An I-Pod Inspired Poetry Lesson from WritingFix

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This Lesson:

Favorite Things

...a poem about three phases
of life that borrows its rhythm from Rodgers & Hammerstein

This lesson was proposed by Nothern Nevada teacher Shannon Devereaux during an iPods Across the Curriculum Workshop for teachers. The Northern Nevada Writing Project proudly sponsors these workshops annually.

This writing prompt inspired by

"My Favorite Things" from the musical,
The Sound of Music

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:

Setting the stage:  A few days before teaching this lesson, talk to students about how we change every day. Some people change dramatically in a short period of time for a variety of reasons, but most of us change slowly on a day-to-day basis. Slow but noticeable changes is the theme of this poetry assignment.

Then share the wonderful picture book by Arthur Howard, When I Was Five, which shows how a little boy notices the changes in his life that happen in just one year. The most important things stay the same, but in a single year many things change. Ask your students to start thinking of periods from their childhoods when they are/were aware of small changes based on material things they owned and places they loved to be. "Warn" them that in a few days you will be having them write a poem, and they'll need to think about their favorite things from childhood to complete the poem.

Step one…sharing the song:  Before playing the song, My Favorite Things, for your students, instruct them to analyze the song's lyrics and to discover what they believe the three or four best images in box 1 of this graphic organizer are. Play the song or show the video clip from The Sound of Music.

Have students Think-Pair-Share what they've written in box 1 with a partner before finally sharing ideas with the whole class.

Next, have students list ten of their favorite “material” items from when they were children in box 2. Encourage students to be as specific as possible. Have students share what these items are to the class to possibly spark more ideas for others and to let them share their fond childhood memories.

Now jolt your students' memories by bringing them back to the When I Was Five story from a few days back. In box three, have them recall (and describe from memory) as many favorite things the narrator shared in that story in box 3. After they have finished remembering and writing, you can re-read the story, if you wish.

Next, have students list ten of their favorite “non-material” items in box 4. Have students really elaborate and focus on their senses. Example, Don’t say “rain,” but “the drumming the rain makes against the concrete as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep” or not just “the taste of chocolate,” but “the gooey mess the chocolate chips make as I peel the cookie apart and let the chocolate ooze into my mouth.” This box is broken up by the senses to have two examples for each.

Finally, read this summary for the movie, The Ultimate Gift:

“Jason Stevens is a trust fund baby, who has never worked a day in his life, and money has always been there for him. It is probably true that the rest of his aunts and uncles, all greedy, selfish people, were raised the same. Jason’s grandfather, Red Stevens, dies and leaves most of the aunts and uncles nothing. For a reason that comes off as manipulated, Red thinks that Jason is redeemable, whereas the rest of his related humanity is not. So, Red leaves a series of video messages and assignments for Jason to complete, hoping that Jason will learn to reject vanity and the self-absorbed playboy life, and become a charitable, generous, self-less community icon. And what happens? Just that. After the trailer there is nothing more to discover. Jason acts the brat, but his greed forces him to work, respect money, make a true friend, value learning, etc.-times 12, until at the end of the movie, his grandfather's attorney rewards him with control of the two-billion dollar estate.”

If you're on a computer that allows you to see YouTube videos, you can watch the trailer below. Try downloading the trailer onto your classroom iPod so you can show it in class.


Assure your students that at some point in their lives, they will (quickly or slowly) undergo a dramatic change that will shape them into the adults they are destined to become. As adults, they will be different than they are right now. The Ultimate Gift is the story of a young man who doesn't really see a need to change, but experiences and motivations make it happen anyway. Have students refer to the graphic organizer to answer the posed questions in box 5. Again, have students Think-Pair-Share this question box, then share ideas out loud with the class.

Tell your students they will be writing a poem about favorite things, and their poem will have three parts to it: favorite things from distant childhood, favorite things from the present, and favorite things they believe they'll have as they become adults.

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 should 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.

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:  Now, have students list ten of the favorite things they wish, dream about, or hope for the future in box 6 of the same graphic organizer. Try to encourage examples that are realistic sounding, perhaps similar to the life lessons from the movie: that backbreaking, sweaty hard work feels good, and that gaining friends who will keep even the darkest secrets is right. Again, focus on the imagery they are creating.

Finally, instruct students to think of a minimum of three things that would put a damper on their day in box 7. Some things may include receiving a speeding ticket, getting a flat tire, losing your keys, etc.

This Rhymin’ Time graphic organizer might add more educational value to this lesson, as well as allow students to explore different types of rhyme to include in their own songs/poems. Go through the different types of rhyme with the students. Then, have them choose one of their favorite things for each type of rhyme from their brainstorms. The very last box on the Rhymin' Time G.O. reads, “Your choice”. Have students choose whatever type of rhyme they like best and state what they chose on the line provided.

Finally have them make a rhyme, with their chosen style, to the word "things" since that is a given word at the end of almost every verse in the song. Eventually they will need at least three words that, in some way, rhyme with the word “things.”

If you have access to computers, it might be fun and useful to go to so that students who can’t think of a word to rhyme with one of their favorite things can have access to multiple words the computer generates.

When brainstorming and graphic organizers are complete, have students compose their poems' rough drafts on this rough drafting sheet.

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 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 The Ultimate Gift by clicking here.

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