Universal Mentors Association

53 Famous Poems Everyone Should Know


Do you remember eagerly turning over the pages of a new Shel Silverstein book as a child? It’s important to begin encouraging a love of poetry as early as preschool or elementary school. However, it’s also important to remember that poetry can be an intimidating subject to learn (or teach!). How can we make it easier? By sharing some of the best and most inspiring famous poems with students.

Roald Dahl and even Maya Angelou have some great works to introduce poetry concepts to the youngest readers. As students move on to middle school, inspire them with Robert Frost and contemporary poets like Amanda Gorman. By high school, it’s time to delve into famous poems from Shakespeare, as well as unconventional works from poets like Sylvia Plath. Even Tupac gets a mention on our list! Check out our favorite famous poems for students of all ages.

Famous Poems for Elementary School

1. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves …”

2. The Homework Machine by Shel Silverstein

Homework Machine by Shel Silverstein.

“Just put in your homework, then drop in a dime …”

3. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

“Shadows on the wall …”

4. Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne

“So I think I’ll be six now …”

5. Firefly by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

“A little light is going by …”

6. Happy Thought by Robert Louis Stevenson

“The world is so full of a number of things …”

7. All My Great Excuses by Kenn Nesbitt

“Tornadoes blew my notes away …”

8. maggie and milly and molly and may by e.e. cummings

“and maggie discovered a shell that sang …”

9. Then Laugh by Bertha Adams Backus

Then Laugh by Bertha Adams Backus.

“Build for yourself a strong box …”

10. One fish two fish red fish blue fish by Dr. Seuss

“Black fish, Blue fish, Old fish, New fish …”

11. Wee Willie Winkie by William Miller

“Hey, Willie Winkie, are ye comin’ ben? …”

12. The Purple Cow by Gelett Burgess

The Purple Cow by Gelett Burgess.

“I’d rather see than be one …”

13. Please Mrs. Butler by Allan Ahlberg

“Take your books on the roof, my lamb …”

14. The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear

“The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea …”

15. Matilda by Hilaire Belloc

“Matilda told such dreadful lies …”

16. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf by Roald Dahl

“He went and knocked on Grandma’s door …”

17. On Turning Ten by Billy Collins

“You tell me it is too early to be looking back …”

Famous Poems for Middle School

18. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood …”

19. Fifth Grade Autobiography by Rita Dove

“I was four in this photograph fishing …”

20. The Facebook Sonnet by Sherman Alexie

The Facebook Sonnet by Sherman Alexie.

“Welcome to the endless High-School …”

21. Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day …”

22. Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

“Some say the world will end in fire …”

23. Text by Carol Ann Duffy

“I tend the mobile now …”

24. Snow by David Berman

“Walking through a field with my little brother Seth …”

25. The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl …”

26. I, Too by Langston Hughes

I, Too by Langston Hughes.

“I, too, sing America …”

27. Did I Miss Anything? by Tom Wayman

” Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here …”

28. Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? by William Shakespeare

“Thou art more lovely and more temperate …”

29. I’m Nobody! Who Are You? by Emily Dickinson

“Are you – Nobody – too? …”

30. The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees …”

31. Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes.

“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair …”

32. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide …”

33. Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself …”

Famous Poems for High School

34. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light …”

35. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

“You may write me down in history …”

36. Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost.

“Nature’s first green is gold …”

37. We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

“We real cool. We / left school …”

38. The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

“Your life is your life …”

39. The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur

“Long live the rose that grew from concrete …”

40. If by Rudyard Kipling

“If you can keep your head when all about you …”

41. Loud Music by Stephen Dobyns

“My stepdaughter and I circle round and round …”

42. Tattoo by Ted Kooser

Tattoo by Ted Kooser.

“What once was meant to be a statement …”

43. Wheels by Jim Daniels

“My brother kept / in a frame on the wall …”

44. Happiness by Jane Kenyon

“There’s just no accounting for happiness …”

45. Miracles by Walt Whitman

“Why, who makes much of a miracle? …”

46. In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound

“The apparition of these faces in the crowd …”

47. Hope Is the Thing With Feathers by Emily Dickinson

“And sings the tune without the words …”

48. Falling in Love Is Like Owning a Dog by Taylor Mali

“Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk …”

49. Lies I Tell by Sara Borjas

“A woman has a window in her face: that is the truth …”

50. O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? (speech) by William Shakespeare

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? (speech) by William Shakespeare.

“Deny thy father and refuse thy name …”

51. Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

“A sort of walking miracle, my skin …”

52. I Sing the Body Electric by Walt Whitman

“The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them …”

53. A Dog Has Died by Pablo Neruda

“but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat …”

What are your favorite poems for the classroom? Come share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group  on Facebook.

Plus, if you liked these famous poems for elementary through high school, check out our 25 Slam Poetry Examples To Inspire Students of All Ages.


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