphony, Laura Richards p. 192

2.  Antonio, Laura Richards p. 191

3.  Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll p. 170

Download an MP3 of this poem :

This poem is in the public domain, so a notebooking page with the poem’s text is included. The student can draw a picture of the Jabberwocky beside the poem.

4.  Fishes Evening Song, Dahlov Ipcar p. 78

5.  Sea Shell, Amy Lowell p. 29


Elephant Notebooking Page

Shell Notebooking Page

Poems that Tell a Story (Narrative Poems)

Definition: A narrative poem is one that tells a story. 

Questions for each poem below:  What is the story being told? Go through the events in order. How does the form of a poem add to the story? Would this story be better told in prose (not a poem)? Try telling it in prose. Compare it to the poem. Which is more interesting? Most of these narrative poems are longer than the poems in other categories. Why are narrative poems usually long? Do they have to be long?


1.  Colonel Fazackerly, Charles Causley p. 204

2.  The Wrong Start, Marchette Chute p. 132

3.  I Wish I Could Meet the Man that Knows, John Ciardi p. 134

4.  Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast, John Ciardi p. 147

5.  Patience, Bobbi Katz p. 149

6.  Daddy Fell into the Pond, Alfred Noyes p. 156

7.  Smart, Shel Silverstein p. 157


Top Blank Notebooking Page
Lined Paper Notebooking Page

For these poems that tell a story, have your child draw the story or a scene from the story.


Repetition (of words or phrases)

Definition: Repetition is the deliberate use of the same words or phrases multiple times to achieve a sense of expectation. The reader comes to expect the word to be repeated. Then the poet can continue to use the word or phrase with one effect or choose to not use that expected word for another effect.

Questions for each poem below:  What words are repeated? (Make a copy of the poem for the children to mark.) Why do you think the poet chose to repeat these particular words instead of others? Experiment with repeating other words instead. What is the effect? What does the repetition achieve (emphasis, feeling of boredom, feeling of motion, etc.)?


1.  Feather or Fur, John Becker p. 69

2.  The Yak, Jack Prelutsky p. 197

3.  The Secret Song, Margaret Wise Brown p. 24

4.  Every Time I Climb a Tree, David McCord p.119

5.  Clickbeetle, Mary Ann Hoberman p. 193


Yak Notebooking Page

Beetle Notebooking Page


Definition:  Symmetry is the deliberate use of a balanced pattern either in words or ideas. Symmetry may include repetition.

Questions for each poem below:  What symmetry is used in each poem? Is repetition a part of it? How does the symmetrical pattern add to the poem’s meaning or feeling? Try recreating the poem without the symmetry. Does it have the same effect? Do you personally like things to be orderly and symmetrical? Or do you prefer things to be jagged, messy, and asymmetrical?


1.  River Winding, Charlotte Zolotow, p. 28

2.  I Heard a Bird Sing, Oliver Herford p. 49

3.  City, City, Marci Ridlan p. 91

4.  The Little Boy and the Old Man, Shell Silverstein p. 161

5.  Thanksgiving, Ivy O. Eastwick p. 47


City View Notebooking Page

Bird Notebooking Page 

Ideas for Composing

These ideas can be used all at the end as a culminating activity or scattered among the poem lessons. The students can write complete poems or just work on composing poetically – using poetic language. Writing with elements of poetry makes for more descriptive and interesting prose writing. So if your children don’t actually write a poem, know that these concepts carry over well into other facets of writing.


1. Personification

Choose an object and describe how it “behaves” using human terms.

Example – The washing machine angrily scrubs the laundry and in a fit of temper swings it madly around.

A useful resource is this website.  Click on Nature Personified in the left hand column.


2. Imagery Using Five Senses

Choose something to describe. Seasons, a color, or an activity work well. Describe it using all five senses. If necessary, use a list with starters like these:

Looks like

Smells like

Sounds like

Tastes like

Feels like

This website may spark your creativity


3. Using the Imagination

Choose an object from nature that you like to play pretend with. Describe it using your imagination. See if others can guess what object you are describing.

Example – An acorn:  A stiff, brown fairy cap was lost on the path under the oak tree.


4.  Sounds

Choose a machine or animal that makes noise. Create new words to describe the sounds it makes. Try to include rhyme and rhythm to match the sounds.

This webpage has some good ideas and examples.

