An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: IDEA DEVELOPMENT Support Trait: VOICE

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Teacher's Guide:

Poems about Ages and Stages

an original poem inspired by Harry Chapin and Shakespeare

This lesson was created by Northern Nevada Writing Project Consultant Rob Stone. If you're interested in using music in the classroom, you can join Rob's Music Inspires Writing! Ning.

This writing prompt inspired by

"Cat's in the Cradle" sung by Harry Chapin

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:

Pre-step…before sharing the song Have students do a quick write in which they divide their lives so far into stages. Obviously every day couldn’t be a separate stage but there have been enough turning points so far that it can’t be lumped into one big stage either. Their job is to think of turning points that were important enough to end one stage and begin another and describe how many stages they feel they have lived through. Then they should continue their list into the future until they have broken life up into what they feel is the appropriate list of stages.

Remind them that at each new stage they should write a sentence or two that explains what specific changes are happening that call for a transition of stages. Have them get into small groups and compare, and then do a whole class share where you record the average number of stages the class feels appropriately represent life.

Step one…sharing the poem and the song:  Next, they might be surprised to know that none other than William Shakespeare did the exact same activity and produced his results in the poem “The Seven Ages of Man,” taken from the play As You Like It. They will be excited to hear his list of ages and see how it compares to theirs in both number of ages, and characteristics that describe each age. So put the poem on the overhead and read aloud, pausing to discuss each stage with the class. Direct students to this graphic organizer and have them compare/contrast their list with Shakespeare’s.

After a thorough discussion, propose to the class that many experiences with those ages can also be broken down into stages. Ask the class to give examples. (physical changes, relationships of all kinds, trends, rebellious phases, music/clothes/hobbies, etc.) Tell them that for this lesson they will be modeling a poem based on Harry Chapin’s song "Cat’s in the Cradle," which shows how a father-son relationship evolves over four distinct stages.

Play the song on your classroom iPod and guide them through the second page of the graphic organizer. Ask them to explain the message or theme of the song and remind them of the focus trait which is idea development. Have them choose the words or phrases that most passionately and vividly convey the message and remind them of the support trait which is voice.

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 idea development, since it's the focus of the lesson, but y ou might prompt your students to talk about each model's voice as well.

  • Because this is a new lesson at WritingFix, we're looking for student samples for all grade levels for this prompt!  Help us get some, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Contact us at for details.

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:  After exploring Shakespeare’s poem, Chapin’s song and student samples, students are ready to begin exploring ideas for their own poem. Guide students through the graphic organizer which has them look for important parts of their lives that can potentially be broken into stages and are important enough to write a poem about. Remind them that emotion and mood drives poetry so tap into some part of their life that is meaningful to them and they are passionate to write about.

The "interactive button” on the student instructions page is designed to give students ideas for events in their own lives that could be broken into "stages." If students are having trouble coming up with an idea, you might direct them to the button.

To promote deeper thinking about the trait of idea development as they compose, you might have your students use this idea development drafting sheet, which requires them to think specifically about idea development qualities before, during, and after writing.

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 will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • 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.

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 As You Like It and Harry Chapin
by clicking on these links.

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