October 16, 2013

Work While You Work - Poem Study

"Work" is another old, anonymous poem introduced in First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind but with slightly different words. It speaks directly to the modern condition of multitasking and continuous partial attention. We would all do well to heed its advice.

 Work while you work
  Play while you play;
One thing each time,
  That is the way.
All that you do,
  Do with your might;
Things done by halves
  Are not done right.

"Work" has a snappy meter and a simple rhyme scheme. More than anything else though, the meaning of the words is what makes this poem worth studying. Work and play are equally valuable, but each must be done at its proper time and with all of one's might.

Working "Work" Through the Curriculum

Bible: Talk about similarities between the poem and Colossians 3:23. "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." (KJV)

Math: Discuss the idea of doing things "by halves."

Life Skills: Help your child plan out a day on the calendar. Be sure to schedule some "work" time and some "play" time.

Music: March or drum to the poem. It has a very regular rhythm and each of the words has just one syllable.

I've also written poem study guides for Christina Rossetti's "The Caterpillar,"  the anonymous "Mr. Nobody," and "Hearts Are Like Doors." Please check them out, and feel free to leave a comment below. Also, check out the other posts on Trivium Tuesdays.


  1. That is a cute poem. I might have to teach that to my children.

  2. What a sweet picture! I feel like I've seen that poem in one of our McGuffey readers. Great study!

  3. Can someone post complete poem, or suggest where can we find it

  4. That is the complete poem, as far as I know.