Poetry Workshop: Writing a Poem, Part II | EL Education Curriculum

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These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • RL.4.5: Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.
  • W.4.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • L.4.3: Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
  • L.4.3c: Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion).

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can write a poem inspired by something meaningful to me. (W.4.4)

Ongoing Assessment

  • Poem (W.4.4)


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Engaging the Reader: Revisiting the Performance Task (5 minutes)

B. Reviewing Learning Target (5 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Writing Poetry (45 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Partner Share (5 minutes)

4. Homework

A. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt and respond in the front of your independent reading journal.

Purpose of lesson and alignment to standards:

  • In this lesson, students continue to consider the question "What inspires me to write poetry?" as they write their own poetry inspired by something meaningful to them (W.4.4).
  • Give students the freedom to write what feels meaningful to them in a way that feels meaningful. There should be minimal teacher guidance unless requested.
  • Students who finish quickly or require an extension can write a second poem using the other idea brainstormed in the previous lesson.
  • In this lesson, the habits of character focus is on working to become an effective learner and working to become an ethical person. The characteristics that students are reminded of specifically are respect, as they each write poems about something meaningful, and perseverance as they write independently.
  • The research reading that students complete for homework will help build both their vocabulary and knowledge pertaining to poetry and creative writing. By participating in this volume of reading over a span of time, students will develop a wide base of knowledge about the world and the words that help describe and make sense of it.
  • This lesson is the second in a series of three that include built-out instruction for the use of Goal 2 Conversation Cues to promote productive and equitable 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). Goal 2 Conversation Cues encourage students to listen carefully to one another and seek to understand. Continue drawing on Goal 1 Conversation Cues, introduced in Unit 1, Lesson 3, and add Goal 2 Conversation Cues to more strategically promote productive and equitable conversation. As the modules progress, Goal 3 and 4 Conversation Cues are also introduced. Consider providing students with a thinking journal or scrap paper.

How it builds on previous work:

  • Students continue writing the poems they planned and started to write in Lesson 1.

Areas in which students may need additional support:

  • Students may require additional support putting their ideas into writing. Consider sitting with those students who require additional support with writing to help them actualize their ideas.

Assessment guidance:

  • Read the poems as students are working to ensure they are ready for the mid-unit assessment in the next lesson. If you have a lot of students who still need more time, consider adding an additional lesson before the mid-unit assessment in which they can finish their poems.
  • Consider using the Writing Informal Assessment: Writing and Language Skills Checklist (Grade 4) during students' writing in Work Time A. See the Tools page.

Down the road:

  • In the next lesson, students will revise their poems for precise language and punctuation for effect for the mid-unit assessment.

In Advance

  • Review the Red Light, Green Light protocol. See Classroom Protocols.
  • Post: Learning targets, Performance Task, Working to Become Ethical People, and Working to Become Effective Learners anchor charts.

Tech and Multimedia

  • Work Time A: Students write their poems using word-processing software--for example, a Google Doc.
  • Work Time A: Students use Speech to Text facilities activated on devices, or using an app or software such as Dictation.io.

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 4.I.A.1, 4.I.A.2, 4.I.A.3, 4.I.A.4, 4.I.B.5, 4.I.C.10, 4.I.C.11, 4.I.C.12, 4.II.A.1, and 4.II.C.7

Important points in the lesson itself

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs with the continued opportunity to write poetry freely, virtually ignoring the frequently confusing and extensive rules of formal writing. The lesson also gives students space to think about, discuss, and revise their writing, an ideal process for language development.
  • ELLs may find it challenging to transfer the poetic expression in their mind to English words on paper. Encourage them to relax and have fun; they can begin writing in their home language, then discuss what they've written in English with a partner as a way of transitioning to English.

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • Invite students to consider experimenting with their phrasing by condensing several phrases in their poem into one or two phrases--for example, by using prepositional phrases or omitting unnecessary words. (Example: "The tiger had stripes. The stripes look like lightning. The tiger growled." > "The tiger with lightning stripes growled.") Ask students how the condensed version affects the elements of poetry that they want to incorporate: Does the condensed version enhance or detract?
  • Encourage students to add on to the nouns and verbs in their poems with adjective, adverb, and prepositional phrases that increase variety and richness. Have them consider whether they'd like to strategically sprinkle their poems with words or phrases from their home language.

