Writing to Inform: What Inspires Writers to Write Poetry? | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA G4:M1:U2

Writing to Inform: What Inspires Writers to Write Poetry?

You are here:

In Unit 2, students continue thinking about what inspires writers to write poetry. In the first half of Unit 2, students finish reading Love That Dog. They think about what inspired the main character, Jack, to write and they collect evidence from his poetry supporting their thinking. They are introduced to informative writing and write an informative paragraph for the mid-unit assessment about what inspires Jack.

In the second half of the unit, students continue thinking about what inspires people to write poetry, first focusing on poet William Carlos Williams as a class and then studying a poet of their choice in more depth. The poets they choose from are poets Jack learned about in Love That Dog: Robert Frost, Valerie Worth, and Walter Dean Myers. Students work in expert groups to learn about their selected poet and to read and analyze his or her poems. They then use the Painted Essay structure to write a four-paragraph informative essay about what inspired their selected poet to write poetry.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What makes a poem a poem?
  • Poetry has characteristics that are unique and distinct from prose.
  • What inspires writers to write poetry?
  • Writers draw inspiration from many places, including the work of other writers and their own lives.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: What inspires writers to write poetry?
  • Task: Students write an informative paragraph in response to Love That Dog (mid-unit assessment). Students revise their draft of a four-paragraph informative essay (end of unit assessment).
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): RL.4.1, RL.4.3, W.4.2, W.4.5, W.4.9a, W.4.10, L.4.1f, L.4.2b
  • Text: Love That Dog, A River of Words, expert group poet biographies written by EL Education for instructional purposes


Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the literacy block. But the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

College, Career, and Civic Life C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards:

  • D2.Civ.7.3-5: Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school settings.
  • D3.4.3-5: Use evidence to develop claims in response to compelling questions.
  • D4.2.3-5: Construct explanations using reasoning, correct sequence, examples, and details with relevant information and data.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this module, students work to become effective learners, developing the mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration). Throughout Unit 2, students practice perseverance as they read complex texts and write independently, collaboration and initiative as they work in expert groups, and take responsibility as they reflect on their learning.

The following student learning targets are a focus for this unit. Please refer to Teaching Notes in the lessons:

  • I work to become an effective learner:
    • I take initiative.
    • I take responsibility.
    • I persevere.
    • I collaborate.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Accountable Independent Reading

The ability to read and comprehend text is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed across all three components of this curriculum: module lessons and the Additional Language and Literacy Block. See module overview for details. In this unit, students continue to read research texts independently for homework, and engage in frequent research reading reviews in the classroom for accountability.

Supporting English Language Learners

The Meeting Students' Needs column in each lesson contains support for both ELLs and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and some supports can serve a wide range of student needs. However, ELLs have unique needs that cannot always be met with UDL support. According to federal guidelines, ELLs must be given access to the curriculum with appropriate supports, such as those that are specifically identified as "For ELLs" in the Meeting Students' Needs column.

