A Picture Book-inspired Poetry and Writer's Notebook Lesson

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Parody Poems

a November/December poetry contest sponsored by WritingFix and the NNWP

This lesson was built at WritingFix after being presented at the NNWP's 2004 Piňon Poetry Festival. In 2010, it was revised to feature a Writer's Notebook pre-writing feature.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Science Verse by Jon Scieszka. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Science Verse from Amazon.com, and you will help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

A note for teachers: 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:

Step one (sharing from the mentor text):  Enjoy Scieszka's Science Verse as a read-aloud over several days with your students.  Start by sharing those songs from the book that your students will definitely know are impersonations of other songs they've heard:  The "It's Raining, It's Pouring" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" parodies will be easy for your students to identify as parodies of original songs.  Ask them, "How does the author make sure his new song sounds so much like the original song?" Discuss how keeping the same rhythm and syllables allows you to write a parody of any song. Share the definition of parody.

parody: (noun) -- A literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule.

Before sharing Scieszka's parody of "The Jabberwocky" or "The Raven" or "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," show the original poems that inspired each parody with your students.  You don't have to analyze the original poems too much, just explain that they are famous poems--well-known by many adults and students--and the author is going to impersonate these just as he did "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."  After sharing the original and its impersonation, ask your students, "How does the author make sure his new poem sounds so much like the original poem?" Discuss how keeping the same rhythm and syllables allows you to write a parody of any poem. Share the definition of parody again.

Step two (creating a whole-class parody poem):  This part of the lesson is intended to happen close to Thanksgiving; if you're using it at another part of the school year, you can change the subject matter of the following to coincide with a more appropriate holiday or event.

Show the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore, "The Night Before Christmas." Tell students they are going to work as a whole class (or in small groups) to create a parody of this world-famous poem. Their group poems will be called "The Day of Thanksgiving." Have them notice how the first line of the original poem has 7 syllables, the second line has 5 syllables.

Here are several different ways their parody poem can begin; if they come up with a better one, they may use it:

  • 'Twas the day of Thanksgiving (7)
    and all through our home...(5)
  • 'Twas the day of Thanksgiving (7)
    and everyone knew... (5)
  • On the day of Thanksgiving (7)
    the turkey got burned...(5)
  • On the night of Thanksgiving (7)
    our bellies were full...(5)

In small groups, have students create three or four stanzas about Thanksgiving using Clement Clarke Moore's rhythm and perhaps his rhyme scheme. Remind students that a true parody should try to make the reader laugh or smile. Keep asking, "What's something funny that might happen on Thanksgiving to include in your poem?" Here's a cartoon that might get them thinking about Thanksgiving with a sense of humor:

Our parody poem contest entries should be based on famous poems other than "Twas the Night Before Christmas" since we've now used that particular poem as our whole-class modeling assignment. However, if your student groups create a marvelous Thanksgiving parody based on the Christmas poem, and you need to share it, click here to post those poems. The poems won't be entered in our contest, but you just might make some fellow teachers and students laugh!

Step three (creating a writer's notebook page as a pre-writing strategy):  Tell students they will be each creating a "Parody Launches" page in their writer's notebooks. They will be writing down the first few lines of some famous poems or songs, then underneath they will write the first few lines of a parody of each poem or song.

To begin, set-up the page. Below is a suggestion for how to partition off a page, which comes with a teacher model.

Setting up the Writer's Notebook page:
Parody Launches

Definition of Parody:


Opening line of a famous poem:
My parody of the line at left:



Opening line of a famous poem:
My parody of the line at left:



Opening line of a familiar song:
My parody of the song at left:



Opening line of a familiar song:
My parody of the song at left:



Show them your own model of a finished notebook page and/or our webmaster's teacher model, which we have included (at left) with this lesson as our attempt to inspire you to make your own, but we will be understanding if you want to use ours as yours. If you are teaching your students to use Mr. Stick in notebooks to serve as a journal and notebook mascot, it can actually be really fun to make your teacher model. Your kids can gain real inspiration from having proof that you had fun as you created your own notebook page; we truly believe kids can have fun while learning as long as the teacher is modeling what smart and fun looks like at all times. Sample notebook pages from a teacher can be inspirational! Click here for a really large version of our webmaster's notebook page, which allows you to really zoom in on details or print on a poster, if you have that ability.

