Beacon Lesson Plan Library

There's a Writer Waiting Inside Me

Dawn Capes
Bay District Schools


Psst....Did you know there's a writer waiting inside each of your students? In this introductory lesson, students are introduced to the concept, What Makes Good Poetry? and are asked to explore the writer within!


The student knows ways the author's word choice contributes to the meaning of a text.

The student analyzes and describes the use of symbolism and figurative language in fiction or nonfiction.

The student understands the impact on the reader of specific word choices (for example,, multiple meanings, invented words, concrete or abstract terms, figurative language).

The student describes how line length, punctuation, and rhythm contribute to the overall effect of a poem.


-Printed poem, “How To Eat a Poem” by Eve Merriem (see Teacher Preparation)
-Printed poem, “Writer Waiting” by Shel Silverstein (see Teacher Preparation)
-Transparencies of both poems
-Handout, one per student, I’m a Poet and Didn’t Know It-Definitions (See Associated File)
-Handout, one per student, How Can I Make Poetry More Poetic? (See Associated File)
-Transparency of What Makes Good Poetry? (See Associated File)
-Diagnostic Assessment (See Extensions)
-Student folders (See Teacher Prep)
-Bulletin Board space
-Favorite poems and poetry books to share with students


1. Due to copyright issues, the poems used in the unit, I’m A Poet and Didn’t Know It, can be found online but must be printed by the teacher using this unit. Links to each poem will be provided in the weblinks of each daily lesson OR the teacher can choose to use copies found in student’s literature books.
2. Print the poems “Writer Waiting” by Shel Silverstein and “How To Eat A Poem” by Eve Merriam. (See Weblinks)
3. Create transparencies of each poem. The poems will be used later in the unit to study other poetic aspects of the poem, so keep the transparencies in a safe place.
4. Secure enough manila folders to make student poetry folders. It is suggested that these be kept in the classroom as middle school students have a tendency to be woefully disorganized. The teacher can choose to do this or not to do it; however, for the purposes of this unit, it will be assumed that the teacher will have the students store their work in a poetry folder.
5. Make a transparency of the handout What Makes Good Poetry.
6. Since numerous guiding questions are asked throughout the procedures, it may be helpful to note them on an index card or sheet of paper in order to remember them all.
7. Create a bulletin board with the title, “I’m A Poet and Didn’t Know It.” Leave blank. It will be used to share poetry students bring in and create.
8. Gather favorite poems and poetry books to be shared with students. Sample authors may include: Emily Dickinson, Shel Silverstein, ee cummings, William Carlos Williams, etc.
9. Paper saver idea! If you will have students use their own paper instead of making copies of the handouts, simply have them include the same information as the handouts. Another paper saving device, make one class set of poems instead of individual poems. Just be aware of your needs and the needs of your students before making any copying decisions.


Day One of the unit, I’m a Poet and Didn’t Know It!

1. Give the Diagnostic Assessment. Explicit directions are available for the Diagnostic Assessment. (See Extensions)

2. It is suggested the Diagnostic be given on a Friday in order to have time to assess and use the Diagnostic to guide future instruction.

Day Two of the unit, I’m a Poet and Didn’t Know It!

Note: Throughout the course of this unit, students will be asked their interpretations of various poems. Be careful in your responses to students. The answers suggested in this unit are merely the lesson developer's explanations of the poems. Responses by students may be different, yet still correct. Be open to students’ interpretations. Exploration and student responses will not occur the teacher tells students, "No, that’s not the right answer."

1. Ask students, where can we find poetry? Allow them time to reflect where poetry can be found. Things they may bring up include: in literature books, in poetry books, music, songs, and advertisements.

2. Then ask, where can we find good poetry? See if students’ answers change. Then ask what are the qualities of a good poem? Use the transparency, What Makes Good Poetry, and note student responses. Write them all down, no matter how silly they may seem. We’ll come back to this.

3. Now, ask who likes to write poetry. Remind them that poetry can come in the form of poems, songs, and raps. Observe student faces and hands raised. You’ll probably find that many do not like poetry or think it is too hard to write. Those with the most negative reactions may need the most TLC during the unit.

4. Ask how many of them have had writer’s block when it comes to poetry. Tell them that writer’s block is something that all writers go through and that all writers handle writer’s block differently. Some keep to a set schedule when writing, some write about inane stuff until they get a good idea, some seek out inspiration in other people’s work or in their own daily lives and some write about writer’s block. Ask a student to read aloud the poem, “Writer Waiting” by Shel Silverstein. Ask students what the point of the poem is. (That a computer can do all sorts of fancy things, but can’t do anything if the writer doesn’t have an idea!)

5. Ask if this is good poetry? Is there anything that they see in this poem that they want to add to their “What Makes Good Poetry” list?

6. During this unit, students will handle writer’s block in two ways. First they’ll explore other poets’ works and find inspiration there. Then, they’ll have an opportunity to explore their own lives and the insights found there. When students read others’ work, they’ll have to dig into the poems. Read the poem aloud (or have a student read aloud), “How To Eat a Poem” by Eve Merriam. Again, ask students what the point of the poem is. (To talk about how you should dig into a poem and don’t worry about a lot of extra stuff. Just enjoy it for what it is.)

7. Ask if this is good poetry. Is there anything that they see in this poem that they want to add to their “What Makes Good Poetry” list?

8. Pass out student handouts, I’m a Poet and Didn’t Know It-Definitions and How Can I Make Poetry More Poetic? Go over the handouts with students.

9. Explain that students will be taking notes and reviewing these handouts many times throughout the unit, so they will be keeping their work in a secure place. (Either use the suggestion for student folders or create another system for storing student work.) Allow students time to collect their work and set up for storage.

10. Ask students to go home and find an example of poetry. It can be song lyrics (clean ones only), an ad, an actual poem, etc. This is not for a grade; it is merely to gather a collection of poems. Ask students to write the lyrics on a sheet of notebook paper so they can be displayed on the bulletin board.

11. Pass out the diagnostic and allow students time to reflect on their scores. Have them place diagnostic in their poetry folder.

12. Place today’s handouts back in poetry folders and put poetry folders in a secure place.

13. As a way to bring closure to the lesson, share your own favorite poetry or poetry books. If time permits, allow time for exploration of the poetry books.


As this is an introductory lesson, students are mainly being questioned about their thoughts on poetry, what makes good poetry and where poetry can be found. standards for the lesson are in their introductory stage only. Students should be observed for their reactions as those with the most negative reactions may need the most TLC during the unit.

The diagnostic assessment was given during Day One of the unit. Scoring criteria can be found on the Diagnostic instructions. See Extensions.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

2. When going over the diagnostic with students, allow them to add information and/or correct errors as compared with model answers.

3. Using a Word Wall may help students remember some of the complex vocabulary used within the unit. Simply use a blank section of the wall to post vocabulary words or other troublesome words written on construction paper. Remove words prior to the summative assessment.

Web Links

Web supplement for There's a Writer Waiting Inside Me
Writer Waiting by Shel Silverstein

Web supplement for There's a Writer Waiting Inside Me
How to Eat A Poem by Eve Merriam

Attached Files

Handouts for There's A Writer Waiting     File Extension: pdf

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