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“Who knows the shortest poem ever written?” Ted Scheu asked the second graders gathered in the auditorium. “It's a little poem with a long title: 'How to Eat an Ice Cream Cone in August.' "
This is why kids love Ted Scheu, who bills himself as “That Poetry Guy.” He’s fun. His childhood stories, song parodies, and poems about ketchup, losing a tooth, and even looking in the mirror, show elementary school students that poetry is really just word play.
“When I was in second grade, I didn’t like poetry,” Ted Scheu told students. “Poems were about love, beauty and flowers. I was interested in sports, funny stuff, and things that were gross.” The children nodded in agreement.
What Ted Scheu did like was music, in particular the rhythms and rhymes of kids’ songs and Broadway musicals. “I was always playing with the words in my head,” he said.
To demonstrate what he meant, Ted Scheu sang his version of the ABC song; his “Alphabet for Chimpanzees.” Amid waves of laughter, he followed with his renditions of “I’m a Little Teapot” and “On Top of Spaghetti.”
After meeting with the entire second grade together, Ted Scheu led a poetry workshop in each second grade class. He began with Mrs. Munz’ class. The students gathered on the carpet for some mental warm-ups.
“What rhymes with rug? Say your words out loud!”
“Pug, mug, jug,” the students called out.
Ted Scheu showed the students two poems on his flipchart: “Foghorns” by Lilian Moore, and “Fog” by Carl Sandburg. They read them aloud and found the words that rhymed. “Some poems use patterns of rhymes and rhythm,” said Ted Scheu. “Let’s write one like that together.”
He turned the flipchart to a page with the title “Can You Imagine,” by Us. Together the class wrote a series of rhyming couplets—two lines that complete one thought, and in which the last word on each line rhymes.
Can You Imagine?
Soccer without a ball,
Tall without small?
Butter without toast,
Halloween without a ghost?
Cars without wheels,
Bananas without peels?
The sky without blue,
Germs without the flu?
"Now you can write your own," said Ted Scheu.
The students went to their desks smiling in anticipation. They wrote rhyming couplets about Hanukah, Harry Potter, and other aspects of their lives—poetry they couldn’t wait to share with Ted Scheu and their class.