Here is our list of some famous poems that might launch great parodies from your students. You can find more suggestions using the interactive buttons at the bottom of this lesson's Student Instructions Page:

  • Fire and Ice by R. Frost
  • The Road Less Traveled by R. Frost
  • We Real Cool by G. Brooks
  • The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by H. W. Longfellow
  • Song of Hiawatha H. W. Longfellow
  • Dream Deferred by L. Hughes
  • Because I Could Not Stop for Death by E. Dickinson
  • I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died by E. Dickinson
  • The Raven by E. A. Poe
  • The Bells by E. A. Poe
  • The Jabberwocky by L. Carroll

Have students complete the left-hand side of the notebook page by choosing the opening lines from famous poems (or songs--see this lesson's sister assignment); then, give them a week to make parodies of each line they wrote down. On different days, have them revisit the still-unfinished page and throw some interesting topics out, asking students if any of these topics inspire the opening line of an original parody. Good topics might be: toys, birthday parties, pets, summer vacation activities, etc.

After giving students multiple opportunities to re-visit and add to the parody page in their writer's notebooks, have them share their "parody launches" with others. Have them discuss which "parody launch" should be developed into a full-blown parody. Let them know there is a contest at WritingFix every December for the best parody poems submitted by individual student writers.

Step four (introducing models of writing task):    You can keep referring to the poems in Science Verse as models, or you can share non-published models to inspire your students. In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the models that come with this lesson.  The groups should certainly talk about the sentence fluency, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's idea development as well. Here are two examples.

We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks

We real cool. We 
Left school. We 

Lurk late. We 
Strike straight. We 

Sing sin. We 
Thin gin. We 

Jazz June. We 
Die soon.

The Dentist
a teacher model

Teeth real bad. Mom
So sad. Den-

-Tist mean. Teeth
Get green. Brush

Them. Yay! Twice
A day. Gums

Get red. You
Floss, Fred.

Two stanzas from
Because I Could Not Stop for Death
by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves— And Immortality.

We slowly drove — He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility —

Because I Could Not Stop to Brush

a teacher model

Because I did not stop to brush
I got a cavity.
My dentist drilled a gaping hole
In molar number three.

He numbed me first with Novocain,
Then boy did I get drilled.
I jerked and jumped with crazy arms
While my poor tooth was filled.

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 five (pre-writing for the longer poem): Here is this leson's three-page worksheet to help students turn one of their "parody launches" into a complete poem. The worksheet contains tools to help your students ready for this task. Print and show as overheads the first two pages of the attachment below.  The first overhead reminds them of two famous poems, one by Emily Dickinson, the other by Gwendolyn Brooks.  Read these poems together as a class. 

The second overhead is a teacher model (written on this lesson's graphic organizer) that shows a student impersonating both poems from the first overhead.  Show this second page on the overhead.  Laugh at the model's humorous use of the original poem as his inspiration.  Talk about how model included lots of good details about his topic--teeth--as he wrote his parody.

The third page of the attachment below is a blank graphic organizer for students to plan their own impersonation. 

If you don't feel comfortable giving students free reign to use any poem they want, you might select one poem for the whole class to impersonate for the larger assignment, and allow them to all write about different topics they have interest in.  You can also let students write these impersonation with partners or with small groups.

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 six (revising with specific trait language):  Have students put their drafts away for a few days. "Let them gestate," as we always say. With this assignment, students need extra encouragement to revise; when you already have the exact number of syllables you need for a line of poetry like this, it's easy to be satsifed with a rough draft. Don't let them be. Talk about the importance of polishing the rhythm of their parody poems, or challenge them to "zest up" their drafts' word choices with better words that have the same syllable count.

Two tools for revision are provided below.  You can use one or both, depending on how much time you have to spend on this assignment.

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 Jon Scieszka by clicking here!

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