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Estimated Time Needed

2 days, 45 minutes per day

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Sarah Cynthia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out
During the
  • During Teaching
      1. Students read the entire poem aloud with a partner so they can hear the rhyme scheme. Students then create a one-sentence summary of what happens in the poem and share their summaries as a class. Explain to students that although this poem seems very simple, there is an underlying message the author is trying to convey to the reader.

      2. As students re-read the poem a second time, have them mark the text by highlighting/underlining examples of sensory details and figurative language, such as exaggeration, alliteration, and rhyme. As a suggestion, students can underline examples of exaggeration, circle alliteration, and box where they notice rhyme.

      3. Students, with the teacher, re-read the text, stopping periodically to respond to and discuss the text-dependent questions.

  • Text Dependent Questions
    • Text-dependent Questions

      Evidence-based Answers

      Read the title. What type of figurative language does the author use? Identify three other examples of this figurative language technique within the poem.


      Sarah Silvia Cynthia Stout is an example of alliteration. Other examples include:

      “Prune pits, peach pits…”

      “Black burned buttered toast”

      Who is the intended audience of this poem? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

      The audience of this poem is children. The author states this directly: “But children, remember Sarah Stout and always take the garbage out.” Additionally, the use of whimsical and nonsensical language indicates the poem is meant for a younger audience.

      Give three examples of exaggeration used by the author that you identified in the second read and explain why the examples are exaggeration.

      “It raised the roof, it broke the wall…”

      “That finally it touched the sky…”

      “The garbage reached across the state…”

      Each example shows the ongoing growth of the garbage, starting first within the house, then outside of the house, and then crossing state lines. This is exaggeration because none of these things can really happen. Piles of garbage could never have the ability to reach the sky or break down walls.

      In the poem, the author uses exaggeration to illustrate the impact of the garbage on the household. Explain the impact of this exaggeration on the poem.

      Exaggeration is used to show time passing, show plot progression, and convey humor.

      How does the complex sentence signal a differing relationship between Sarah and her father?

      The first half of the sentence has a subordinate clause starting with the subordinating conjunction “though.” This transitional word highlights the contrast between Sarah and her father.  

      The author strategically places ellipses in the poem. Review each use of the ellipses and explain each use. Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

      Answers may vary.

      The first place where ellipses occur is in the line, “Gristly bits of beefy roasts… The garbage rolled on down the hall,” which signals a break in the list of garbage and notes the consequence of the large amount of garbage as a whole. The second place ellipses occur is in the line, “It raised the roof, it broke the wall… Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,” which brings the reader back to the list of garbage. The third placement is in the line, “By then, of course, it was too late… The garbage reached across the state,” Here, the ellipses is used to show the consequence of so much garbage and moves the reader form an ominous but vague statement to the ultimate consequence of Sarah’s cohoice.

      Which sensory details in the poem create an unpleasant image for the reader?

      Chunks of sour cottage cheese

      Brown bananas

      Rotten peas

      Green bologna

      Curdled milk, rancid meat

      How do the sensory details heighten the effect of the poem?

      The descriptions stimulate the reader’s visualization of the garbage in a humorous way.

      “And there, in the garbage she did hate, Poor Sarah met an awful fate.” What conclusions can be drawn about Sarah’s fate if she is “in” the garbage?


      Answers will vary.

      Sarah’s fate could result in any of the following: becoming a smelly outcast, being buried alive, catching a disease, or even dying.

      What is the tone of the poem? Provide examples from the poem that illustrate the tone.

      The tone is humorous. Some examples of words that convey this tone include rubbery, blubbery, gloppy, globs of gluey bubble gum, gooey, and gristly.

      How does the author’s use of lines versus stanzas contribute to the tone?

      The use of lines rather than stanzas allows the author to establish repetition, a literary device that creates, in this case, a humorous sing-song pattern.

      A theme is a life lesson, meaning, moral, or message about life or human nature that is communicated by a literary work. Based on Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout’s decisions and actions (or lack thereof), determine a theme for this poem. Use lines from the poem to support your answer.


      Answers will vary. Sample answer could be “one small decision can have many large consequences.” “And though her daddy would scream and shout, She simply would not take the garbage out” = small decision/“And all the neighbors moved away, And none of her friends would come out to play” = large consequences

      Review the components of plot with students (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution). Have them map out the progression of events in the poem by placing them within these different categories.

      Exposition: Refusing to take the garbage out

      Rising Action: Garbage grows out of control

      Climax: The garbage reaches across the state/Cynthia is in the garbage

      Resolution: Sarah met an awful fate

      The poem has two clear rhyme patterns. What are the two rhyme patterns of the poem?


      In lines 1-36, every two lines rhyme (couplets). 

      In lines 39-45, every line rhymes.


      What impact does the change in rhyme pattern have on the poem?


      The change in rhyme pattern highlights the consequences Sarah faces due to her refusal to take the garbage out. 

  • Academic Vocabulary

      These words require less time to learn

      (They are concrete or describe an object/event/

      process/characteristic that is familiar to students.)

      These words require more time to learn

      (They are abstract, have multiple meanings, are part

      of a word family, or are likely to appear again in future texts.)

      Meaning can be learned from context
















      Meaning needs to be provided


















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