poem by Rebecca Gardyn Levington , illustrated by Shelley Knoll-Miller

Learning Intention:

I am learning to analyse word play in poetry so that I can explain how it shapes meaning.


Success Criteria:

  • I can identify instances of word play in a poem.
  • I can explain the multiple meanings of word play to better understand a text.



Select several jokes from the Reader’s Digest 30 Pun-derfully Funny Puns for Kids and tell them to the class. Some good examples include:

  1. I’m great friends with 25 letters of the alphabet. I don’t know Y.
  2. Where do T-rexes shop?
    At dino stores.
  3. What do astronauts do before throwing a party in space?
    They planet.
  4. I wish I could be a doctor, but I don’t have the patients.


Then tell this joke:

How do you know if there’s an elephant under your bed? Your head hits the ceiling!


Ask students what’s different about the last joke to the others. If they’re not sure, guide them to the answer that the first jokes play on words, while the last joke is just a silly situation. Explain that the sort of word play in the first examples is called a pun, and that puns:

  1. Replace words that sound like other words (e.g. planet versus plan it, as in joke number 9)
  2. Play with the same word that has two or more different meanings (an example of this could be: A hard-boiled egg is hard to beat)

Ask students where they might find puns and word play. Answers may include in joke books, in news articles, in stories and in poems.


Understanding text:

Explain that the poem students are about to hear has multiple instances of word play and puns. If students are unsure whether something is a play on words, ask them to consider whether the words and phrases have more than one meaning. If they can’t, it’s not word play. Display a copy of Booted on the board for students to refer to.


Read the poem aloud to the class or, if you have a digital subscription, listen to the audio recording. Ensure the class hears the poem a few times so they can identify as many instances of word play as possible. Do not discuss answers at this point.


Creating text:

This activity will have students matching the two meanings for each instance of word play in the poem.

Print and cut out the individual cells for the following table, with as many copies as needed for the class. If the number of cells doesn’t fit evenly with the number of students, ensure each literal meaning (on the left) has a match for its metaphorical meaning (on the right) and discard any leftovers. In the case of an uneven number of students, give yourself a cell.

We've been through rain and thunder. We've gotten through difficult times.
They don't have as solid a structure as I do. They won't take care of you like I have.
The bottom of their frame is flimsy. They do not have a strong character.
Those thongs aren't as big as us. Those thongs can't compete with us.

Shuffle the cells and give one to each student. Explain that students need to find who has one that matches theirs. Explain that there will be double ups in some instances, but students are not looking for their exact duplicates, rather, they need to find the two cells that give meaning to a single instance of word play in the poem.

To assist students, keep the poem displayed on the board so they can refer to the words when considering the matching meanings.

Once students have found their partner, hand out matching shoe templates to each pair and have them copy one phrase onto each shoe. When pairs can identify which line from the poem matches their twin meanings, they can make a long shoelace with a strip of paper to connect the two shoes together, writing the line on the strip. Alternatively, the strips with the answers are below for you to print and cut:

We weathered every storm.
They won't support you like we did.
Their soles are weak. No heart!
Those thongs can't fill our shoes.

Assessment for/as learning:


For self-evaluation, students can answer the following questions:

  1. I completely understand the two meanings of the phrase and how it enhances the text.

Strongly disagree       Disagree         Not Sure         Agree              Strongly Agree

  1. I can define word play.

Strongly disagree       Disagree         Not Sure         Agree              Strongly Agree


As an exit slip, ask students to describe one of two ways that puns work.

  1. Replace words that sound like other words.
  2. Play with the same word that has two or more different meaning.