A Teacher's Guide to Mr. Nobody
Kids love the anonymous poem, "Mr. Nobody." Humorous and gently instructive, the poem mimics the ways that children (and adults) excuse their bad behavior. I've successfully used "Mr. Nobody" for poetry study with students from six to eleven years of age. The poem has an iambic meter that is easy to scan, a simple rhyme scheme, and nice vocabulary words. The poem also includes charming descriptions of days gone by, including boiling water over a wood fire, and spilt ink. Read on for the complete poem, teaching activities, a "Mr. Nobody" reading on youtube, and links to more "Mr. Nobody" resources. Enjoy!
Photo by SwedishCarina (CC BY-ND 2.0). Mr. Nobody has been in this room!
Have you heard of Mr. Nobody?
The complete poem
I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done
In everybody's house!
There's no one ever sees his face,
And yet we all agree
That every plate we break was cracked
By Mr. Nobody.
'Tis he who always tears our books,
Who leaves the door ajar,
He pulls the buttons from our shirts,
And scatters pins afar;
That squeaking door will always squeak,
For, prithee, don't you see,
We leave the oiling to be done
By Mr. Nobody.
He puts damp wood upon the fire,
That kettles cannot boil;
His are the feet that bring in mud,
And all the carpets soiled.
The papers always are mislaid,
Who had them last but he?
There's no one tosses them about
But Mr. Nobody.
The finger marks upon the door
By none of us are made;
We never leave the blinds unclosed,
To let the curtains fade.
The ink we never spill; the boots
That lying round you see
Are not our boots -- they all belong
To Mr. Nobody.
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind - The book that introduced me to Mr. Nobody
This primary grammar book by Jessie Wise is used widely by homeschoolers and parents who want to give their kids a little more than what is offered in school. I've used it successfully with my own children, and I'm adapting it for use now in a multiage class of eight students. It consists of 100 short, scripted grammar lessons that introduce the parts of speech, some writing, story narration, and poetry memorization, including "Mr. Nobody." I highly recommend First Language Lessons. It is written for parents to use with their first-graders, but can be helpful for older children who need to brush up.
Mr. Nobody Dramatized Reading - Listen to Mr. Nobody
Here is a jazz-chant version of Mr. Nobody. It's a little fast, but good to give students a sense of the rhythm.
Mr. Nobody Downloads and Printables - Resources to help busy parents and teachers
Below I've curated some of the best "Mr. Nobody" teaching resources. There's a lot of useless stuff out there online, but these are gems. I hope these links and descriptions will help you find what you need with minimal effort.
- 26 Comprehension Questions about Mr. Nobody
This scribd document includes 26 multiple choice comprehension questions about "Mr. Nobody." the questions vary in difficulty and check recall and comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, and skills at inferring. Scroll to page 3.
- Mr Nobody Lesson Plans
"Mr. Nobody" lesson plans and downloads. There is also a short, student-produced interpretive video of "Mr. Nobody." The downloads include vocabulary work and a paraphrase of the poem.
- Mr. Nobody Wanted Posters
Student-made wanted posters for "Mr. Nobody." Good interdisciplinary activity.
- Slideshow Presentation on How to Teach Mr. Nobody
A very detailed slideshow with notes underneath. Tons of ideas for teaching "Mr. Nobody."
- Poems to Play with (in Class)
This is a collection of lesson plans by the New York City Department of Education. It includes a lesson about humorous poems including "Mr. Nobody." Scroll down to page 50 of the pdf to a lesson entitled "Ha Ha Poems! Poems That Make Us Laugh."
Mr. Nobody Activity - Compare and Contrast
Compare "Mr. Nobody" to "Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody"
"Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody" is a traditional, anonymous story reminiscent of "Mr. Nobody" and Abbot and Costello's classic "Who's on First?" Have your students compare and contrast the two piece.
Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
Mr. Nobody Activity - Add a New Verse
Check out this verse that my students wrote
Adding a verse to a poem demonstrates understanding of the rhythm, rhyme scheme, and general spirit of the poem. Mr. Nobody is a fun poem to add verses to. Here's one that some of my students wrote. As you can imagine, these lines are based on true events!
He blows his nose and never thinks
To throw away the tissues.
He leaves our jackets in the hall
And doesn't wipe his shoes.
He sneaks our donuts from the box,
And eats them greedily.
Our finished homework disappears;
The thief is Mr. Nobody!
Other Poem Study Guides I've Written - Also from First Language Lessons
- "The Caterpillar" by Christina Rossetti
Fun, concrete, short poem with many learning possibilities!
- "Hearts Are Like Doors" - Anonymous
Short rhyme about how kind words open hearts. A great poem to learn about similes and metaphors.
How About You? - What does Mr. Nobody do at your house?
Becky on October 24, 2014:
I loved your students' addition! Did Mr. Nobody write this poem too? :) I believe the poem is written by Elizabeth Prentiss.
Jeremy (author) from Tokyo, Japan on April 14, 2012:
@GonnaFly: Yeah, it's pretty funny.
Jeanette from Australia on April 13, 2012:
Oh man. Do I have to confess that in public? Love the story of the four men.