Beacon Lesson Plan Library

On Top of the World

Cynthia Youngblood
Santa Rosa District Schools


After the teacher reads excerpts from an autobiography and a magazine article about a blind's man journey to climb farther than the eye can see, students write a bio-poem about him.


The student analyzes and revises draft to further develop a piece of writing by adding or deleting details and explanations; clarifying difficult passages; and rearranging words, sentences, and paragraphs to improve meaning.


-A copy of the book: Weihenmayer, Erik. [Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See]. New York, New York: Dutton, 2001. (Teacher can orally share selected passages.)
-Magazine article(s) about Erik's adventure to climb Mt. Everest (See Preparations)
-Class copies of A Brief Biography handout (See Associated File)
-Class copies of Reflection Starters (See Associated File)
-Bio-Poem handout for each student (See Associated File)
-Pencil or pen for each student
-Paper for each student


1. Obtain a copy of the autobiography: Weihenmayer, Erik. [Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See]. New York, New York: Dutton, 2001.
2. Obtain a copy or a reprint of a magazine article about him. (Refer to Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature in the media center or search the archives online.) Note: Erik Weihenmayer's story, [A Hero's Ascent] was the cover of [Time] on June 18, 2001. This article is listed in the online archives, but can only be accessed by payment. (See Weblinks)
3. Make copies of the Bio-Poem handout for students. (See Associated File)


1. Tell students that they will be listening to numerous excerpts from an autobiography about Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Mt. Everest. Distribute handout copies of a brief biography of Erik’s life and orally read the information to the class. (You may call on a student in the class to orally read the biography.)

2. Read excerpts to the class from the autobiography [Touch the Top of the World]. (See Materials)

3. Next, read excerpts from the [Time] magazine article about Erik’s adventure of being the first blind man to climb Mt. Everest. (See Weblinks)

4. Give students about ten minutes to respond about Erik’s biographical information, using the Reflection Starters. Students should complete each of the sentences. (See Associated File)

5. After they have completed their writing, ask students to orally share their reflections with the entire class.

6. Lead students in a class discussion about the life of Erik Weihenmayer.

7. Explain the biographical poem (bio-poem) after handing out copies of the bio-poem formula. (See Associated File) Tell the students that they will be writing their own bio-poems about Erik. A bio-poem is a poem that relates specific information about a person. It is a formula for creating a quick picture of someone.

8. Share orally the bio-poem on the handout. (See Associated File)

9. As a homework assignment to be completed overnight, tell students to use information from both of the previously studied sources and write a biographical poem about Erik Weihenmayer. Students may also use information on the Internet. (See Weblinks)

10. Assess their poems. (See Assessments)


The bio-poems are assessed to see if the students' poems are focused on the topic of Erik Weihenmayer and reflect insight into the writing situation.


Students could write a comparison/contrast essay using two sources of information about a topic.

Web Links

Web supplement for On Top of the World
High Sights Presentations

Search Time archives for articles and letters to the editor about Erik

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