Pencils march and chalk skates in this delightful back-to-school poem.

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Learning Objective

Through a whimsical poem about the first day of school, students will identify examples of personification. 

Featured Skill


Key Skills

Personification, word choice

Standards Correlations

This article and lesson support the following standards:

Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.2, R.5, SL.1

TEKS: 3.2b, 3.6, 3.10, 3.29, 3.30

Teaching Materials

Activity Sheets

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Close Reading Questions
Write Your Own Poem Poetry Kit

Lesson plan

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Set a Purpose for Reading (10 minutes)

• Direct students to look at the illustration that accompanies the poem. Ask them what they think the poem will be about.

• Read aloud the Personification bubble for the class. Prepare them to listen or look for examples of personification in the poem.

• Ask a student to read the Word Choice bubble for the class, then have students skim the poem to find school-related words.


Reading and Discussing:

• Read the poem for the class or play our audio version.

• Project or distribute the close-reading and critical-thinking questions and discuss them as a class as students refer to the poem in their magazines.


Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions (15 minutes, activity sheet online)

• What is this poem mainly about? (main idea) The poem is about the first day of school and the feeling of starting fresh.

• What are some examples of school supplies doing things people do? (personification) Examples include wearing hats, feeling brave, waiting, marching, and skating.

• Which words did the author use that remind you of school? (word choice) Words could include: yellow pencils, empty notebooks, chalk, board, and teacher.

• Who do the pencils stand for? Who does the chalk stand for? (personification) The pencils stand for the students. The chalk stands for the teacher.

• Why is this poem called “September”? (inference) September is when school starts in many places.


Teaching Extras

More from Bobbi Katz

You’ll find lots more works by Bobbi Katz, who writes children’s books in addition to poetry, here.

Annotation idea

It can be helpful for students to annotate a text. If you don’t want them drawing on the magazine, make a photocopy. Have them circle examples of personification, underline words that remind them of school, and jot down their ideas.

Another poem

We featured another wonderful poem that exemplifies personification in the prototype issue of Storyworks Jr. You’ll find it here.

Back-to-school fun

Keep the back-to-school theme going with some great read-alouds, like Back to School, Weird Kids Rule! by Dan Gutman; Stuart Goes to School by Sara Pennypacker; or This School Year Will be the Best! by Kay Winters.