Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Little Mysteries Solved in a Poem

Dawn Capes
Bay District Schools


This lesson is designed to help students think abstractly and randomly about solving life's little problems and then taking that knowledge to create a life is... metaphor or simile poem.


The student organizes information before writing according to the type and purpose of writing.

The student drafts and revises writing that -is focused, purposeful, reflects insight into the writing situation;-conveys a sense of completeness and wholeness with adherence to the main idea;-has an organizational pattern that provide for a logical progression of ideas;-has support that is substantial, specific, revelant, concrete, and/or illustrative;-demonstrates a commitment to and an involvement with the subject;-has clarity in presentation of ideas;uses creative writing strategies appropriate to the purpose of the paper;demonstrates a command of language (word choice) with freshness of expression;has varied sentence structure and sentences that are complete except when fragments are used and purposefully; andhas few, if any, convention errors in mechanics, usage, and punctuation.

The student produces final documents that have been edited for-correct spelling;-correct punctuation, including commas, colons, and semicolons;-correct common usage, including subject/verb agreement, common noun/pronoun agreement, common possessive forms, and with a variety of sentence structures,including parallel structure; and-correct formatting.

The student selects language that shapes reactions, perceptions, and beliefs.

The student uses literary devices and techniques in the comprehension and creation of written, oral, and visual communications.

The student knows how mood or meaning is conveyed in poetry, such as, word choice, dialect, invented words, concrete or abstract terms, sensory or figurative language; use of sentence structure, line length, punctuation, and rhythm.


-Von Oech, Roger. A WHACK ON THE SIDE OF THE HEAD: HOW YOU CAN BE MORE CREATIVE. New York: Warner Books. 1983
-Computers with word-processing program and printer
-Random word page (described in Procedures)


Obtain a copy of the book listed in the materials section.

Step two: Create any handouts or review materials for basic poetry techniques.

Step three: Review rubric and determine if vocabulary and concepts are appropriate for level of students.

Step four: Begin.


1. Review the basics of poetry. Focus on the following: metaphor, simile, imagery, rhyme, word choice, conventions.

2. Introduction. Begin the lesson by speaking to students about how people have always searched for the answers to their problems and ambiguous situations in outside sources. These outside sources include Tarot cards, psychics, oracles, Runes, etc. These sources are interesting to look at in terms of history, regardless of their veracity. In this activity, the class will borrow a technique for stretching their imaginations and creativity. Using the book, A WHACK ON THE SIDE OF THE HEAD, study the examples concerning ancient Athenians and how the oracle helped them defend themselves against on-coming Persians by giving them a vague and ambiguous answer to their question of defense. Point out how this ambiguous answer made the Athenians stretch their imaginations and come up with the best possible answer to their problem.

3. Generate a random piece of information. Have students come up with three questions. These can be serious questions, funny, intriguing, or just plain silly. These will be private unless they want to share.

4. Then, give them a page like the one in the book, A WHACK ON THE SIDE OF THE HEAD, which contains nothing but words. These words are random and various. Examples include wristwatch, engine, color, hole, bottle, bird, trap, etc. No punctuation is needed.

5. Tell students that they are now their own oracles. They need to put the first question in their minds, close their eyes, and put their fingers on the paper. The word which appears under the finger is the answer to the question. Now, they need to figure out what it means. How can that word help them answer the question. For example: Will it ever stop raining? The answer was 'crystal.' This could mean that soon the weather will be crystal clear.

6. Begin by reminding students that peolple have always searched for the answers to life's questions. What is life? How can it be explained in terms that are understandable and clear? Now, have students define a metaphor and simile. Explain to them that now they are going to become their own -oracles- and attempt to explain what life is.

7. Have students put the words 'life is...' in their minds and randomly select a word as they did in Step five. Now, they will attempt to write a poem in which they explain how life can be like this word they chose. (If students are unclear or cannot figure anything out for the word, have them choose again. Tell them the oracle wasn't good to them and they need to try again.)

8. Give students a copy of the poetry rubric. Review.

9. Have students begin writing. They should take the poem through the entire writing process. The teacher may want to use a basic checklist to check for the following items: brainstorm, first draft, self-conference, second draft, student conference, final. The teacher can assess the needs of the students and determine if all six stages are needed or not.

10. Have students finalize writings and type on a basic word processing program. (Poems can be bound into a Life Is... booklet.)


Formative assessment occurs throughout the lesson with peer and self-assessment as students use the rubric. The use of the writing process is assessed through teacher observation and assistance during writing time as well as with the checklist. Other benchmarks are assessed summatively by the teacher, using the rubric in the attached file.


Students will benefit from a basic background knowledge of poetic techniques and from reading other poems.
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