blog stats

A Voice-Building Poetry Lesson through Comparison/Contrast
this writing across the curriculum assignment builds a foundation for persuasive skills

Navigating WritingFix:

WritingFix Homepage

Persuasive Writing Homepage

Comparison/Contrast Homepage

Poetry Prompt Homepage


This Lesson's Mentor Texts:

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? a short story by Joyce Carol Oates

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, sung by Bob Dylan


Publish your students at our Ning!
(You must be a member of our "Writing Lesson of the Month" ning to post.)



Welcome to this Lesson!

Comparison & Contrast Poems
between Child & Parent

exploring perspective for the purpose of building two poems

This writing lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Sara Kwasna during the Nevada's Persuasive Writing Inservice Class.

The Northern Nevada Writing Project's sixth print resource--The Going Deep with Compare and Contrast Thinking Guide-- inspired the lesson write-up on this page. Teachers who take any of the NNWP's Writing Across the Curriculum in-service classes receive a copy of this publication for their classrooms. If you would like to purchase this guide, please visit the NNWP's Print Publications page.

Three-Sentence Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will examine multiple mentor texts to help drive them toward the final persuasive writing assignment: comparison and contrast poems written from a parent and a child’s perspective. A short story, two poems, and a song will be analyzed for their use of word choice, idea development, and literary elements. The concept of coming of age or rites of passage will also be analyzed and discussed.

Writing Across the Curriculum Ideas:

In addition to practicing idea development and word choice skills, this lesson could enrich a unit for history or music class:

  • In a history class, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” could be analyzed as a cultural document of the 1960’s in America and American Culture. Students could examine how the story parallels how during that time American innocence was giving way to more turbulent times (civil rights movement, anti-war protests, revolutionary politics, post-Kennedy assassination, etc.) The music of Bob Dylan also helped usher in these movements, and so the song as well as other music of the 1960’s might be looked at in either a history or a music appreciation class.

Trait/Skill Focus:

In the very best writing lessons, the teacher has pre-determined a trait-based skill that the students all need to show growth with as part of the lesson's objective. For students who can handle more than one trait at a time, the teacher has pre-determined additional skills to focus those students on while they go through the writing process. Here are this lesson's trait skills:

  • Idea Development - All students will use idea development to craft two compare and contrast poems from two thoughtful different perspectives.
  • Word Choice - All students will analyze word choice in the mentor texts. Stronger writers will strengthen their poems by imitating several of the authors' word choice skills.

Using the Mentor Texts to Inspire Writers:

High school teacher Sara Kwasna, the Nevada teacher who created this lesson, generously shared this eight-page packet of materials she hands out to her students when teaching this lesson.

  • Begin by having the students complete a journal or free-write activity (page one of the packet). Ask the students to reflect upon and write about how they influence/persuade/control their parents (through what methods) and how their parents influence/persuade/control them. Students will share their responses.
  • Below the free-write, ask the class to brainstorm other methods that people use to persuade (i.e. rhetoric, violence, threats, bribery, etc.) and other pairs/groups of people who persuade one another (i.e. parents & children, boyfriend & girlfriend, teacher & student, boss & employee, etc.) Record these responses on chart paper.
  • The second phase of the lesson would be to read the short story by Joyce Carol Oats and complete pages 2 and 3 of the packet. Time needs to spent looking at the literary elements of symbolism, allegory, theme, imagery, and allusion and how they function within the story.
  • Students should answer the following questions in small groups:
    • What methods of persuasion does Arnold use to get Connie to go with him?
    • Why does Connie ultimately go with Arnold? Does she have any choice in the decision?
    • What do you think happens to Connie after the story ends?
    • What does the title suggest? (Where has Connie been? Where is she going?)
    • How could Arnold Friend be viewed as a symbolic character?
  • Using Socratic Seminar or another method of class discussion, share responses to the questions above.
  • Mentor Text Extension #1: The idea of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” as a coming of age story can also be further explored with these two poems that can also be shared during this lesson. Use them to further promote discussions about coming of age rites and rituals
  • Mentor Text Extension #2: Joyce Carol Oates has said that her short story was inspired not just by Charles Schmid’s crimes, but also by the music of Bob Dylan, especially the song “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” The song and lyrics can be presented to the class for analysis and discussion. Students can look for similarities between the song and the story. Discuss how the song could be viewed as a “rite of passage” poem. Students should analyze the persuasive language that Dylan uses. (Page 7 of packet)
  • The cumulative writing project for this lesson (page 8 of packet) will be to write compare and contrast poems from the voice of a child and a parent.
    • Writing Assignment: Parents often struggle with letting their children grow up and letting go. Teenagers often try to grow up too soon when they aren’t completely ready to. Write two point-of-view poems. One should be written from your perspective, persuading your mother/ father/ guardian to let you grow up or do something that you want to do but have previously been denied. The other should be from their perspective on why they want you to remain a child for a little while longer.

