Cowboy Poetry Puts Some ‘Yee-Haw’ in the Classroom

Posted by Big Universe on Feb 25, 2012 7:33:31 PM

This weekend Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, hosted the 26th annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an event that celebrates the oral tradition of the working cowboy in poetry, stories and music. “Preserving the traditions of the American West in words and music…each year in the Spring.”

Oh! The classroom possibilities!

Cowboys are great! Stories are great! Poetry is great, and music is naturally engaging! And, there are more colorful Texas colloquialisms “than you can shake a stick at!” Yup, a fun language unit is only “two hoots and a holler away.”

Why not start off by reading Cowboy Slim, a Charlesbridge picture book on the virtual shelves of Big Universe Learning? Written by Julie Danneberg and illustrated by Margot Apple, the picture book tells the tale of “Slim,” a cowboy poet who can’t rope, whip or ride, but makes the action-filled journey to Dodge City with a handful of ranch hands and a herd of excitable cattle. The book is leveled for grades 3-5 (F&P GR: R ATOS: 4:4)

Then share some cowboy poetry, either through spoken pieces or stories put to a tune. I’ve included a few below. After that, have your students try their hand at writing their own cowboy poetry on Big Universe, using the website’s easy-to-use author tool and fun graphics for illustration.

Teachers, why don’t you try creating a little poetry yourselves? We all know that most kids learn information more quickly and retain it longer when lessons are iced with music and rhythmic frosting.

Don’t forget that studies have shown that using poetry across the curriculum can:

· Enhance fluency development

· Increase vocabulary

· Improve reading and writing skills

· Yield better test scores

· Nurture positive attitudes in the classroom

* To review an accessible overview of cowboy poetry, read “A Brief Introduction to Cowboy Poetry, or, Who's the Guy in the Big Hat and What is He Talking About?” by Rod Miller.

* To see examples of elementary school-level cowboy poems, go to Echoes of the Trail, a Kansas group which hosts an annual cowboy poetry contest for kids.)

Cowboy Poetry Samples

By Adele Tolley Wilson

I'm a cowboy.

What do you think about that?

I have cowboy jeans, a cowboy shirt

And a fancy cowboy hat.

I keep my cowboy boots real clean

When I wipe them on the mat.

I have a good old cowboy dog,

His name is Cowdog Pat.

I get together with my cowboy friends,

We hang around and chat.

Just wish I had a cowboy horse,

'Cause I can't saddle up my cat.


The Armadillo

By Eric Ode

"Hold up just a minute, boys,"

said Sheldon with a shout.

"I think there's something in my boot,

so let me dump it out."

He clambered from his horse's back

and sat beneath a willow.

And there inside his cowboy boot

he found an armadillo.

"Well, blow me down!" the cowboy said.

"I knew that things were wrong.

I hope, my friend, you don't intend

to stay there very long."

"I wouldn't dare," the critter said,

"for near as I can tell,

I might survive the crowded fit,

but surely not the smell!"


Boots of Another Me

By L.P. Stribling

There they sit, right by the door,

Those boots of mine, don’t fit no more,

Fit the feet of a younger me,

A shorter shade of a younger tree.

Those boots of mine, those leather cases,

They’ve tread with me, past prior faces,

Concrete, mud, rock, snow and rain,

Tempests, breezes, joy and pain.

Those boots of mine, and all these years,

Walked me through my path of fears,

To come out smilin’ on the other end,

Gone through Hell and back again.

Now there they sit, don’t make a sound,

Memories of footsteps on a younger ground,

But that’s all talk of a different time,

Don’t fit no more, those boots of mine.


Cowboy Nursery Rhyme

By Elisabeth McGrath

O the cowboy works such a long, long day

And he rides his horse such a long, long way

And the cows don't mind that he rides along

'Cause as he rides he loudly sings this song:


With their cowboy hats

And their jeans and spats

See the cowboys ride

Through the countryside.

O the cowboy wakes up at dawn each day

First he feeds his horse, then is on his way

While he rides and waits for the lunchtime gong

The cows are happy that he sings his song:

With their cowboy hats

And their jeans and spats

See the cowboys ride

Through the countryside.

When the sun goes down it's the end of day

And the cows and horses are tucked away

Other cowboys join him in the campfire ring

As he strums his guitar they all softly sing:

With their cowboy hats

And their jeans and spats

See the cowboys ride

Through the countryside.


Hard Candy Cowboy

By Debra G. Meyer

He wasn’t large in stature,

Couldn’t tell it by his walk.

His bobwire eyes could cut you,

Had no nonsense in his talk.

Some folks, they’d shy around him,

Cause he came off sorta gruff,

Made no bones ‘bout right ‘n wrong,

And he’d tell it to you rough.

His body bore the traces,

Of the trade he’d made his own,

He took up bronco bustin’,

When he wasn’t quite full-grown.

His hands was scarred and twisted,

Not a finger there was straight.

His legs was bowed and crooked,

Had a wobble in his gait.

He built a reputation,

Over forty years or so,

For turnin’ out good horses,

Both for workin’ and for show.

I sometimes came to watch him,

But took heed in what folks said.

“Stay out the way and quiet,

Or that man’ll have your head.”

The horses that they brung him,

Was the rankest ones to ride.

Most had been treated spiteful,

Wore the proof upon their hide.

I watched him with the horses,

He was tough, but not unkind.

He made the right choice easy,

So the wrong was left behind.

“These horses took their troubles,

Not from nature, but from man.”

His words were strong and steady,

“I just do the best I can.”

“I put the trust back in ‘em,

That another took away.”

I saw him stroke the forelock,

Of a little Arab bay.

A man’s soul can’t be hidden,

From the creatures in his care.

The horses knew the secret,

That the cowboy wouldn’t share.

I watched the cowboy workin’

And I quickly struck a thought,

I was thinkin’ bout hard candies,

That my mamma sometimes bought.

Their flavor was strawberry,

A right tasty sort of treat,

On the outside hard and sour,

But the inside’s soft and sweet.

That cowboy and them candies,

Both were filled with a surprise.

The hard and sour outside,

Was used only for disguise

(From Rope & Wire, a western lifestyle online community)

Topics: Classroom Ideas, Reviews, Integration Ideas

Big Universe Referral Offer