An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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This Lesson:

Oh, the Places
You Can Go!

developing a piece of personal writing about the importance of choosing wisely in life

This lesson was created by Nevada teacher Jennifer Reynolds at the NNWP's iPods Across the Curriculum inservice class.

This writing prompt inspired by

"Days Like This" by Van Morrison

Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Some information about this lesson's mentor text songs Both Van Morrison’s “Days Like This” and the other song suggested for this lesson--Lee Ann Womack’s "I Hope You Dance ”--show negative and positive aspects of life, and leave the listener with a sense of "choice" as more that just decision making, but decision finding. I think that both songs can be interpreted literally and metaphorically, so they can inspire differentiated instruction in the middle or high school classroom.

An interesting note to share: The first line of “Day's Like This” reflects on Van Morrison’s youth in Northern Ireland. He sings, “When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this.” This song became the official anthem of the peace movement in Northern Ireland in 1995.

Pre-step…before sharing the songsBegin this lesson by sharing from Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go!

After the reading is done, separate students into small groups (3-4) and have one person in each group document what the students believe about the ten questions on this Discussion Starter.

You might also have students do their documentation on posters so that they can share among groups. Some students might have a hard time grasping some of the concepts during brainstorming. In these cases, you might share about you own personal experiences to give specific descriptions. This will also make them more willing to be realistic with their own lives, since they can see you as a person who has successes and failures.

Once the group discussion is completed and students have shared their thoughts with one another, have them break off to indivudally and fill out a blank game board about “The places you can go.” They should fill out the spaces based on where they believe they will go in their lives. Students might want to write a draft beforehand so that they can move stuff around as they think of it. When filling the game board out, it is likely that many students will only focus on positive aspects and use the game board more as a goal-setting worksheet than reality. This is perfectly fine because the lesson will later expand upon hardships in life.

Step one…sharing the songs and other idea-inspiring media:  Right Before playing “Days Like This” show students the lyrics and focus on the first line to show them how to fill out this first graphic organizer. The first line is “When it’s not always raining there will be days like this.” Have students place "raining" in the road bumps box. Explain how the rain can be looked at literally, or it can stand for something else in the metaphorical sense. Then, play the entire song and have students fill in the road bumps, failures, and successes boxes for “Days Like This.”

Once students have completed the three boxes from the graphic organizer for "Days Like This," have them read through Langston Hughes' “Mother to Son” and fill in the road bumps, failures, and successes for the poem. You might take the time to discuss how the tone and mood is different between Oh, The Places You’ll Go, “Days Like This,” and “Mother to Son.”

Finally, have students brainstorm their own road bumps, failures, and successes on the graphic organizer. Fueled by the realism found in the song and the poem, you should urge students to be more realistic (in comparison to their board game graphic organizers).

After student have filled out the first nine squares on road bumps, successes, and failures, have them come up with some adjectives that describe road bumps, successes, and failures in life and write them in the corresponding boxes; use the interactive buttons on the student instruction page to get their brains started, if needed. Finally, fill in the corresponding boxes for action verbs that are associated with road bumps, successes, and failures in life.

The last step is to have students fill out this second graphic organizer as they listen to the song "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack. If possible, you might watch a video clip that uses the song as its soundtrack, many of which can be found on You-Tube. Below is a link to one of these videos, which you can download and play from your iPod, if your school blocks access to You-Tube.


After they have heard/watched "I Hope You Dance" and recorded Womack's advice on the second graphic organizer, have students fill in their own advice and hopes for life. Use the interactive buttons on the student instruction page to get their brains started, if needed.

Direct students to the bottom half of the second graphic organizer, which explains their four choices of writing formats they can choose whe writing to this assignment. Ask them to choose one carefully, thinking about which format would allow them to show off their idea develoment and word choice skills the best.

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 word choice as well.

  • Seventh graders share their recipes, poems, and letters written in response to this assignment.
  • we're looking for student samples for all other grade levels for this lesson!  Help us get some, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Visit our student samples page for information.

Step three…thinking, talking, and pre-writing: 

  • a free-verse poem that expresses your findings
  • an insightful letter to another who might value your guidance (example: a younger sibling; a friend)
  • a tour guide's script (an explanation of your ideas about living presented in the voice of a person giving a "tour" of life)
  • a recipe that creatively shows how someone can "cook up" perfect life

Students will need to commit to one of the four choices above to share their wisdom about life and choices. The tour guide option and the creative recipe option are both inspired by Barry Lane's wonderful book, 51 Wacky We-Search Reports, and they can be read about in more detail on the book's pages. These are two really good choices to push upon your higher-skilled students.

For your lower skilled students, using the interactive buttons or referring to teacher or student samples throughout the writing process should really help.

All students should ultimately share their rough-draft wisdom with each other or someone they feel a special bond with. Throughout the lesson, you might have to review adjectives, action verbs, advice, and adages depending on the class.

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.

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):   When they are finished revising and have second drafts, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block.  Their drafts might become a longer story, a more detailed piece, or the beginning of a series of pieces about the ideas they started here.  Students will probably enjoy creating an illustration for this piece of writing as they get ready to publish it for their portfolios.

Interested in publishing student work on-line?  We invite student writers to post final drafts of their original at WritingFix's Community of Student Writers.  This is a safe-to-use blog for students and teachers. No writing is posted until it is approved by the moderator. Contact us at if you have questions about getting your students published.

Learn more about Van Morrison by clicking here.
Learn more about Lee Ann Womack by clicking here.

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