Student and/or Teacher Models of the Writing:

Below is a teacher-made model of both poems that you can show students to help them understand the task at hand:


I stood in the dappled light
that filtered through the oak leaves.
They shifted lightly in the hot air,

heavy with the scent
of honeysuckle
and wine.
Waiting for you to appear
as a sailor waits for a beam of light to cut through the fog at night, leading the way home.

Then, there you were.
One hand clutching that of your mother,
one hand relying on the strength of your father,
tentatively taking that step
from the cobbled stone path
out of the arbor
and into the sun.
Across the lush green grass
bedecked with rose petals
that my niece that thrown for you.
The sweat trickled down my neck and back,
saturating the cloth of the rented tux.
Who wears a three piece anything in July?
For a moment, the noise from the traffic
lumbering along the main country road,
the whispers from the crowd,
familiar faces blending into one,
all of it ebbed away and I saw only you.
The pearlescent beads that adorned your gown
sparkled in a way that was matched only by your eyes.
You smiled at me and I believed.

In spite of feeling that the heat and the moment were suffocating,
fearing that when I carefully repeated each vow my stutter would give me away,
I believed.

I still do.


Despite the three layers
of antiperspirant
carefully applied
so that chalky white cakes
don’t fall from my armpits-
I’m sweating.

Hours of sitting like a queen
while the worker bees swarmed-
make-up applied to make the me I know
Hair coiffed and curled and spritzed and teased.
Sipping champagne and snacking on fresh fruit
all the while waiting for the clock to strike.
But I’m not Cinderella.

The minute I see you there,
Panic swells in my chest.
There is doubt shadowing your face.
But I am an actress.
This is a stage.
We have a performance.
And damn it
we are not pulling the curtain just yet.

I smile.
My eyes plead,
Remember me.

Despite the pomp and circumstance,
Pastor Wally towering over us,
his bible thick as the wood
of the old oak tree
under which we stand.
Despite the hundreds of guests
ogling us.
I hold your gaze.
Steady you with my eyes.
I grip your hands in mine
and smile.

Despite all this…
Remember me.

Click here to open/print these two example poems.


We're looking for student-made samples: If you use this lesson with students, be sure to contact us if you have an excellent and inspirational sample from your classroom. If we end up publishing your students' work at WritingFix, we will send you a complimentary copy of one of the NNWP Publications for your classroom.

Useful Pre-Writing Tools from the
Comparison/Contrast Guide:

The two pre-writing tools Sara suggests for this lesson come from the NNWP's Comparison/Contrast Guide. As it says on page 8 of the lesson packet, students may choose to brainstorm for their poems using both or either of the tools below.

Each tool comes with a blank page that may be Xeroxed, and with a filled out example that you may show students when instructing them to brainstorm.

Brainstorming tool #1: Parents thoughts on one side, child's thoughts on the other.

Brainstorming tool #2: Students compare themselves to a younger version of themselves to add deeper thinking to their poems.

Student Talk Throughout the Writing Process:

Students will talk to each other throughout the writing process. Once students have written the rough drafts of their poems, I would have them pair up and read each other’s poems. Students will switch poems and use the word choice and idea development Post-it® Note-sized templates to revise. Distribute highlighters to the students. Have them highlight the good examples of word choice/idea development in one color and areas that could use improvement in another color. Encourage students to have a dialogue with their notes as a guide.

Revision Suggestions:

Revision is a very important step during a skill-based writing lesson. When students revisit and think deeply about the lesson's focus trait/skill after a rough draft has been completed, they are more likely to remember strategies for using that skill the next time they are asked to write. We often gloss over the step of revision when writing lessons go longer than they were supposed to; make certain to find time to include real revision with this lesson.

Use the trait-based checklists on page 8 of the packet, or attach the following revision Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts to help them determine skill-based goals for their poems' revision:

Print on green paper or green Post-it® Note-sized templates.

Print on purple paper or purple Post-it® Note-sized templates.

Publishing Suggestions:

  1. Have students share their final piece(s) with their parents and ask parents to write a letter in response to the student/ their child.
  2. Display the poems without the students’ names and invite parents in (perhaps in an open house forum) to view them and have the parents try to guess which poem belongs to their child.
  3. Post the poems on your class website and invite parents to read them and respond.
  4. Submit up to three of your students' best work at our ning for possible publication at the WritingFix website! See the blue box below!

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!  You can post up to three of your students' monologues at our posting page for this lesson.

WritingFix Homepage Comparison/Contrast Homepage   Persuasive Writing Homepage
Poetry Homepage   Publish Your Students' Poems On-line
© WritingFix. All rights reserved.