An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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This Lesson:

What Skin are
You In?

comparing who you know you are to who people think you are in an expository essay

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

This writing prompt inspired by

"Video" and "I Am Not My Hair" sung by India Arie

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Some information about this lesson's mentor texts This lesson uses two songs--both by the artist India Arie--that explore self image. The first song that the students will listen to is Video, which explores the confidence that people can have once they realize who they are. India Arie describes that, while she is not the typical pop star, she is very aware of her self image; however, she claims to love herself unconditionally because she is India Arie. The other song used in this lesson is I Am Not My Hair, which explores how many people are judged based on their physical appearance rather than who they are on the inside. Both of these songs have great messages, and are fun and upbeat to listen to. Note from Allie: "I use the version of I am Not My Hair that features Akon, as it brings the male perspective into the lesson as well as the rap genre that my kids love."

The chapter book that is used in this lesson is a great novel for upper level elementary to high school students. The vocabulary and themes in this book are not appropriate for primary grades. While this lesson only refers to one small excerpt from the book, many other excerpts could be used to teach even more about self image. Throughout the book, the main character, Maleeka, struggles with who she is versus how she is seen by other people. Sharon Flake has a beautiful writing style, and her characters are ones that the students can relate to on a very personal level. Students are able to connect Maleeka’s struggle with image to their own difficulties.

Pre-step…before sharing the songs Prior to sharing the songs with students, split students into small groups so that there should be a total of 6 groups. The groups will be creating Self Image Word Walls. Hand out each group a piece of chart paper and one of the following categories: I look…, I feel…, I want…, I like…, I dislike…, and I believe…) Give the groups 3-5 minutes to list words and phrases that might fit under each category. Challenge each group to generate a list of at least 20 words/phrases that may fit under each category. Remind them to include both physical items as well as feelings and emotions. Once groups have completed their charts, share out as a group. Students should then hang up these "word walls" around the room for use later in the lesson.

Discuss with students how their feelings about themselves may differ from what other people think of them. Have students complete a gallery walk around the room and look at qualities that they feel they embody versus what other people may think that they embody. Have a conversation with students about how other people sometimes “judge a book by its cover.” Discuss the relevance and validity of this statement.

Introduce the book The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake. Tell students that the main character Maleeka is dealing with issues of self image every day. She is a completely different person than what other people see her as, however she is not confident enough with herself to change how others view her; rather, she continues to live in the mold that they set.

On a blank piece of paper, have students make 2 columns; who Maleeka is and how others see Maleeka. Students will be writing down qualities in each category while you are read. Read Chapter 1 of the book. Go over the qualities that are in each category. Have students add to or revise their lists after the discussion, if necessary.

Step one…sharing the songs and other idea-inspiring media:  Hand out this Skin I’m In graphic organizer. Using the student-generated word walls that are posted around the room, have students fill out the first page of the graphic organizer. Challenge students to have at least 3 interesting ideas under each category. Share out in groups and whole class the differences between what types of qualities are in the I Am section versus the People Think That I Am section.

Then play both songs in order to fill out page two of the graphic organizer. While students are listening to the songs, they will need to be highlighting/recording words and phrases from the lyrics that India Arie feels about herself as well as qualities that she feels other people think about her. If highlighters are not available, students may use pencils to underline words and phrases in the lyrics to both Video and I Am Not My Hair.

Once you have listened to Video, talk about the lines that students have underlined. Are these consistent with those qualities that are on the class's word walls? On the front page of the graphic organizer? Answer the questions about Video on the second page of the organizer. Discuss as a class. Repeat the process for I am Not My Hair.

After students have completed and discussed both sides of the graphic organizer, they will be completing a pre-write that will help them to organize their ideas for an expository essay. The students will be creating an expository essay showing the comparison between their image of self versus how others may view them. Students may also create a poem, a letter to a specific individual that he/she feels judges them incorrectly, or a eulogy documenting what they want to be remembered for once they die.

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 organization 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!  Visit our student samples page for information.

Step three…thinking, talking, and pre-writing:  If any of your students' graphic organizers still need a little more depth or thought, you might encourage those students to use the interactive buttons on the student instructions page of this lesson.

Once they're ready to move on with a thoughtful self-reflection, students will use this pre-writing planner to map out their expository essay; it is designed to help them think about the structure of an expository essay.

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 essay, 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 India Aria by clicking here.
Visit WritingFix's other lesson that uses The Skin I'm In by clicking here.

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