Sunset Sundae

poem by Diana Murray , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning Intention:

I am learning how authors use nonsense representations of the world to make texts engaging, fresh and playful.

Success Criteria:

  • I can define the term ‘nonsense poetry’.
  • I can identify how a poet uses figurative language to create a nonsensical representation of the weather.
  • I can experiment with figurative language to create my own nonsense poetry.


Essential Knowledge:

More information about common figurative devices used in poetry can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol.

Read the poem as a class, or if you have a digital subscription listen to the audio recording. Display the illustration as you read the poem. After reading, ask students what they notice about the text. Observations could include:

  • It is a poem because it has short lines
  • It rhymes
  • It compares the weather with desserts (students may use the terms similes, metaphors and personification)
  • It is a funny sounding poem as the comparisons are very unusual.

Introduce students to the definition of nonsense poetry. The Britannica entry on nonsense verse can be simplified for student understanding. Students should know that nonsense verse is humorous and whimsical, often contains made up words, is mostly written for children and usually does not have a rational explanation.

Create a nonsense poetry checklist containing the above devices. Then instruct students to find these features in ‘Sunset Sundae’. Also explain to students that the poem contains examples of imagery – a feature that appears in many forms of poetry. Adjust scaffolding as required so that students can identify the examples in the poem.

Poetic devices Appears in the text Example
Humour and Whimsy Yes The sky is compared to dessert items ‘The sun’s a lemon gumdrop’
Made up words No No, it only contains real words
Written for children Yes Yes, it is short and uses simple language
No rational explanation Yes and No Yes and no, there are not really sweets in the sky, but it does create a vivid picture of sunsets
Simile Yes “Glassy ocean sparkles like a great big sundae cup”
Metaphor Yes “Cherry ice cream sky”
Personification Yes “Night-time grows so hungry that it eats the sunset up.”


Explain to students that while the poem does not contain all the devices used in nonsense poetry, it contains enough of them that the poem can still be considered nonsense verse.

Finally, instruct students to construct their own nonsense verse by following the steps below:

  1. Write a few sentences about doing something very ordinary. ‘Sunset Sundae’ describes watching a sunset. Other examples could include eating dinner or catching a school bus.
  2. Think of some of your favourite, funny sounding words. Or make some funny sounding words up. (The book ‘Poo!* *and other words that make me laugh‘ is an excellent resource for writing nonsense poetry.
  3. Then think of some comparisons between your chosen topic and another topic. For example, eating dinner could be a battle between yourself and the food which is trying to escape.
  4. Substitute some of the words in your original sentences with your fancy vocabulary and crazy comparisons. Or completely rewrite the poem!

For example:

I sat down to a dinner. I was famished. First, I tried to eat the roast beef, it was tough and chewy. The mashed potato was watery and slipped through my fork. The peas rolled all over my plate.

The above example can turn into the following nonsense poem:

Dinner has become a battle.

As I try to eat my roasted cattle.

Tough and chewy like leather.

My knife is as useless as a feather.

I swap to the potato mash.

But it’s a river, Splish! Splash!


It’s in my hair

Do I dare

To eat the peas

They’re on their knees

Doing what they please

I guess I’ll rest my head

In bed

Hungry instead.

Assessment as/of learning:

Students can conduct a nonsense poetry slam. Students rehearse their poems, considering how they can use exaggerated tone, facial expressions and body language to enhance the whimsy of their poems.