An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Bucket List

creating a poetic & personalized list that has rhythm and flow

This lesson was created by NNWP Consultant Temoca Dixon during the NNWP's iPods Across the Curriculum Workshop.

This writing prompt is inspired by the song

"Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw

Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics.

A note for teacher users: These lessons are posted so that you may borrow ideas from them, but our intention in providing this resource is not to give teachers a word-for-word script to follow. Please, use this lesson's big ideas but adapt everything else. And adapt it recklessly; that's how you become an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Background information Tim McGraw wrote the song “Live Like You Were Dying” as a tribute to his father Tug McGraw, a major league baseball pitcher who died of brain cancer early the same year. His message is to live life fully and in the moment.

Pre-step…before sharing the songFrom Temoca Dixon, this lesson's creator: "I have the students create a 'Someday List' as a writing warm-up activity. The students create a list of what their life would look like if they had no obstacles, limitations, and money was not an issue. Using a shoulder partner, I have the students brainstorm the different lists people create. Once we have several ideas, I pick two lists, one that may be very important and one that is not as crucial and we discuss the differences in the lists. The idea is to show how some lists are important and well-written whereas others are quick, random thoughts that are recorded.

"We also review idioms. The idiom 'kick the bucket' is reviewed with the students. Before I have the students guess the idiom, I draw a bucket on the board and ask the students what we use buckets for. They usually come up with ideas of what the bucket holds. I sketch out a dead person kicking the bucket and ask what they think the bucket was holding for the idiom to 'make sense.'"

Step one…sharing the song and other inspiring media:   The teacher should discuss values. What are values, and what does a person's values tell us about them? What are the different ways people display their values, for example working for charity events or volunteering? Instruct students to pay attention to the values they notice from the song and the video. Ask them to think about these two questions: "What are the values? How do you know and what does this say about the people in the song and video?"

Play the song by Tim McGraw, or show the video of the song if possible. Students will use the values comparison graphic organizer to list and compare the values from the song or video. Then students will take out their “Someday List” they created earlier and list their values on the back page. They will compare their values to the items listed on their someday list. Ask, "Does your someday list reflect your values?" Tell students to imagine they have just found out they only have 3 months to live. Ask, "What would they do with your life now? Have your priorities changed? Does your new bucket list reflect your values?"

Share Original Graphic Organizers (for Pre-Writing)
from Your Teaching Toolbox.

We share graphic organizers with our peers, we find them in books, and we think we should also be able to find tried-and-true ones online at WritingFix. This year, if you create an original graphic organizer (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • Original graphic organizers for specific lessons, like this one, can be submitted as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.

Step two…introducing student models of writing:  In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson.  The groups will certainly talk about the sentence fluency, since it's the focus of the lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's idea development as well. Ask them to really notice how the lists took the shapes of poems in their final drafts.

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for other grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Visit this lesson's student samples page for details.

Step three…thinking, talking, and pre-writing:  If possible, read the book These Things I Wish by Lee Pitts. The book will give the students an idea of what good sentence sentence fluency sounds like. Tell students they will need to try and capture a similar-sounding sentence fluency in the rough drafts of their own bucket lists.

Also, if possible, read the poem "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou to the students before they draft their bucket list. The poem “Phenomenal Woman” is a great example of rhythm for the students. Ask students to pay attention to the rhythm and the short and complex sentences that make up these texts.

Teachers will need to explain the expectation of the writing. Explain the assignment is to create a meaningful and original list that shows rhythm and a unique style. The students need to have examples of lists or text to reference and possibly use as a model for their draft. Students may need to bullet point each of their values or activities they want to take care of before the 3 months is up. Then from the list they can turn the ideas into sentences. Ask them to think about this question: "What is the message you are trying to create that creates a picture in their reader’s mind of who you are as a person?"

As students prepare to create their Bucket Lists, you might have them use this rough-drafting sheet.

Step four (revising with specific trait language):   To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach WritingFix's Revision and Response Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts.  Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-it® Note-sized templates, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5."   Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings.  For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-it® Note-sized templates, click here.

Share Original Revision Techniques or
Adaptations from Your Toolbox.

Inspired by Barry Lane's Reviser's Toolbox, the WritingFix website encourages its teacher users to adapt our lessons, especially the tools of revision we have posted here. If you create an original revision tool (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we might just send you a free print resource from the NNWP for being generous.

  • Original revision ideas from teacher users of WritingFix can be submitted through copy/paste or as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.


Step five (editing for conventions):  After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor.   If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers.  With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post-it.  The "Community of Editors" idea is just one of dozens and dozens of inspiring ideas that is talked about in detail in the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Workbook for Teachers.

Once the lists have been revised and edited, challenge students to reshape their ideas into a final draft poem. You might look again at the student models that come with this lesson to help inspire your students.

Step six (publishing for the portfolio): The goal of most lessons posted at WritingFix is that students end up with a piece of writing they like, and that their writing was taken through all steps of the writing process. After revising, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block.  The writing started with this lesson might become even more polished for final placement in the portfolio, or the big ideas being written about here might transform into a completely different piece of writing. Most likely, your students will enjoy creating an illustration for this writing as they ready to place final drafts in their portfolios.

Interested in publishing student work on-line? You might earn a free classroom resource from the NNWP! We invite teachers to teach this lesson completely, then share up to three of their students' best revised and edited samples at our ning's Publish Student Writers group.

To submit student samples for this page's lesson, click here. You won't be able to post unless you are a verified member of this site's Writing Lesson of the Month ning.

Learn more about singer Tim McGraw by clicking here.

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