Pet Problems

poem by Sharon Dalgleish , illustrated by Michel Streich

Learning intention:

I am learning to identify and experiment with poetic styles so that I can further develop my confidence and skills in composing poetry.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify and discuss elements that influence the rhythm and style of a poem
  • I can work collaboratively to compose a poem in the style of a mentor text.


Essential knowledge:

The School Magazine’s English Textual Concept video for Style may be used to assist students with identifying stylistic aspects of the text.


Read the poem aloud, or if you have a digital subscription, you may wish to play the audio version. Ask students to identify the syllable count (8,6,8,6) and the rhyme scheme (ABCB), and how this contributes to the rhythm of the poem. You may wish to read or play the text again while clapping or clicking to the rhythm.

Discuss the tone of the poem and illustration (humourous, silly) and ask students why this is the case. Answers may include:

  • A goldfish thinking he’s a shark
  • The idea of a small goldfish being able to eat a human
  • Gran wouldn’t fit into a fishbowl
  • The use of onomatopoeia (GULP!) when the narrator realizes they can’t find Gran.
  • The sock hanging out of Goldie’s mouth
  • Gran’s shoes tipped over on the floor.

Go to the YouTube channel of the children’s author Stephen Attewell and select one of the animated videos to show the class. Ask students to identify the syllable count and rhyme scheme of the poem from the selected video and discuss the tone. Compare and contrast the selected poem with the magazine text. Attewell’s poem should share the same lighthearted silliness as Pet Problems and is likely to have the same ABCB rhyme scheme.

Explain to students that they are going to work in pairs or small groups to compose their own poem based on the style of the two authors. To do this, they should first come up with a silly idea. Highlight the ideas used by the mentor authors for inspiration (A goldfish that thinks he is a shark, a worm that won’t wiggle, socks that run off on their own).

Once groups have settled on an idea, one member of the group should write the first line, then pass it to another member to write the next line, attempting to build the humour and silliness as they take turns. Remind students that they should adopt the ABCB rhyme scheme, meaning that whoever writes the fourth line in each stanza should ensure it rhymes with the second line. Remind students that editing is an important part of the writing process, so if changes need to be made to help the rhyme scheme work, they should work cooperatively and collaboratively to do so.

Teachers should use their judgment to decide on the number of stanzas students should complete for their poems. Once completed, allow students time to share their group’s poem with the class.


Assessment for/ as learning:

Self-assessment encourages children to identify what they know, where they need to be and how to get there. Using the 3-2-1 self-assessment and evaluation tool available through the digital learning selector allow time for students to reflect on the success criteria from this learning experience particularly their understanding of poetic styles.