Shirley the Shark

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by David L. Harrison

Learning Through Poetry by David L. Harrison and Mary Jo FreschShirley was a shand shark,
Oops, I meant a sand sark,
Sirley was a shand sark,
At last I got it right!

Anyway she saw a sip,
I meant to shay a shailing ship,
Wait – I meant a sailing sip,
At noon one stormy night.

On that ship she shaw shome sheep,
The seep she saw were fast asleep,
Shirley shaw some sheep asleep
Snoozing in the sun.

The captain’s name was Sailor Sam,
When Shailor Sham shaw Shirley Shark,
He shouted, “Save the sleeping seep!
She’ll swallow every one!”

Sho Shailor Sham shaved the sheep
Schmoozing in the shun that night
And Shirley Shand Shark shwam away
And shank in the shea out of shight.

Copyright © 2013 David L. HarrisonFrom the book Learning through Poetry: Consonant Blends and Digraphs. Shell Educational Publishing. Reprinted by permission of the author.

About this Poem

In a series of five books about phonemic and phonological awareness, my job as the poet was to take 96 basic sounds in the English language and write a poem about each one. Being inspired by a single sound is a daunting task, but it’s also a fun one. This poem, based on the digraph sh, turned out to be something of a challenge to read aloud quickly.

To do this in the classroom, select a sound – long a, short u, the consonant – and create a list of words featuring similar sounds. Share the list on the board and look for matches between subjects and actions: “On that ship she saw some sheep.” “Sailor Sam saw Shirley Shark.” While you’re looking, keep an eye out for rhymes. Okay, so you have to use your imagination too. I promise it’s fun and students really get into the game.

Click here to read more about Playing With Phonemes.

About The Author

Children's Author David L. HarrisonDavid L. Harrison has published eighty-nine books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for young readers and educational books for teachers. He is poet laureate of Drury University and David Harrison Elementary School is named for him. His work has been anthologized in more than 120 books, translated into twelve languages, sandblasted in a library sidewalk, painted on a bookmobile, and presented on television, radio, podcast, and video stream. Let’s Write This Week with David Harrison is a 20-episode video program that brings writing tips into elementary classrooms and offers graduate college credit for teachers. David holds degrees from Drury and Emory universities. Two universities have presented him with honorary doctorates of letters. His poetry collection, Pirates, represented Missouri at the 2013 National Book Fair in Washington, D.C.

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8 responses to “Shirley the Shark”

  1. Kenn, many thanks for posting my poem today. I love what you’re doing!

  2. […] BULLETIN: Our new national children’s laureate, Kenn Nesbitt, has created a blog called Poetry Minute. His plan is to post a different poem each day for 365 days. He began posting on September 1. One of my poems is featured today so my thanks to Kenn. If you haven’t visited the site yet, here’s the link. […]

  3. Hysterical! Such a wonderful example of wordplay, and a fun way to practice SH. Thanks, Kenn and David!

    • Thank you, Renee. There’s a back story that I can’t fully relate here. My writing partner on this book, Mary Jo Fresch, and I were flown to California to record all 96 poems in the group for CDs to attach in the books. Mary Jo read some, I read some, and we read others together. When we came to Shirley Shark, my cowardly partner took one step back and I got stuck with reading it. To tell you more requires wine and a personal chat. (:>

  4. B.J. Lee says:

    This is hysterical, David! Thanks for hosting this series, Kenn! It’s wonderful!

    • Hi, B.j. and thanks for leaving a comment. At a recent reading of my selected works, a professional actress raced through Shirley as though it were no challenge at all. I couldn’t believe it!

  5. Janet F. says:

    I love this poem and kids will too. I will share it later today. I can just see you reading/reciting it, David. Wonderful!

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