Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Out of the Dust 1

Vicky Nichols
Bay District Schools


After being introduced to the novel, OUT OF THE DUST, students create an autobiographical poem using figurative language.


The student uses figurative language techniques to create and comprehend meaning (for example, similes, metaphors, analogies, anecdotes, sensory language).


-Hesse, Karen. OUT OF THE DUST. New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc.1999. (one per student)
-Internet Accessible computer and TV (optional)


Read the first two or three chapters of the novel.
Be prepared to review the definitions of figurative language terms.


NOTE: Additonal lessons on this novel are available. They are: Out of the Dust 2, Out of the Dust 3, and Out of the Dust 4.

Students should have previously studied similies, metaphors, personification and onomatopoeia.
Introduce the novel by going to the following Internet sites. Karen Hesse at
This site has an introduction about the author and then the author reads some selections from the novel.

->Woody Guthrie at
This site deals with Woody Guthrie and his song about the dustbowl.

History of the Dust Bowl at
This is an excellent site for background about the time period and the setting.

1. Introduce the novel and its unique characteristics: journal entries, poetic format, sensory language, time period and viewpoint.

2. Review figurative languages terms and examples. Include similes, metaphors, personification, alliteration, and onomatophoeia. List these on the board and give an example of each.

3. Read the novel’s first entry (pgs 3-5) silently, then aloud. Initiate a discussion as to the image created in their minds about the person who is writing this.

4. Use lines from the novel's first entry (pgs. 3-5) as examples of some of the figurative language terms discussed.

5. Ask students to list 5 events from their lives-large or small, important or interesting to them. (example: loss of first tooth, first music lesson, the day we moved, when I scored the homerun, etc.) After they list the 5 events, tell them that they will be creating a poem with this information and they should be specific with the events.

6. Share the criteria for assessing the poem with students at this time.
A. Poem includes 5 events from writer’s life.
B. Poem has at least 3 examples of figurative language.
C. Poem includes sensory language to evoke a visual image of the events in the minds of the readers.
D. Poem creates a “picture” of its author that is recognizable to the readers.

7. Have students create their poetry. Poetry doesn't have to rhyme and some students may want to use the format from the novel.


Instruct students to create a free verse, autobiographical poem from the five events. Tell them to use at least three examples of figurative language in their poems. For example, if a student is describing a ball game, ask him what sound the bat and ball made as they connected. A line might read: The ball came at me, splatt, it hit the ground and skittered away as though it was laughing at me. Encourage them to create images with words in the minds of their readers.

Allow students to peer edit. If necessary, allow them to conference with you or a friend to help them get started or to help them create their figurative language examples.

Students should be allowed to rewrite their poetry until they are satisfied and feel that it meets the criteria. This is a formative assessment and students should be encouraged to try even if their first attempt is not wonderful. Levels of criteria for writing poetry should not be introduced in this lesson.


EXTENSIONS: Have students type their poetry, paying attention to the spacing of the lines. Allow them to illustrate their poetry, or to create a border for it. Then display it.

Web Links

Read the interview and then scroll down to the very bottom and choose Into the Classroom for additional information.
American Roots Music

Excellent information on Karen Hesse and her books
Karen Hesse

Web supplement for Out of the Dust I
The American Experience

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