The Abominable Toeman

poem by Bill Condon , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning intention:  

I am learning to experiment with creating texts that adapt patterns encountered in literary texts, for example rhyme and subject matter so that I can develop my skills with composing poetry.  

Success criteria:  

  • I can identify ideas in a poem surrounding fears.  
  • I can compose lines for a poem about a fear.   
  • I can edit my work to ensure my lines rhyme.  
  • I can include a joke in my poem.  


Discuss what the narrator of the poem is scared of (monsters under the bed). Discuss how the narrator deals with their fear, highlighting lines such as:  

I sometimes also keep my toes enclosed in football socks. 

You can’t go wrong with ones that pong-they ward off monster shocks. 

Inform students that they will be constructing a poem about something they are scared of now or something they used to fear.   

Discuss things students are scared of. Suggest ideas such as, the dark, large dogs, spiders. Students may feel more comfortable sharing something they used to be scared of when they were younger. Collaboratively select an example from the fears students identify (e.g. the dark). Discuss ideas around what makes the dark scary. Sample responses include: 

  • hearing strange noises 
  • not knowing what’s out there 
  • being alone 

Discuss what support could be implemented to make this fear less scary. Provide examples such as, using a nightlight, keeping a torch at hand, sleeping in their sibling’s bedroom at night.    

Collaboratively construct a few lines for a poem about what makes the dark scary and how someone might overcome this fear. Tell students not to worry about the structure for now. Instead they should focus on getting their ideas on what makes their fear so scary down on the page. A sample response has been provided.  

At nighttime I worry about strange noises. 

And my ideas drift to scary thoughts. 

I wish I knew what was out there,  

So I wouldn’t stare out in the dark.  

I use a torch so I don’t feel scared. 

I need to save my money for batteries. 

Refer back to The Abominable Toeman and discuss the rhyming structure. Ensure students note that the poem features rhyming couplets.  

Collaboratively edit the poem to ensure you include rhyming couplets. Model reordering some of the words or changing vocabulary for synonyms to identify rhyming words. Use a rhyming dictionary such as RhymeZone to identify words that rhyme. A sample edit has been provided:  

At nighttime strange noises make me worry, 

And my ideas drift to scary thoughts in a hurry. 

I wish I knew what was out there,  

So in the dark I wouldn’t stare.  

I use a torch to make me brave. 

If I need batteries I have to save. 

Pause before the ending the poem and refer back to The Abominable Toeman. Discuss the way the poem ends (with a joke about a missing toe). Discuss jokes that could be added to the poem composed collaboratively, providing examples such as the torch is actually an alien or the sibling is a monster. Add a further couplet to the poem that features a joke. For example,  

I search for my torch and realise it’s not there,  

Instead it’s coiled up in a monster’s hair.  

Instruct students to experiment with composing their own poem about a fear they have or one they have had in the past and a strategy they could use to overcome their fear. Remind students to strive to include rhyming couplets and to aim to end their poem with a joke. Students may work in small groups, in pairs or independently for this task.