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5 Poems To Learn For National Poetry Month

Students may greet you with groans and moans when you assign a poem to memorize, but the following round-up of worthy lines are sure to stick with them for a lifetime.

Brad Leithauser wrote “Why We Should Memorize” for The New Yorker, wrote: “The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. Robson puts the point succinctly: “If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.”

This sentiment still might not convince a teenager of the importance of memorizing one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, but it will dawn on them, one day. These five poems span all grade levels and difficulties, coming from some of the most famous poets in history.


1. The Road Not Taken

Poet: Robert Frost

Grade Level: 7-12

Difficulty: Hard


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


2. Sonnet 18

Poet: William Shakespeare

Grade Level: 6-12

Difficulty: Medium


Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: 

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date: 

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And oft’ is his gold complexion dimm’d; 

And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d:

But thy eternal Summer shall not fade Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


3. I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

Poet: Emily Dickinson

Grade Level: 6-12

Difficulty: Easy

I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog – To tell one’s name

– the livelong June – To an admiring Bog!


4. Dentist and the Crocodile

Poet: Roald Dahl

Grade Level: 3-5

Difficulty: Medium


The crocodile, with cunning smile, sat in the dentist's chair.

He said, "Right here and everywhere my teeth require repair."

The dentist's face was turning white. He quivered, quaked and shook.

He muttered, "I suppose I'm going to have to take a look."

"I want you," Crocodile declared, "to do the back ones first.

The molars at the very back are easily the worst."

He opened wide his massive jaws. It was a fearsome sight––

At least three hundred pointed teeth, all sharp and shining white.

The dentist kept himself well clear. He stood two yards away.

He chose the longest probe he had to search out the decay.

"I said to do the back ones first!" the Crocodile called out.

"You're much too far away, dear sir, to see what you're about.

To do the back ones properly you've got to put your head

Deep down inside my great big mouth," the grinning Crocky said.

The poor old dentist wrung his hands and, weeping in despair, He cried,

"No no! I see them all extremely well from here!" Just then, in burst a lady, in her hands a golden chain.

She cried, "Oh Croc, you naughty boy, you're playing tricks again!"

"Watch out!" the dentist shrieked and started climbing up the wall.

"He's after me! He's after you! He's going to eat us all!"

"Don't be a twit," the lady said, and flashed a gorgeous smile.

"He's harmless. He's my little pet, my lovely crocodile."


5. Invitation

Poet: Shel Silverstein

Grade Level: K-12

Difficulty: Easy


If you are a dreamer, come in,

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…

If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come in!

Come in!


Compiled by Samantha DiMauro, Education World Contributor