For heavier support:

  • Explain that the drafting process is an important part of writing in U.S. classrooms because it allows writers to get feedback to gradually improve their products. In this lesson, students attempt to complete the poems they began in Lesson 1, and then they will revise the poems during the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment in the next lesson.
  • If students still require additional support to put pen to paper, invite them to explain or draw what they would like to write. Help them comprehensibly phrase a line and repeat after you, then invite them to write or copy what you discussed.

Universal Design for Learning

  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): This lesson asks students to apply their knowledge in order to create a poem. Provide as many explicit examples as possible. For instance, model brainstorming potential topics and then refining those topics with a think-aloud. Before students begin to draft their poems, provide multiple examples of different types of poetry (e.g., free verse, rhyming, acrostic, haiku, etc.) so that students can use them as a model when constructing their own poems.
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression (MMAE): Writing is a complex process. Consider ways to remove barriers to help students best demonstrate their abilities: Offer tools to support fine motor skills for writing (e.g., pencil grips, slanted desks, word processor, etc.) Additionally, minimize distractions for students by providing dividers or sound-canceling headphones.
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): Some students may need support with stamina with writing for 45 minutes. Consider building in breaks for some students where they can get a drink of water or stretch at pre-determined intervals. It may also help to use a timer so that students can self-monitor their time.




  • Performance Task anchor chart (begun in Unit 1, Lesson 1)
  • Working to Become Ethical People anchor chart (begun in Unit 1, Lesson 2)
  • Poems (begun in Lesson 1; added to during Work Time A; one per student)
  • Paper (blank and lined; one piece of each per student)
  • Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart (begun in Unit 2, Lesson 1)
  • Red, yellow, and green objects (one of each per student)

Materials from Previous Lessons

New Materials


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.


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engaging the Reader: Revisiting the Performance Task (5 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the Performance Task anchor chart and select volunteers to read parts of the prompt aloud for the whole group.
  • Remind students that in the previous units, they considered the questions:
    • "What inspired Jack to write poetry?"
    • "What inspired your expert group's poet to write poetry?"
  • Emphasize the change in focus for the unit to being about what inspires them to write poetry with the question:
    • "What inspires you to write poetry?"
  • Explain that in this lesson, students will be working on creating the work products required by the performance task.

B. Reviewing Learning Target (5 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning target and select a volunteer to read it aloud.

"I can write a poem inspired by something meaningful to me."

  • Remind students that in the previous lesson they tried out a couple of topics and started to write their own poems. Remind them that it is important they write about something meaningful to them as this will make the poem easier to write.
  • When discussing the work products for this unit, consider showing examples to help students visualize your expectations for the unit. (MMR)
  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with comprehension: Consider rephrasing the learning target with simpler synonyms such as important instead of meaningful, sketch the meaning, or draw an icon next to it.
  • Reassure students that it is okay to pick another topic if they realized that their previous topic was not that meaningful for them. (MME)

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Writing Poetry (45 minutes)

  • Tell students they are going to finish writing their poems in this lesson, and revise their poems for the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment in the next lesson.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"When you write your poem, should you write in formal or informal English? Why?" (informal because writing in formal English means following the rules of writing, which poetry does not have to do) Remind students of the comparison they did between the poetry of Love That Dog and a narrative journal entry in Unit 1.)

"What is the difference between formal and informal English in writing?" (Writing in formal English means following the rules, such as writing in complete sentences and using punctuation correctly. When you write informally, you don't have to follow those rules.)

