April Primary Poetry Library



This month's poetry selections correlate with Earth Day and related topics. These poetry selections and teaching suggestions originally appeared in "Thematic Poems, Songs and Fingerplays: 45 Irresistible Rhymes and Activities to Build Literacy," by Meish Goldish (Scholastic Professional Books, 1993).

Our students in grades K and 1 have greatly enjoyed singing their favorite poetry selections to familiar music. Much of the poetry in Goldish's books are presented with a musical tune as an option. Other books which take this same thematic/musical approach to poetry have been written by Jean Warren of Totline Press ("Piggyback Songs" series).

(sung to "Three Blind Mice")
Three main things, three main things.
Green plants need, green plants need.
For plants to grow, for plants to thrive,
In order to keep green plants alive,
What does it take so they'll survive?
Three main things!

Plants need sun, plants need sun,
That's number one, plants need sun.
For plants to grow, for plants to thrive,
In order to keep green plants alive,
What does it take so they'll survive?
Plants need sun!

Plants need air, plants need air,
Be aware, plants need air.
For plants to grow, for plants to thrive,
In order to keep green plants alive,
What does it take so they'll survive?
Plants need air!

Plants need water, plants need water,
'Specially when it's hotter, plants need water.
For plants to grow, for plants to thrive,
In order to keep green plants alive,
What does it take so they'll survive?
Plants need water!

Suggestions For Sharing:

  • Have children hold up one, two, and three fingers as they sing about the first, second, and third needs of green plants. They may also form their arms in a large circle to represent the sun, wave their hands about to represent air, and wiggle their fingers in a downward motion to represent water.
  • Organize children into three groups. After everyone sings the first verse together, have each group sing a subsequent verse. While singing, children may first crouch down and then slowly rise, to suggest a growing plant.
Thematic Activities:

  • To demonstrate the three needs of green plants, take two green plants. Leave one where it will get no water, no sunlight, and little air. Give the other plant all three elements. Let children observe the plants daily and describe how they begin to differ in appearance over time.
  • To demonstrate how green plants take in water through their roots and into their leaves add red food coloring to a glass of water. Place a fresh stalk of celery with leaves attached in the colored water. After a few hours, have children note how the coloring has made its way to the celery leaves.
Danger! Danger!
Animals in danger!
Animals in danger!
May not survive.
Help them! Help them!
We want to help them!
We want to help them!
Stay alive!
The Bengal tiger,
The mountain gorilla,
The African elephant,
The whooping crane.
The California condor,
The Asian rhinoceros,
We want to help them
All remain!


What can we do
For animals in danger?
What can we do
So they'll survive?
Never, ever hunt them,
Never take their homes away,
That is the way
They'll stay alive!

Suggestions For Sharing:

Help children locate pictures of each animal mentioned in the poem. (Encyclopedias, children's nature magazines, and nonfiction books on endangered species are all good sources for animal pictures.) Invite children to draw pictures of the animals on cards, which they can hold up as they recite the poem. Have children cover their faces with their hands, as if in distress, during the first four lines of the chorus. Then have them hold their hands out, as if offering help, during the last four lines.

Thematic Activities:

  • Talk about the reasons why animals become extinct (hunting, loss of habitats, difficulty mating in foreign environments, pollution, etc.). Have children brainstorm ways they can help protect animals. Record all ideas. Also, write a class letter to a wildlife conservation group requesting additional ideas students may implement, and add these to your list. Decide together on one idea to pursue as a group (reducing trash, conserving water, collecting money to donate to a preserve, etc.). Decide also on a way to keep track of your efforts.
  • Have children imagine what two or more endangered animals might say to one another if they could talk. Let children work with partners to create a conversation and perform it for classmates.
We've been working on recycling
All the trash we can.
We've been working on recycling,
It's a very simple plan.
Separate your glass and paper,
Separate your plastic and tin.
Take the trash that you've recycled
To your recycling bin!

We've been working on reducing
All the trash we can.
We've been working on reducing,
It's a very simple plan.
Don't go wasting any products,
Use just exactly what you need.
Don't buy things in extra wrapping,
Reduce and you'll succeed!

We've been working on reusing
All the trash we can.
We've been working on reusing,
It's a very simple plan.
If it's a paper bag you're using,
Don't use it once, use it twice!
Give old clothes and toys to someone,
To reuse them would be nice!

Suggestions For Sharing:

  • Divide the class into three groups. Have each group perform a different verse of the song. Children in each group can wear signs that say either Recycling, Reducing, or Reusing.
  • Have children recycle paper bags into song vests that they may wear while singing this (and other) song(s). For each vest you will need to cut a straight line down the middle of the large side of a brown grocery bag, starting at the top edge and cutting to the bottom. At the bottom, make a circular cut large enough to fit the child's neck comfortably. Invert the bag and place the paper bag vest on a child. On each vest, make a spot to cut armholes. After armholes have been cut, children may use crayons to decorate the vests (one symbol for each song learned, perhaps!). Children can also "fringe" vests by making snips along the bottom edges.
Thematic Activities:

  • Talk with children about the current problems we face with our trash, including a shortage of disposal sites and the pollution of our land, water, and air. Ask children to suggest possible ways we can cut down on our trash problems. Then have them design posters that advertise the solutions they came up with.
  • Have the class keep track of all the paper, plastic, and other trash it creates in a school week. Have children separate materials in large plastic bags and weigh them each day to determine how much trash they have made. See if the class can "lose weight" during the following week.

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