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

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Teacher's Guide:

Song Parodies
about School

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 Take Me Out of the Bathtub by Alan Katz. 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 Take Me Out of the Bathtub (or its sequel, I'm Still Here in the Bathtub) from Amazon.com, and you will help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

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 picture book, introduce the term parody):  There are many "Weird Al" Yankovic song parodies available for download on-line, but his parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" is a fun (and clean) one to share with students.  Eat It explores a topic your students can easily relate to--food.  Play for your students the original Michael Jackson song, which they'll probably recognize, and then Weird Al's parody.  Have them compare and contrast the lyrics.  Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics to "Beat It."  Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics to "Eat It."

Introduce the term "parody" to your students:

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

Explain that "Weird Al" made a name for himself writing parodies of popular music. For this poetry assignment, students won't be choosing modern, popular music; instead, they'll choose a "campfire song," which we define as one of those familiar songs that people know enough to sing around a campfire, if prompted. Think "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "Home on the Range," to name a few. The interactice button at the bottom of the Student Instructions Page has many more "campfire song" options to choose from.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Alan Katz's Take Me Out of the Bathtub and other Silly Dilly Songs is one that will bring singing to your classroom.  Share the title song with your students.  Share a few others; take several days to do this.  Put the words on overheads and make your students sing and laugh.  Be sure to celebrate David Catrow's hysterical pictures as you enjoy the parody songs.

Review the definition of a parody with each song.  Discuss how Alan Katz is finding humorous thoughts to include in his parody songs. Show students how he mostly remains faithful to the number of syllables in the original songs' lines, which allows us to sing his words to the original's tune.

Step two (creating a whole-class parody song about Thanksgiving):  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.

Sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with your students--possibly as a round. Ask your students, "If Alan Katz wanted to write a song parody of "Row Your Boat" and make it about Thanksgiving, what might the first line be. After hearing any answers, share the following:

The overhead has a complete version of a Row Your Boat parody that your students can sing--possibly as a round. The overhead then provides a few prompts to have your students, working in groups or with a partner, create an original Thanksgiving song inspired by two other familiar songs. Students can change the first line that has been provided, if they desire; justt be sure they make their song about Thanksgiving.

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 song parody?" Here's a cartoon that might get them thinking about Thanksgiving with a sense of humor:

Our parody song contest entries must be based on school topics, not Thanksgiving. We just are using Thanksgiving as a practice prompt for the modeling portion this activity. If your student groups create a marvelous Thanksgiving parody based on a familiar song, and you need to share it, click here to post those songs. 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 campfire songs that might launch great song parodies from your students. There are other ideas if you use the interactive button on this lesson's Student Instructions Page:

  • Home on the Range
  • Oh, Susannah
  • My Darling Clementine
  • Take Me Out to Ballgame
  • On Top of Spaghetti
  • Itsy-Bitsy Spider
  • I'm a Little Teapot
  • Twinkle-Twinkle, Little Star
  • She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain

Have students complete the left-hand side of the notebook page by choosing the opening lines from famous songs (or poems--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 school topics out, asking students if any of these topics inspire the opening line of an original parody. Good topics might be: cafeteria food, detention, homework, spelling quizzes, 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 songs submitted by individual student writers.

Step four (discussing models of writing): At WritingFix, we believe students gain great insight and inspiration looking over teacher or student models of the writing task before they write their own drafts.

 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 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.

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): Distribute the graphic organizers/planning sheet below.  Have students write the lyrics of the song they are parodying in the column on the left.  If students need to find the complete lyrics to a song, they can usually find lyrics very easily by "Googling" the name of the song and adding the word lyrics to their search.

Give them time to draft. Have them continue to share ideas with each other throughout the drafting step of the writing process. Keep reminding them of the importance of maintaining the original song's syllable count, so their song can be sung to the original tune without stumbling.

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):  Have students put their drafts away for a few days. "Let them gestate," as we like to 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 author Alan Katz by clicking here!

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