Edwin Markham

Edwin Markham who write Outwitted is another have of mine! How to teach a poem to kids in less than 2 minutes… Outwitted, by Edwin Markham. Something that children experience and question is being left out.  It’s a difficult concept to grasp, it’s a difficult concept to teach, and it’s a difficult concept to live.

Edwin Markham

In the poem OUTWITTED by 20th century American poet Edwin Markham, we are given the graphics of doing the right thing, bringing into the circle, right before our eyes.  This little poem with the big language and big message may be a starting point for lots of discussions…

Edwin markham

OUTWITTED by Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Jump right into the poem with your children.

Although younger children will need a little *vocabulary lesson, they will already see the circles and understand the significance of shutting out and taking in.

Talk about the speaker, or voice, of the poem (I).  Is the speaker a good guy/girl?  Talk about the he in the poem.  Is he a bad guy?  Or is he someone who thinks differently, looks differently, or feels differently?

Why does he draw a circle to shut out the speaker?  Does he really draw a circle or is this a metaphor for keeping someone out of your life.  Ask your children to imagine what that circle, even if imaginary, looks like.  The answers will be many and varied.

Edwin Markham Fans

How does the speaker react to the rebel?  What tools does he/she use to bring the rebel into his circle (love and understanding).   Does the speaker draw a real circle, or is it way to explain how to try to get to know each other and share (different thoughts, opinions, ways to dress, different music, etc.).

Does the speaker draw the circle alone (no; the speaker uses the word We)?  It’s the collective bringing in and talking and sharing and loving and getting to know one another that makes us realize that we can live together, go to school together, work together and share ideas peacefully. 

Does your child have to strength to bring kids in?  This is a very interesting, and maybe very difficult, question.

What may have happened if the speaker did not bring the rebel into his circle?

Ask your children if there is someone they know who dresses or acts a bit differently.  Do children tease that person?  Have they seen that person react to teasing by drawing a circle to keep other children out?  Is that person protecting him/herself?

Ask you children if they’ve ever felt like drawing a circle to keep everyone else out.  Why/why not?

Ask your children if they’ve ever seen anyone reach out with love and understanding to draw someone into a circle of friendship and peace.  Ask if they’ve ever drawn a circle to bring someone inWhy/why not? Talk about how the poet switches from the speaker as I to the group of We in the last line. Ask your children if they will carry the circle with them after reading poet Edwin Markham’s poem.

The questions and answers are universal and the subject of poems, books, religions and even wars… but here, within a tiny circle, the beginning of understanding is possible.

This is what poems do. Remember that LITERACY is all about WORDSWritten, Spoken & Felt.  Using language and thinking about language develops lifelong readers, speakers, thinkers.

*(heretic -a person with different/opposing opinions, especially religious beliefs;  rebel– one who expresses strong unwillingness to established order;  flout– mock or scorn;  wit– ability/intelligence to understand)

If you enjoyed this poem, you may also enjoy:
Fog, by Carl Sandburg
from Five Haiku, by Paul Eluard

Love is, by Nikki Giovanni

Temple Bell, by Yosa Buson

The Snail, by Richard Wright

Evening, by Sappho

The Red Wheelbarrow, by William Carlos William

The White Horse, by D. H. Lawrence

Dragonfly Catcher, by Chiyojo

OATH OF FRIENDSHIP, Anonymous, China, 1st century B.C.


SILLY SONG, by Federico Garcia Lorca

The Giraffe, by Ron Padgett

German Shepherd, by Myra Cohn Livingston

About Audrey

Audrey McClelland has been a digital influencer since 2005. She’s a mom of 5 and shares tips on her three favorite things: parenting, fashion and beauty. She’s also a Contemporary Romance Author.

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  1. 1.28.13
    Megan said:

    This is great Sharon, thank you! I’ve never been big into poetry, but I don’t want that to mean my children aren’t exposed to it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. 1.28.13

    I can’t wait to read all my poetry books to Addie (and have her understand). This is beautiful… I plan on bookmarking to share with friends. For some reason, just a few words can cause us to reflect and resonate so deeply within. Thank you for sharing!

  3. 1.28.13

    I love “Love Is” 🙂 Poetry is such a good exercise for younger kids just starting to get the grasp of reading comprehension.

  4. 1.28.13
    candice said:

    I love reading these in the morning from the mom generations news letter. My hubby takes poetry very seriously as an English professor. We love to make up little poems with G. She loves it and is just 2! Thanks for sharing.

  5. 1.28.13

    These are just beautiful. And the messages are so important! Thank you.

  6. 1.28.13

    These are great – thank you so much for sharing so many great ways to get them more involved in the poems. I always struggle with how to bring things like this to life for them, and these are great ideas.

  7. 1.28.13

    My kids have memorized a bunch of poems and they randomly blurt them out to people. They look at them funny for knowing a poem.

  8. 1.28.13

    This is just a beautiful poem! What a great sentiment! Thanks for sharing these…do I see a book coming?!

  9. 1.28.13

    What a wonderful lesson! Our 8 year old is doing a big poetry unit and project at school right now – I’m going to share this with her – and my other 2 as well!

  10. 1.28.13
    Kirsten said:

    I am a big fan of Carl Sandburg and William Carlos Williams, who ironically, was my father’s pediatrician! I love that you have the talking points to accompany the works – I know sometimes we all need a jumping off point. You should come over to Rockwell School as an Art Docent. You would be so fantastic helping the kids see pieces of art through the same lens.

  11. 1.28.13
    mel said:

    What a great idea. I used to take a poetry class in college and it was one of my favorite classes. I love that you are sharing this lesson!

  12. 1.28.13

    Thank you for the other poetry selections!

  13. 1.29.13

    I LOVE this Sharon. I love poetry, and actually have a huge book of poetry that I already read to my son. But these poems are way better for him, since they are more his level than ee cummings or Emily Dickinson. 😉 Thank you so much for sharing!

  14. 1.29.13

    Great poems! There are so many important themes to learn through them.

  15. 1.29.13

    What a wonderful series! I’ve been wondering the best way to introduce poetry to my girls. I remember loving it so much as a young girl. Do you have any resources for teaching young kids (5 & younger)?

  16. 1.29.13

    Carla… Since my kids were kids (many decades ago!), and now having 9 grandkids, I’ve grabbed classic poems that kids can grasp at some level. I wanted/want them exposed to poets they’ll “bump into” in school, and then recognize the poet or the words or the theme. Each poem I’ve chosen for my 31 Days of Poems for Kids has been selected from a high school anthology and then tweaked to make questions/talk/discussion relevant to much younger kids. My grandkids LOVE these poems! I love that they love them.

  17. 1.29.13
    Jane said:

    I love how this poem quickly and to-the-point tackles a topic we have all felt – being left out. And you have GREAT discussion topics to help parents get kids to really dive into the meat of the poem. Love it!

  18. 1.29.13

    Sometimes the shortest poems are the most powerful! This poem is wonderful, and creates such important discussion!

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