Compare & Contrast Zombie Poetry

There are certain lessons that come off so well that I can’t help writing about them. This is one of those. For several years I’ve used a zombie apocalypse theme (#ZombieApocalypseRoom207) to smash a few last-minute math lessons right before the Polite Pirates take their state-wide standardized assessment (PSSA). This theme is exciting and scary, kind of like the test that my third graders take for the first time in their public-education career.

I’ve made videos of some of our classroom characters expressing the need to understand perimeter and area, as well as capacity in order to motivate my class to learn these concepts. It has worked great! They practice plotting data into graphs and review all sorts of math ideas within a story line involving life and death survival from brain-hungry imaginary horrors. They love it!

Scarlet and I recorded this video of our reading these poems (2021).

This year, as April was winding down, I decided to round out the month of poetry by having the Polite Pirates analyze a couple of poems about zombies. I Googled “Zombie Poetry,” and found a few perfect candidates. One of them was written by Kenn Nesbitt, and can be found on

Polite Pirates could watch the video of Scarlet and I reading the poems if they missed the lesson.

“Our Teacher’s Not a Zombie” is a four-stanza rhyming poem (ABCB pattern) about a teacher who behaves like a zombie until she’s had her coffee. The poem compares the educator to a zombie, both her appearance and behavior. It worked out wonderfully to read and analyze this with my students, because I was modeling what they would do between this poem and another! We discussed the way the first three lines from each stanza are simple sentences. The last line of each stanza is a subordinate clause. We had a blast talking about people we know who embody the oxymoron “Living Dead” before drinking their caffeine elixir. 

The second poem, “Java Zombie,” is a concrete poem. LIke the first, I found it through a simple Google search. It was created by John Ecko (2013), and is described as a tribute to the show “The Walking Dead.” The poet explains below the poem that he enjoys watching each new episode of the show when it comes out, but staying up late causes him to empathize with the zombies the next day more than he wishes. The content of this free-verse poem has to do with a single individual who mourns Mondays. He ingeniously describes himself as infected with exhaustion from sleep deprivation. Luckily, there is a cure. It’s the same medicine that the teacher from the first poem takes! Coffee. 

I especially like the way John Ecko has the speaker of his poem hunger for sleep. He feeds, but not on brains. The speaker eats hours. I love the line, “Victim of the dawn.” My students and I talked about what dawn is and what it means in this poem. “How is this person victimized by the start of a new day?” I help my students explore the meaning of the text. “Who are the many mentioned as monsters of the mundane?” I question. “Do you think that the speaker of the poem like his or her job?” I wrote the answers to these questions and some additional notes on the board as we reread and discussed the poetry.


Typically, at this point I’d have the Polite Pirates (my students) compose a paragraph, sharing the similarities and differences about the two poems. This time, however, I threw them for a loop when I gave them all great big pieces of white paper and told them to draw a zombie. I explained that they ought to make it big; fill the paper; because we were going to write sentences around the outside of it. (They had done this before, so they knew what I was getting at.) We were going to make our own concrete poem, as we discuss a concrete poem! A few of them asked to draw mugs of coffee, instead. They argued that this was one of the main things that the two poems had in common. I was sold. “Yes! Definitely, draw coffee, as long as your sentences compare and contrast the two zombie poems.” 

Some of the Polite Pirates watched Youtube videos to help them draw their zombies. Others drew their own unique creations. One girl drew a Mindcraft zombie. Another drew a girl being attacked by zombies. There were big mugs of coffee and small cups of java. Some had zombie hands holding them. One or two have zombie hands hanging from coffee cups. “Yuck!”

Before adding any color to their posters, the Polite Pirates had to first write sentences. Then they had to fine-tip-marker the writing. After that, they had to erase the pencil. Finally, it was time to color… “And, I don’t want to see any white!” They had to color every inch of their papers. “What if I want this part of my coffee cup to be white?” a student asked, pointing to a place that did look like it was supposed to be white. “Here is a white crayon,” I countered, passing a crayon to my student. 

In the end, I have a bulletin board full of super cool zombie artwork, and the Polite Pirates practiced analyzing poetry. It was a great way to deepen my students’ understanding of metaphor and figurative language.


Ecko, J. (2013). Java Zombie: A tribute to The Walking Dead. Ecko Vision. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from

Nesbitt, K. (2018). Our Teacher’s Not a Zombie. Poetry 4 Kids. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from

License to Poetry


William Blake’s Ah! Sun-Flower: Poem Analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved from

In my youth poetry was as elusive to me as calculus. It seemed unnecessarily complex and celebrated by the elite of literature. I wasn’t fond of reading in general back then. I definitely wasn’t going to champion wrestling over the hidden meaning of a poem.


