A Poetry-Inspired Writer's Notebook Lesson

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Teacher's Guide:

Different Ways of
Looking at __...

mimicking Wallace Stevens when writing about any topic of study

This lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Corbett Harrison. You can access all of Corbett's on-line lessons by clicking here.

This on-line writing prompt is based on the poetry of Wallace Stevens. Before writing to this assignment, students should hear and discuss the style of this American poet.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Wallace Stevens' Poetry from Amazon.com, and 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 the published model):  Wallace Stevens' 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. is a complicated poem, with interpretations that can be discussed endlessly by scholars.  For this writing assignment, students simply need to know that Wallace Stevens has chosen to examine a simple topic--blackbirds--with thirteen different sets of "poetic eyes."  It's a simple idea that Stevens does with remarkable language structures.  Some of the stanzas will undoubtedly baffle your students, but ask them to focus on the structure of the sentences when the content seems too complicated to them.

Read the poem as a whole class, after giving the above explanation.  Allow student groups to attempt to interpret one or two stanzas that pique their interest.  Ask, "What is the poet saying about a blackbird in this huge and complicated world of ours?" 

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.  Encourage the students to talk about the idea development in each poem, and then to talk about how sentence fluency was accomplished by the writer.

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): For this assignment, your students will choose four of Stevens' stanzas, and they will use the stanzas' sentence structures to explore a different topic.  Students may write about science topics, math topics, history topics, or about characters from literature.  This writing assignment allows students to shape learned facts into original statements.

Below you will find a two-page handout to print and share with your students.  The first page is a teacher model, to be shown on the overhead.  Two of Stevens' stanzas are impersonated, using the moon as their topic.  Two other stanzas are included on the worksheet to complete together as a class...also about the moon.  Before assigning independent impersonation, use this worksheet to help everyone understand the thinking that needs to be done to complete this assignment.

The second page is a blank handout where students can begin crafting their impersonations of Stevens' stanzas.  The first time you use this assignments, allow students to work in pairs.  If you choose to use the assignment for a different topic later on, students can be challenged to create their impersonations independently.

Using this assignment repeatedly will not only help students talk about learned topics in interesting ways, but it will also make them very familiar with a poem that many of them might see in later years, especially if they attend a university.

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 their 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 free-to-use Writing Lesson of the Month ning.


Learn more about poet Wallace Stevens by clicking here.

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