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

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With Your Own Two Hands

Writing a "Change the World" Poem after analyzing artists' points-of-view

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

Ben Harper's "With My Own Two Hands"
(as well as other media)

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 songGive students this “classification” graphic organizer and have them follow the instructions, or say to them:

"As you get to your seat, take out a piece of paper and read the names of the sixteen people randomly scattered on the board. Take a minute or two and think about the images, thoughts and feelings each name invokes. Read through the list twice. Do any of the individuals have things in common with each other? How might you break them into groups with shared characteristics?

"When you are ready, get with a partner and think of a title for this list that represents the group as a whole. Choose the best title possible. Then, begin to classify the people into four groups of four giving each column a sub-title that states their commonalities. If a name can fit into more than one column, choose the one you feel best represents them. Once finished, repeat the process, creating new groups with different characteristics. Look closer! Your first attempt to classify was probably relatively obvious to you, but the second should be a more creative or deeper look into who these individuals are and how they impacted the world."

Essentially this pre-step gets students thinking about people who changed the world and the variety of tools they used to do it. As students begin to classify, some of them will choose more obvious categories such as scientists, artists, leaders, etc., while others may look deeper and classify people by personality traits or abilities such as talent, faith, courage, etc. Either way, classification is a higher level thinking skill and students will begin to focus their analysis on what tools each of these people used to change the world. This is right where you want them as they will now turn their focus inward and start to think about whether they could change the world and if so, what tools they possess to go about doing it.


Step one…sharing the song and other inspiring media:  It is important to emphasize early on that the focus trait of this assignment is idea development, which asks students to let a theme or thesis drive their writing. To do this, they must begin to ask themselves what it means to change the world and if they truly believe that individuals such as themselves can have that kind of impact. Do you have to end up on a list like the one we classified, or can you successfully change the world on a smaller scale?

Ultimately, they need to take a stance. The next several steps require students to use this pre-writing graphic organizer. First, have students do a quickwrite in which they brainstorm as many changes the world needs as they can and then write a few sentences that explain how, if possible, they can impact change in any of those areas. What tools do they possess that could be used? Here are instructions for this step:

"Now that you have shared your categories and lists with others, and analyzed the tools each of these people used to change the world, begin to look inward. Do a quick write in which you answer some or all of these questions in your journal…What in the world needs to be changed? Big and small. Can you change the world? Why or why not? Do you have to someday be on a list like the one on the board to have changed the world? Be as honest and realistic as you can. What tools do you possess? Honesty? Sense of humor? A certain skill or personality trait? How might you use what tools you have to impact the world? If you honestly feel you can’t or won’t change the world, why not? Is it because of things you control or is it out of your hands?"

Encourage students to be realistic and honest. Reinforce the fact that any stance they take--optimistic or pessimistic--can be legitimate if they provide support. The poem they eventually write will be much easier--not mention much more effective--if they are writing from a perspective they believe in. This would be a good time to remind them that the support trait is voice which asks them to use words to convey emotion and passion and honesty.

I-Pod Link: Next, tell them you will be showing them some songs and video clips that represent a variety of stances on the topic of changing the world. Put the lyrics to the Ben Harper song, “With My Own Two Hands,” on the board or the overhead and play the song on your classroom I-Pod. This song is easy to find on I-Tunes. Have students look for and list evidence that shows the singer really believes he can change the world with his hands, and what specific things he feels he can change. When the song is over, ask for feedback on whether students feel he is realistic or just a hopeful dreamer?

Then watch the video to the Badly Drawn Boy song, “Year of the Rat” and ask students how this an example of someone changing the world with their own two hands. If you happen to have access that allows you at school to see this video directly (or if know how to download one of their videos to your I-Pod), you can use the link below. If you can't see the video link just below, you are on a computer that doesn't allow access; you can certainly watch the video (perhaps capture it for your I-Pod) later on a computer that allows you access.


Badly Drawn Boy - Year of the Rat

Remind students that although both the Ben Harper song and the BDB video represent the optimistic view of changing the world, a more pessimistic view is also valid. To showcase this, show the lyrics to the song, “Waiting On The World To Change” by John Mayer and play the song from your I-Pod. Have students look for and list evidence that shows why he feels he is more helpless and must “wait” for the world to change rather than changing it himself. Is he realistic or just a pessimistic naysayer? Why?

Finally, watch the video clip of Hugh Laurie’s “protest song,” which was originally shown on Saturday Night Live. This is a humorous take on how folk songs of the 60's talked a lot about all the problems of the world and claimed to have easy answers if people would only listen to them, but in reality offered very little in the way of solutions.  

Ask students how this video is another example of John Mayer’s stance that it is very difficult to change the world and often have to wait for it to change.

Remind your students that they will be--based on the inspiration of the two songs and two videos--writing a poem about their own stance on changing the world. Before planning to write, they will also look at several samples from students who have completed this assignment already.

An optional graphic organizer to consider using: Rob designed this additional graphic organizer for this lesson when he was asked to present this lesson at our persuasive writing inservice class. It has students think about the four mentor texts above as well as two student samples (just below), asking them to record tone words of each writer.


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.

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 that students have seen many different perspectives on whether the world can be changed and how to go about doing it, they are ready to develop their own perspective. They will express their feelings in the form of a poem that they will take through the process. Here's a graphic organizer for students to use while pre-writing. Have students take a minute or two to process what they’ve seen and heard today, and to think about how they honestly feel. Once again, remind them that the focus trait of this poem is idea development. Have them reflect on their earlier quick write, focusing on the most important changes needed in the world as well as the best tools they can draw from to affect change. Encourage them to add any new ideas that have come to mind since they wrote their original list. Point them to the buttons on the student instructions page, if they are having trouble thinking of changes to make or tools to change them with.

Since the support trait is voice, spend a few minutes talking about tone and have them point out the differences in tone in the four pieces of media they were exposed to. What sorts of things did the artists do and words did the artists use to convey tone? What will the tone of their poems be like?

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 is 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 Ben Harper by clicking here!


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