Focusing on popular verse from the nineteenth century through today, this anthology invites young readers to sample a taste of irresistible poems that will nourish their minds and spirits. Chosen by the Academy of American Poets and the American Poetry and Literacy Project, these seventy much-loved and highly readable poems promise young readers and poetry lovers of all ages hours of reading pleasure and were selected for both popularity and literary quality. Included are:

"Prickled Pickles Don't Smile" by Nikki Giovanni
"W. D., Don't Fear that Animal" by W. D. Snodgrass
"A Jelly-Fish" by Marianne Moore
"Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe
"The Falling Star" by Sara Teasdale
"Sick" by Shel Silverstein
"Halley's Comet" by Stanley Kunitz
"With Kit, Age Seven, At the Beach" by William Stafford

Table of Contents 
1. MAGIC WORDS: Poems about Poetry, Books, Words, and Imagination

“The First Book,” Rita Dove
“There Is No Frigate Like a Book,” Emily Dickinson
from “Magic Words,” Inuit (Eskimo) passage
“Introduction to Poetry,” Billy Collins
“The Poem,” Amy Lowell
“Ars Poetica,” Archibald MacLeish
“How to Eat a Poem,” Eve Merriam
“Six Words,” Lloyd Schwartz
“Prickled Pickles Don’t Smile,” Nikki Giovanni
“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” Wallace Stevens
“This Is Just to Say,” William Carlos Williams
“Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams,” Kenneth Koch
“Today is Very Boring,” Jack Prelutsky
“The Unwritten,” W. S. Merwin
“Write, Do Write,” Marilyn Chin

2. “MY HEART LEAPS UP: Poems About the Beauty of the Natural World”
“My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold,” William Wordsworth
“W. D., Don’t Fear That Animal,” W. D. Snodgrass
“Swift Things Are Beautiful,” Elizabeth Coatsworth
Four Seasons of Haiku
“Summer,” Kawabata Bosha
“Autumn,” Arakida Moritake
“Winter,” Takarai Kikaku
“Spring,” Matsuo Basho
“Nothing Gold Can Stay,” Robert Frost
“The Desert Is My Mother / El desierto es mi madre,” Pat Mora
“maggie and milly and molly and may,” E. E. cummings
“A Jelly-Fish,” Marianne Moore
“The Eagle,” Alfred Lord Tennyson
“Eagle Poem,” Joy Harjo
“Considering the Snail,” Thom Gunn
“The Porcupine,” Ogden Nash
“The Crocodile,” Lewis Carroll
“The Tyger,” William Blake
“Steam Shovel,” Charles Malam
“Cartoon Physics, part 1,” Nick Flynn
“The Falling Star,” Sara Teasdale
“Halley’s Comet,” Stanley Kunitz
“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” Walt Whitman

3. “I THINK OVER AGAIN MY SMALL ADVENTURES: Poems About Travel, Adventure, Sports, and Play”
“Sick,” Shel Silverstein
“Travel,” Edna St. Vincent Millay
“Insomnia,” Marilyn Nelson
“Harlem Night Song,” Langston Hughes
“The Rider,” Naomi Shihab Nye
“The Jogger on Riverside Drive, 5:00 a.m.,” Agha Shahid Ali
“First Love,” Carl Lindner
“Skier,” Robert Francis
“Skater,” Ted Kooser
“The Acrobat,” Wislawa Szymborska
“Baseball,” Linda Pastan
“Casey at the Bat,” Ernest Lawrence Thayer
“One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop
“I Think Over Again My Small Adventures,” Anonymous
“Bed In Summer,” Robert Louis Stevenson
from The Bed Book, Sylvia Plath
“Summons,” Robert Francis

4. “HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS: Poems About Love, Friendship, Sadness, Pride, Hope, and Other Emotions”
“Shirley Said,” Dennis Doyle
“Oranges,” Gary Soto
“The Floor and the Ceiling,” William Jay Smith
“Annabel Lee,” Edgar Allan Poe
“Sympathy,” Paul Lawrence Dunbar
“Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Spring and Fall,” Gerard Manley Hopkins
“Trees,” Walter Dean Myers
“With Kit, Age Seven, At the Beach,” William Stafford
“At the End of the Weekend,” Ted Kooser
“Little Old Letter,” Langston Hughes
from “I Am a Black Woman,” Mari Evans
“homage to my hips,” Lucille Clifton
“Childhood Morning—Homebush,” James McAuley
“Hope Is the Thing with Feathers,” Emily Dickinson
“Quintrain,” Said ’Aql

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