Celine Ellison



25-30 minutes



Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

            Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out-give a copy the poem to each student

Where the Sidewalk Ends 25th Edition CD

Overhead of 3 Column Notes

Literary Terms Folder-each student has his/her own



The purpose of this lesson is to define hyperbole, examine how it is used in literature, and discuss how students can use it to enhance their writing.



This lesson will meet the North Carolina Standard Course of Study Competency Goal 5.01-The learner will respond to various literary genres using interpretive and evaluative processes.  He/she will increase fluency, comprehension, and insight through a meaningful and comprehensive reading program by analyzing the effects on texts of such literary devices as figurative language.  5.02-The learner will study the characteristics of poetry.  This lesson meets NCTE/IRA Standards 1-Students read a wide range of print to build an understanding of texts, of themselves and of the cultures of the United States; 3- Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate texts; 4-Students adjust their use of spoken and written language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes;6-Students apply knowledge of figurative language to create, critique, and discuss texts.


Description of Activities

This mini-lesson would be taught in a series of lessons on figurative language.  It would be taught after simile, metaphor and personification have been taught as a poetry unit.  You could vary this by bringing in other genres that contain hyperbole.

1.  Define hyperbole

2. Create examples of hyperbole

3. Examine a poem using hyperbole



5-10 minutes


            I’m so hungry I could eat a horse! Does anyone have something I could eat? (laugh)

Could I literally eat an entire horse? No. Why would I say that if I didn’t mean it? (Responses)

To show you are really, really hungry.

To be funny.

To get our attention.


I said it for all of those reasons.  Authors do the same thing.  To exaggerate a statement for effect is called hyperbole.  Open your Literary Terms folder to your three column notes on figurative language.  In the first column, write the word Hyperbole. (Teacher has a copy of the running three column notes and takes the same notes on the overhead.)  In the second column-the definition column- write “a statement of extreme exaggeration to show emphasis.”  In the third column-the example column-come up with your own example of hyperbole.  Who would like to share you example? (Write several on the overhead.)


My backpack weighs a ton.

It took forever to get to the beach.

That dog is so ugly, it fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch.


15 minutes


We are going to listen to a poem by Shel Silverstein that has many examples of hyperbole in it. I have a CD with him reading the poem.  (Handout the poem)  As you listen to the poem, I want you to underline examples of hyperbole.  The poem is called “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out.  (Listen to the poem twice)

Who can give me an example of hyperbole from the poem?


It piled up to the ceiling.

It covered the floor.

It blocked the door.

It went down the hall.

It raised the roof.         

At last the garbage reached so high finally it touched the sky.

All the neighbors moved away

None of her friends would come out to play

The garbage reached across the state

The whole poem is hyperbole.




5 minutes


How does Silverstein use hyperbole to get his theme across to readers?  What is the theme? (Response) Take the garbage out. (Teacher) Think about what he is saying beyond what you read on the surface.  (Response) Kids should listen to their parents, and if you don’t bad things will happen.  Kids today are lazy. 

            How does the hyperbole make this message very clear? (Response) Sarah didn’t listen and she lost everything, and ruined an entire state. 

            That wouldn’t really happen, but it really emphasizes the point doesn’t it? When you read and recognize hyperbole, notice what the author is placing emphasis on. 

            As a writer, this is a very effective and fun tool to emphasize something. 


Follow up Lessons

You could do additional lessons with the same poem addressing rhyme or alliteration.


Additional Resources

“Yarns” by Carl Sandberg (more examples of hyperbole)

Hyperbole Poster by American Teaching Aid







Comparing two unlike things using the words like or as

Her eyes sparkled like diamonds.


Comparing two unlike things without using like or as

Your eyes are pools of deep blue water.


Giving nonhumans human characteristics

The leaves danced in the wind.


A statement of extreme exaggeration to show emphasis

My backpack weighs a ton!





Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out by Shel Silverstein


Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

Would not take the garbage out!

She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans,

Candy the yams and spice the hams,

And though her daddy would scream and shout,

She simply would not take the garbage out.

And so it piled up to the ceilings:

Coffee grounds, potato peelings,

Brown bananas, rotten peas,

Chunks of sour cottage cheese.

It filled the can, it covered the floor,

It cracked the window, it blocked the door

With bacon rinds and chicken bones,

Drippy ends of ice cream cones,

Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,

Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,

Pizza crests and withered greens,

Soggy beans and tangerines,

Crusts of black burned buttered toast,

Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .

The garbage rolled down the hall,

It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .

Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,

Globs of gooey bubble gum,

Cellophane from green baloney,

Rubbery blubbery macaroni,

Peanut butter, caked and dry,

Curdled milk and crusts of pie,

Moldy melons, dried up mustard,

Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,

Cold french fries and rancid meat,

Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.

At last the garbage reached so high

That finally it touched the sky.

And all the neighbors moved away,

And none of her friends would come out to play.

And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,

“OK, I’ll take the garbage out!”

But then, of course, it was too late. . .

The garbage reached across the state,

From New York to the Golden Gate.

And there, in the garbage she did hate,

Poor Sarah met an awful fate,

That I cannot right now relate

Because the hour is much too late.

But children, remember Sarah Stout

And always take the garbage out!