  • Allocate an area of the room for discussion. Tell students if they need to discuss something about their poems while they are working or need a thought partner, they are to come to this area of the room to discuss ideas. Ensure students understand that discussion needs to be quiet in this area of the room so as not to distract students working in other areas of the room. Consider inviting students to discuss new ideas first in their home language if they desire.
  • Focus students on the Working to Become Ethical People anchor chart and remind them specifically of respect. Remind students that these poems will be personal to students because they are inspired by things that are meaningful to them, so they need to remember to practice listening and discussing respectfully. Remind students of the "What does it look like?" and "What does it sound like?" columns to guide their actions in the discussion area of the room.
  • Invite students to retrieve their poems and distribute more paper. Remind students that they can choose whichever paper works best for their poem.
  • Focus students on the Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart and remind them specifically of perseverance. Remind students that because they will be writing their poems independently, they will need to persevere. Remind them of the "What does it look like?" and "What does it sound like?" columns.
  • Invite students to continue writing their poems. Emphasize that this first draft does not need to look good--they may need to make multiple drafts before it is finished, and that they will create a final draft for their Mid-Unit 3 Assessment in the next lesson.
  • Circulate to support students who need help writing. If a student goes to the discussion area and there are no other students joining, be available to be a thought partner so the student can return to work.
  • Distribute red, yellow, and green objects.
  • Tell students they are going to use the Red Light, Green Light protocol to show how close they are to meeting the first learning target. Remind them that they used this protocol in Unit 2. Review what each color represents (red = stuck or not ready; yellow = needs support soon; green = ready) as necessary. Refer to the Classroom Protocols document for the full version of the protocol.
  • Focus students on the learning target and guide students through the Red Light, Green Light protocol, using the red, yellow, and green objects.
  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with writing: Point to the rules of formal, complete sentences on the Writing Complete Sentences anchor chart from Unit 2. Tell them that fragments and run-ons are often used in poetry, and sometimes in fiction writing, but they are not okay in formal informative writing. (MMR)
  • Consider providing models of different types of poems that students could use as models (e.g., free verse, rhyming, acrostic, haiku, etc.). Discuss the characteristics of each and how they convey meaning. (MMR)
  • For students who may need additional support with building writing stamina: Consider offering built-in breaks where they can have a choice of activity, such as getting water or stretching. Over time, students will build stamina and won't need as many frequent breaks. (MME, MMAE)
  • For students who may need additional support with fine motor skills: Consider offering alternative tools for writing (e.g., pencil grip, slanted desk, or word processor). (MMAE)
  • For ELLs: Using their vocabulary log, word clusters, and word maps for support, encourage students to explore translations, spelling and pronouncing aloud, various word forms, synonyms, definitions, translations, and collocations (words frequently used together) to develop knowledge of the word revise. Example:
    • revise = revidieren (German)
    • R-E-V-I-S-E
    • revision, revised
    • change, edit, rewrite
    • think again about and change writing based on feedback from someone
    • heavily revised; constantly revise; have to revise
  • For ELLs: Give writers explicit, just-in-time feedback on writing successes and errors so that they can repeat the successes and correct the errors on the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment. As students work, jot down samples of effective writing. Also jot down one or two common language errors you hear. (They can be pervasive, stigmatizing, or critical errors, and they can be related to usage of pronoun, verb tenses, or prepositions, for example.) Share a "star" and a "step" with the class, allowing students to take pride in the effective communication and correct the errors. (It's not necessary to identify who communicated well or who made errors. However, you might wish to pull the student aside to make it clear.)

Closing & Assessments


A. Partner Share (5 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the Working to Become Ethical People anchor chart and remind them of what respect looks and sounds like.
  • Tell students they now have the opportunity to talk about the inspiration for their poem with a partner. Give students 30 seconds to consider whether they feel comfortable doing this. If students do not wish to share, they should keep working on their poem individually.
  • Invite those students wishing to share with a partner to turn to an elbow partner and to label themselves A and B.
  • Post the question and read it aloud for the group:
    • "What inspired you to write poetry, and where can you see evidence of this in your poem?"
    • Give students 30 seconds to look at their poems and to think.
    • Invite partner B to share first.
    • After 1 minute, invite partner A to share.
    • Select volunteers to share their responses with the whole group.
  • If productive, use a Goal 2 Conversation Cue to encourage students to listen carefully and seek to understand:

"Who can tell us what your classmate said in your own words?" (Responses will vary.)

  • Guide students through the Red Light, Green Light protocol, using the red, yellow, and green objects to self-assess against how well they persevered and showed respect in this lesson.


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs

A. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt and respond in the front of your independent reading journal

  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with writing: Consider encouraging them to discuss and respond to their prompt orally, either with a partner or family member or by recording their response. (MMAE)

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