An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: VOICE Support Trait: WORD CHOICE

Navigating WritingFix:

Return to the WritingFix Homepage

Return to the Voice Homepage

Return to the I-Pod Lesson Collection


Navigating this lesson:

Lesson & 6-Trait Overview

Student Instructions

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources

Student Writing Samples from this Lesson


On-line Publishing:

Publish your students at our Ning!
(You must be a member of our "Writing Lesson of the Month" ning to post.)

Teacher's Guide:

Summertime- inspired Memoirs

using various interpretations of Gershwin's Summertime to teach mood or tone in narrative writing

This lesson was created for WritingFix after being proposed by Northern Nevada Writing Project Teacher Consultant Amy Richards, who presents it during our iPods Across the Curriculum Class.

This writing prompt inspired by

Summertime, originally written for the opera Porgy and Bess

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…The Essential Question: Amy--this lesson's creator--uses essential questions in her classroom to focus students on her learning objectives for them. This particular lesson is designed to last between five and ten days, and Amy suggests the students be reminded of the essential question every time you come back to the lesson. To assess students learning, you can ask them to answer the question at various points of the learning, monitoring their ability to answer the question better.

That said, Amy's essential question for this lesson is: How can I change the mood of my personal narrative using word choice?

You will notice that Amy has included her essential question (objective) on many of the handouts that come with this lesson.

Step one…sharing the original song:  Inform students that they will be listening to multiple versions of the song “Summertime,” originally written by George Gershwin. (Depending on the length of the lesson you want to teach, you can pick from one to eight versions from this lesson.) Tell students this song was originally written for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, and was intended to be an African American spiritual to be repeatedly song by one of the main actors.

First, share the lyrics and point out how Gershwin uses vernacular language with the ‘ing’ words. You can copy/paste the lyrics from any on-line source by using the Google link beneath the picture of the album cover above.

Pass out--or have on the other side of the lyrics--this sheet of faces. You might have to do some editing as some faces are not necessarily age appropriate; for example, the ‘loaded’ face might need to be whited-out. By ending up with blank spots for faces, students can find space to create their own faces, if they can’t find one they like. I also suggest making an x and y axis to aid in finding a particular face; otherwise, time can be wasted trying to explain exactly where an intended face is.

Using a transparency of the sheet of faces, discuss the various emotions the faces offer. Students already are beginning to build on the trait of word choice, as this sheet offers synonyms to commonly used words like sad and happy.

Now play the original version of the song “Summertime,” having students follow along on the overhead and/or their own lyric sheet. Play the song a second time, this time having students look at the different faces from the face sheet. Ask, “How does this song make you feel? Are there faces/emotions to match that feeling?” Remind students to pick a face based on the emotion they feel, regardless if they are completely familiar with the word written underneath a face.

After students choose one or two faces that match the mood and/or emotion of the original song, have students share whole group. Ask them to explain why they felt the way they did when they chose an emotion. Pass out this face-recording graphic organizer, and have students copy their chosen faces in first box only. Be sure the students record the emotion word beneath each face they copy, and require them to spell the words correctly.

After reviewing the class’ responses, discuss if there is any commonality or patterns emerging in the moods/emotions the class has picked. Ask, “Is there a certain type of mood this song is conveying and if so, how would you describe it?” Point out how the singer has made the listener feel a certain way by setting a mood with a singing voice; tell students that writers also do this in their writing by carefully choosing words.

Put away the face-recording graphic organizer for will use it again several times during the course of this lesson.

Tell students that they will be writing about a true summertime memory from their past. When they write--like the singer in the song does for the listener--they will attempt to make their reader feel a certain emotion or mood.

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 voice and word choice, since these are the focus of the lesson.

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 and pre-writing:  Now have students think back to a personal summertime experience that might match the mood they have associated with the original song. Ask, “How does your memory make you feel? What particular event or emotion happened which makes you think of it matching our song’s mood/emotion?” Refer them back to the class’ overhead of faces to focus their thinking.

Set the timer for five minutes and have students write on a summertime experience which closely matches the mood they each heard in the song. After the five minutes are up, have students reread their pieces, circling words they think match the mood of the original version of Summertime. Again remind them how writers set a certain mood in a piece of writing by using specific words. These words express emotions which can often be hard to explain with less interesting or precise words.

Put the quick-write based on the original song away...for now.

Over the next few days, have students bring out their face-recording graphic organizer, then play different artists' versions of the Summertime song on your classroom I-Pod. Each song version will convey its own distinct mood, and the students will find themselves picking new emotions from the face list to talk about. The goal here is that students are expanding their vocabulary when discussing the songs and faces. After each version is heard and discussed, have students either do a quick-write about a different summertime memory, or they may revise (or add to) a summertime memory they have been working on previously.

Amy suggests the following artists' renditions of the song Summertime, when she teaches this lesson:

With each song version you play--in order to focus students’ writing on picking appropriate word choices (which will then match the writing they will eventually do)--choose from the below list of activities that expand students' word choice. These activities should be used after students hear a new version of the song and right before they do a new quick-write on a summertime memory.

  • Brainstorm activity: As a class, pick one emotion inspired by a new version of the song, and brainstorm as many synonyms (words or phrases) that match the intended emotion. Students can then utilize this class brainstorm when they do a new quick-write on a summertime memory.
  • Journal pass activity: In their journals, have students record a face and a mood from a different version of the song they have hear. Have students pass their journals to another student, who writes synonyms beneath the word/picture, then passes to a different student. After a few minutes of passing and adding, students will have an expanded list of words to use. They can then utilize these words when they write a new quick-write on a summertime memory. Overhead directions for this activity.
  • Describing a emotion without using the emotion word: Have students sit back to back. Each student picks one emotion from the face list, which they then try to describe (without using the wmotion word) to their back-to-back partner. For example, if they choose sad, they might say "This emotion you might feel if your cat just got hurt. Someone would see slumped shoulders and a frown on your face." Students keep describing what their chosen emotion looks like until their partner correctly guesses which emotion from the face list they are describing. Students switch roles. They can play this back-to-back game several times. Students should then utilize these types of descriptions when they hear a new version of the song, and do a new quick-write on a summertime memory. Overhead directions for this activity.
  • Use of the five senses, then showing not telling a story: After hearing a different version of the song, use this five senses graphic organizer. Pick one emotion inspired by the song to model for the class; students follow along with their own graphic organizer. Discuss how a mood/emotion might have certain sounds, tastes, smells, and touches. Ask, "If you were observing this emotion, what would you see?" Record students thoughts and when done, ask, “How could you now use this list of ideas to expand your own choice of words in another quickwrite about a summertime memory?” Students can then utilize these words when they go to do a new quick-write on a summertime memory.
  • Repeat the five senses activity again: This time use a partner or a group of four to work together to expand on a certain emotion from a new version of the song. Remind students to use the face page as a resource as it shows what a particular emotion looks like. Students can then utilize the new brainstorm when they go to do a new quick-write on a summertime memory.

Once students have spent a week or so exploring moods through their summertime memory quick-writes, have them choose their best quick-write and draft it into an official rough draft. As students write their drafts, remind them to choose words that would help their reader feel certain moods or emotions.

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 students' initial drafts, 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.

Amy has designed a personal sheet of six checklists for students to use when students are preaparing to finalize their revised drafts into final drafts.

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 on-line):   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 opera Porgy and Bess by clicking here!

WritingFix Homepage Lesson & 6-Trait Overview   Student Instructions
Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources  Student Writing Samples

© WritingFix. All rights reserved.