And, really, if you want us to know that the sunflower symbolizes the afterlife, William Blake, just say so! Are poets trying to be annoying? In the same way no one imagines ever actually using calculus, poetry seemed worthless to me.

Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience,_copy_AA,_1826_(The_Fitzwilliam_Museum)_object_43_My_Pretty_Rose_Tree_(cropped).jpgThen I became an elementary teacher. Poems are everywhere! Teachers begin the day with them. They are read on the morning announcements. Magazines end with them. Children’s literature is littered with them. Come to find out, some of my favorite authors celebrate poetry throughout their texts. Roald Dahl’s novels are packed with poetry. How did I never see this?


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Searching my Google drive revealed this poem I wrote in 2013!

Beyond the fact that I wouldn’t be escaping poetry, two things happened. I realized that this was a weakness. If I were a musician, I was playing rock and roll, ignoring the tendon of blues music that connected the muscle of contemporary privilege culture to the soul of bone-crushing hardship. Disregarding poetry would leave my students malnourished in the area of literary arts. The second realization I discovered was how interesting poetry can be. Come to find out it was fun to read and surprisingly easy to write!


I will say that before delving into this topic, I had to let go of the idea that only smart people can understand or read poetry. The fact that I might not “get it,” and would therefore feel dumb was holding me back from reading poetry. The concept that if I couldn’t write great poetry it would reveal a deficient intellect had to be released. Had I been defensively shielding myself from feelings of inferiority by purposefully ignoring this artful literature? Coming to grips with this possibility was the key for unlocking a love of poetry. 

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The librarian pulled a ton of poetry books for kids to hunt the styles after learning about them.

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These screenshots show comments between the librarian and I in 2014.

The first thing I did was prepare to teach the subject that I knew precious little about. I find that teaching helps me learn. I shared this idea with my school librarian, and the two of us planned to collaborate on a fun project of teaching several styles of poetry to my class. I convinced the librarian to use Google slides to make a slideshow that we could both add information to simultaneously and from any device. She hadn’t used this tool before. Sharing the same love of learning, my librarian jumped right in to figuring out this great collaboration tool.

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Link to Styles of Poetry slideshow for anyone interested to use, copy, and share

I learned poetry. The librarian learned Google slides. And, together we developed an exciting and fun interactive lesson that I still use to this day! Students are given a graphic organizer that has the names of the styles of poetry that they are about to learn on one side, five empty stars next to the name, and lines for writing. As they learn about the styles, they rate how they like them. In addition to coloring in stars, students are to write down a reason as to why they like or dislike  a style. I guide them through this activity, sharing some of my own opinions. We explore examples of the poetry, and even try writing some of our own. 


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Blog post “Poetry is Classy” has a poem (“Spelling Story”) about the homonym spell. It teaches the importance of spelling while demonstrating poetry’s liberty for misspelling. 

I by no means consider myself an expert on poetry. I have not read very much of it. The main change is that I am not afraid of it anymore. I’ve even tried writing some.

It helps that my audience is eight and nine-year-olds! By penning my own poetry and sharing it with my class, I am modeling giving it a try, even if you’re not good at it.



Not only that, but it is truly fun. One of the things that I like about poetry is the ability to break the rules. Like many things, it is important to know the rules, before breaking them. And then you don’t destroy grammar as much as bend it. My third graders are still a little young to truly understand “poetic license,” but they get the idea of bending rules. That’s for sure!


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I devised this “Grammar City” two week lesson in 2015, making metaphors of constructing buildings to symbolize the structure inherent in writing.

How do you share poetry? Why do you teach it? Why do you think poetry is important?



Poetry is Classy

This topic does not need much introduction. I’ve always thought that poetry was classy, and I tried writing some when I was young, to no avail. A couple of years ago, I had a story idea that began innocently enough, but morphed into a poem. Each year I get it out at this time for a few reasons. The story has to do with magic and witches. At the beginning of the year I am impressing the importance of spelling and teaching the use of dictionaries. And then, recently, I have taught poetry around Halloween because there are loads of cute, funny, and frightening poems.

Today, I put the poem into a Google Doc that I shared with my class, complete with definitions of vocabulary words and comprehension questions. A month or so ago I posted a blog about sharing creativity. The concept was that the more a lesson is taught, it lives on. For this reason I am sharing my poem here. I hope that you like it. I will mention a couple of thoughts about it at the end of the blog.

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It may not be award-winning, but we found it fun to read. There are many “teachable” elements to the poem, also. My favorite is the idea of poetry breaking the rules. Lines 20 and 30, “Of course not,” are an example of this. The rhythm of the poem is broken to symbolize the youth not following directions, therefore messing up the spell. I actually remember chuckling to myself when I wrote these lines. The poem bounces along, and then it burps. The line “Maybe” (63) is another hiccup in the rhythm. This one symbolizes breaking the spell… Perhaps it will be broken.

Class is an attitude.