Writing to Entertain: Poetry | EL Education Curriculum

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In Unit 3, students move from considering what has inspired the poets they have been reading about to write poetry, to thinking about what inspires them to write poetry. For the performance task, students participate in a poetry presentation in which they read aloud an original poem and then explain to the audience with the use of visuals and evidence from the poem why they were inspired to write their poem. Building on their learning from Units 1 and 2 that many poets write about things that are important to them, students begin the unit by writing an original poem. For the mid-unit assessment, students revise their poems for word and phrase choice and to add punctuation for effect.

In the second half of the unit, students write their presentation explaining why they wrote their original poem and where you can see evidence of this in their poem. In order to do this, they analyze a model presentation to generate criteria of an effective poetry presentation, and then apply these criteria to write their own presentations. At the end of the unit, they choose visuals to support their presentations. In the second half of the unit, students also practice reading new poems aloud for fluency in preparation for reading their poems aloud for the performance task, and also in preparation for the end of unit assessment, in which they read a new poem aloud.

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: Writing Poetry
  • Task: Students revise their original poems (mid-unit assessment). Students read an excerpt of a new poem aloud (end of unit assessment).
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): W.4.5, L.4.3a, L.4.3b, L.4.3c,  RF.4.3, RF.4.4a,  RF.4.4b, RF.4.4c
  • Text: "Breathing Fire" model presentation 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 unit, 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 3, students practice perseverance as they write independently, and collaboration as they analyze a model in pairs and triads.

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.

Students also work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion). Throughout Unit 3, students practice respect as they each write a poem about something meaningful to them.

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

  • I work to become an ethical person.
    • I show empathy.
    • I behave with integrity.
    • I show respect.
    • I show compassion


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 4-7 to provide explicit instruction in how to write a formal poetry presentation, including Language Dive. If necessary, place less focus and condense instruction on writing poems in Lessons 1-2 and integrating visuals in Lessons 8-9. Although writing poetry can be very freeing for ELLs and can contribute to inclusiveness, the language demands are not as great as those required of students to learn to write formal presentations.
  • Language Dives: ELLs can participate in an optional Language Dive in Lesson 4. 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, see the Tools page.
  • Goal 2 Conversation Cues: 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 2 Conversation Cues are introduced in Lesson 1. 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 poetry by a diverse range of authors. An ideal context for inclusiveness emerges as students are invited to draw on their own background to write a poem and explain what inspires them. Foster inclusive action by creating space for students to express their feelings about sensitive issues, knowing that these discussions may help create equity or unearth trauma or both. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion.
  • Strategic grouping: Students work in pairs or triads across multiple lessons in this unit. Strategically pair students in advance to create productive and supportive work time. Consider matching ELLs with partners who have greater language proficiency. The conversations that happen as a result of such strategic pairing will greatly serve the language development of both partners.
  • Presentation structure: Students receive explicit, scaffolded instruction in how to craft and deliver presentation on what inspired their original poetry. Some students may need additional support, such as sentence frames, learning the language necessary to explain what inspired them and evidence for that inspiration in their poem. Use color-coding and manipulatives, such as sentence strips, to help students match inspiration to evidence. Also, this presentation structure may be different from the structure students are familiar with in their home language. Compare and contrast home language text structure whenever possible. Finally, be aware that some students may find it exciting, whereas others may find it unusual, to take center stage from their teacher when they present.
  • Linking language: In Lesson 7, students analyze sentences that have linking words and phrases and then draw from a list of linking language to combine their own sentences. ELLs need to become familiar with the English clause system so that they can begin to join clauses with linking words and get one window into complex language.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual assets that ELLs bring to the classroom.

Preparation and Materials

  • Plan the date of the performance task in advance in order to invite an audience (e.g., families, other classes, other adults in the school or community).
  • Prepare technology for students to present with visuals--for example, a whiteboard, projector, or copying and enlarging images that students bring in from home.
  • The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced both throughout the module and the school year:
    • Fluent Readers Do These Things anchor chart
    • Linking Words and Phrases handout
    • Peer Critique anchor chart

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.

The ALL Block has three 2-week units which parallel to the three units of the module.

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.).

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