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 1-3, during which students complete an analysis of Love That Dog and begin planning an informative paragraph in preparation for the mid-unit assessment. Be sure to complete the Language Dives in Lessons 6 and 9. In Lessons 7-12, consider condensing independent writing time by grouping ELLs in the same expert group and providing additional shared writing opportunities to complete their literary essays together. Many ELLs may not have the stamina at this time of year to write independently for sustained periods of time. They may benefit from additional analysis and group practice with informational essay structure and fewer extended periods of independent writing time.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in a Language Dive in Lesson 6. ELLs can participate in an optional Language Dive in Lesson 9. Most lessons also offer optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. Language Dives are guided conversations about the meaning of a sentence from the central texts, models, or learning targets. The conversation invites students to unpack complex syntax, or "academic phrases," as a necessary component of building both literacy and habits of mind. Students then apply their understanding of language structure as they work toward the assessments and performance task. All Language Dives follow a Deconstruct-Reconstruct-Practice routine, in which students discuss and play with the meaning and purpose of the sentence and each chunk of the sentence; put the chunks back together into the original order and any possible variations; and practice using the chunks in their own speaking and writing. To maximize language practice and accommodate time, consider dividing or reviewing each Language Dive over multiple lessons. A consistent Language Dive routine is critical in helping all students learn how to decipher complex sentences and write their own. In addition, Language Dive conversations can hasten overall English language development for ELLs. Avoid using the Language Dive Guide to lecture about grammar; the Guide is designed to prompt students as they grapple with the meaning and purpose of the chunks and the sentence. Consider providing students with a Language Dive log inside a folder to track Language Dive sentences and structures and collate Language Dive note-catchers. Assure students that this log will not be graded; however, consider inviting students to use their log and note-catchers to gauge the progress of their speaking and writing skills. For more information on Language Dives and supporting English language learners, refer to the Supporting English Language Learners Guidance on the Tools page.
  • Goal 1 Conversation Cues: Continue to encourage productive and equitable conversation with Conversation Cues, which are questions teachers can ask students to help achieve four goals: (Goal 1) encourage all students to talk and be understood; (Goal 2) listen carefully to one another and seek to understand; (Goal 3) deepen thinking; and (Goal 4) think with others to expand the conversation (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 2012. Based on Chapin, S., O'Connor, C., and Anderson, N. [2009]. Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6. Second Edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications). Refer to the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Goal 1 Conversation Cues are introduced in Unit 1, Lesson 3. Heightened language processing and development is a primary potential benefit for ELLs.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Investigate the routines, practices, rituals, beliefs, norms, and experiences that are important to ELLs and their families. Integrate this background into the classroom as students explore what inspires poets from diverse backgrounds to write poetry. An ideal context for inclusiveness emerges as students are invited to discuss their knowledge of these poets and what inspires them. Foster inclusive action by creating space for students to express their feelings about sensitive issues embedded in the poetry, knowing that these discussions may help create equity or unearth trauma or both. Also, be aware that the style of academic writing the students are expected to complete in this unit may be unfamiliar to some, or may not be valued in their countries of origin. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion.
  • Strategic grouping: Students work in pairs to plan informative writing. Seriously consider matching ELLs to a partner who has greater language proficiency. The conversations that happen as a result of such strategic pairing will greatly serve the language development of both partners. As partners work together to revise their essays, more proficient readers can provide helpful feedback to students who are less confident.
  • Language processing time: Give ELLs sufficient time to think about what they want to say before they share with other students or write.
  • Writing complete sentences and essay organization: Students receive explicit, scaffolded instruction in how to craft an informative essay: introductory paragraph, focus statement with points 1 and 2, Proof Paragraphs 1 and 2 with a transition, and concluding paragraph. Students will use the Painted Essay format. Organization may be difficult to grasp for some students who may struggle to comprehend the language itself. Use color-coding and manipulatives inspired by the Painted Essay routines, such as sentence strips, to support this skill. Also, this essay structure may be different from the text structure students may be familiar with in their home languages. Compare and contrast home language text structure whenever possible. As students work on writing complete sentences, color-code sentences to support students' understanding of subject-predicate sentence structure. Consider placing beginning proficiency students and students who need heavier support in the same expert group and working closely with them to complete their essays as a shared writing experience.
  • Close reading of informational text: Students participate in a close reading session during which they have the opportunity to discuss an informational text describing one poet's life, background, and inspiration for writing poetry. The close read format supports students' language development by providing them with opportunities to interpret and analyze the text, and negotiate the meaning as they discuss the text in pairs. Students will complete a note-catcher to organize their thinking, which provides a supportive structure and focused practice for the work they will do later in the unit in their expert groups.

Texts to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Love That Dog
by Sharon Creech
1 per student
ISBN: 9780064409599
A River of Words
by Jen Bryant
1 per class
ISBN: 9780802853028

Preparation and Materials

  • Ensure families are aware of the sensitive content of "My Sky," read in Lesson 2, and prepare students who may be affected by this context.
  • Prepare technology for students to access poems by their expert group's poets in Lesson 8.
  • Ensure you have access to the painting materials required for the Painted Essay in Lesson 9.
  • The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced both throughout the module and the school year:
    • Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart
    • World map and compass points
    • Painted Essay(r) template
    • Painting an Essay lesson plan
    • Marking Direct Quotes handout
    • Writing Complete Sentences handout

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Docs - Create writing products: Students complete their note-catchers and write their essays, poem, and poetry presentation in Google Docs.
  • Speech to Text (Many newer devices already have this capability)- To create writing by speaking: Students complete their note-catchers and create written work by speaking rather than writing or typing.
  • Poets.org - Students read and research additional poets: Students read about and research poets they have a particular interest in.
  • Poetry Foundation - Additional reading of poetry: Students read poems by other poets outside of those introduced in the module
  • Fern's Poetry Nook - Additional reading and writing of poetry: Students read poems written by other students, and also submit poems to be published.
  • Magnetic Poetry - Additional writing of poetry: Students drag and drop the magnetic words on the whiteboard to create their own poems.

Additional Language and Literacy Block

The Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block is 1 hour of instruction per day. It is designed to work in concert with and in addition to the 1-hour Grades 3-5 ELA "module lessons." Taken together, these 2 hours of instruction comprehensively address all the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

The ALL Block has five components: Additional Work with Complex Text; Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM (Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics); Writing Practice; Word Study and Vocabulary; and Independent Reading.

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • If you have a number of ELLs speaking the same native language, invite family members to come into the classroom to talk with them about poetry and poets in their home countries.
  • Invite family members or teachers to come into the classroom to read their favorite poems, or to talk about their favorite poets.


Invite a poet to come into the classroom to explain what inspires him or her to write and to read aloud some examples.


Visit a live poetry reading event.


  • Identify local people who may enjoy poetry--for example, a senior citizens home--and go to read poetry for them or send them recordings of students reading poetry.
  • Consider inviting students to write poetry about a local issue and use the poems to make a difference.

Extension opportunities for students seeking more challenge:

  • Invite students to keep a poetry journal like Jack does in Love That Dog.
  • Invite students to read and write poems.
  • Invite students to read about other poets that they have an interest in.
  • Invite students to write invitations for the performance.
  • Invite students to play a specific role in the presentation (e.g., videographer, sound engineer if using a microphone or sound system, etc.).

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up