A Writer's Notebook-inspired Poetry Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Hubris at the Bat

writing a parody of
Casey at the Bat
a modern day character

This writing lesson was originally proposed by Northern Nevada Literacy Trainer Desiree Gray.

The lesson was revised in 2010 to include it in our "Year of Writer's Notebooks" Collection!

This on-line writing prompt is based on a poem by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, which has been lovingly celebrated in a picture book illustrated by Christopher Bing. Students will study the structure of this famous poem.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Casey at the Bat 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 one becomes an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Pre-step (before sharing the published model):   Before teaching this lesson inspired by Casey at the Bat, be sure to review the poem's vocabulary words: patrons, eternal, preceded, stricken, melancholy, lusty, dell, doffed, ‘twas, writhing, haughty grandeur, visage, tumult, bade, spheroid, and sneer.

You might also go over baseball terms like: died (picked off, outs, etc), lulu (humdinger), latter (later), cake (vain but unmanly man), and any other phrases your students might not know.

It might also be helpful to have your students read other ballads and lyrical poetry before this lesson to familiarize them with the format and structure.

The day before reading Thayer's poem, have your students set-up a page for their notebooks. Call the page "Dangerous Hubris," and give students a quick explanation of what hubris is so they can write a 5- to 15-word definition of it on the page they set up. If you need information on hubris to share with your students, click here.

You might have your students partition off a page like this one:

Writer's Notebook Page Title:
Dangerous Hubris
(short definition of the term hubris)

Haiku Summary Box:

Casey's Hubris' Source:

(two-haiku summary of Casey at the Bat)

Future Character with Hubris
Future Character #2 with Hubris

Future Caption:

Future Caption:

Show them your own model 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 page, 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 pretty fun to create a teacher model. Your writers can gain real inspiration from having proof that you had fun as you created your own notebook page; we believe kids can have fun while learning as long as the teacher is modeling what smart and fun looks like at all times. 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.

Step one (sharing the published poem):  First, the teacher will put an overhead up of a picture of Casey copied from the cover of the picture book, or any other source will work. Working with a partner, students will answer the this question: Who is the man in the picture? Study the picture carefully and write down five phrases that describe him, what he’s doing, what he might be thinking, and what kind of person he might be. Teacher will lead a discussion around students' answers and give a brief idea of what the poem is about. Next teacher will put up an overhead definition to remind students of the term hubris. Teachers will announce that they will now be reading a poem about a man--the pictured man--who happens to have hubris. Ask students to predict what the poem might be about based on the picture and the word hubris of a ballad.

Casey at the Bat is a great poem to read aloud together as a whole class. Teacher can model reading one line and then have the class repeat together, or even cut the poem into strips and assign parts to teams of 2-3 to read. One fun twist is to omit the last stanza and have students make a prediction about how the story ends based on what they know from our hubris discussion and from the phrases they underlined. Their guesses build the excitement for the story’s ending.

After revealing the conclusion in the poem's last stanza, ask, "Where does hubris come from? Why do some people have it? Why do you think Casey has it? Where does Casey's hubris come from?" Have students discuss these questions, formulating theories on how Casey ended up being someone who is so full of himself.

Now, have students do two tasks in their writer's notebook page:

  1. Write a short summary of Casey at the Bat that will fit in the notebook page's summary box. If your students are up for the challenge, have them write their summary in the form of two haikus; a haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, and it is always a good challenge to summarize with a limited amount of syllables. Ask students to decorate their summary box with a picture based on the poem. (see teacher example below)
  2. Write down three of their favorite explanations for where Casey's hubris might have originated.


Step two (reserving the bottom of the notebook page for the future):  Tell your students that hubris is a recurring theme found in literature; throughout this upcoming school year, they will encounter other characters withy hubris, both in texts shared whole-class and texts they read independently. If they spot hubris, they can return to this page in their notebooks, and draw a cartoon and caption that proves they've found a character with hubris.

You will probably have students who immediately and independently start spotting hubris in their texts, and you will also have students reading who will need to be reminded that they have a page in their notebooks to record future incidents of hubris.

Step three (challenging students to write a hubris poem during a writer's workshop):   A student notebook can serve a great purpose if you're using a writer's workshop in your classroom; it can be the source of future topics for longer pieces of writing.

If you notice a student looking for a writing idea in their notebook, and you notice that student has completed his/her Dangerous Hubris page, suggest they write a poem or story (inspired by Casey at the Bat) about a different character with hubris. It can be a piece of writing about an original character the student invents, or it can be about a character with hubris they found in a different book they've read.

What we suggest is that you encourage them to write a parody of Casey at the Bat; their parody will use the same rhythm and rhyme structure of the original poem, but it will be about a different person than Casey.

You can find parodies of the poem to show and inspire your students. Garrison Keillor published a parody of Thayer's poem which tells the story from the opposing team's point of view. Click here to see that poem.

Jon Scieszka's Science Verse contains one too, as well as parodies of many other famous and classic poems. The book comes with a CD of the author reading his own parody, which is wonderful!

At WritingFix, we've begun the process of collecting students' parody poems from across the globe. If any of your students write a good one, revise it, and edit it, we hope you'll be inspired to post it on your student's behalf at our posting blog.

(Step four--sharing student models): 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 organization was accomplished by the writer.

  • We're looking for student samples for all grade levels for this newly revised 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 five (planning and pre-writing): Students will brainstorm times when they or someone they know displayed hubris. If they don't have enough ideas to choose from, they can use the interactive choice button on the student instruction page for ideas.

Using this graphic organizer, students can write a five stanza poem modeled after Thayer’s rhyme scheme (AABB) and 14-syllable pattern.

Encourage students to use the framed opening and closing lines from the graphic organizer, so that their parody is recognizable to most.

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):   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 might just send you a free print resource from the NNWP for being generous.

  • 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 seven (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 eight (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 poet Ernest Lawrence Thayer by clicking here.

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