Who’s My Morrie?

I wanted to switch up activities in my English 10 classes and instead of having them write another journal or essay-type of response, I decided to have them write two poems. These would be about people who influenced them positively–their ‘Morries’.

This is something I’ve done in the past with tenth graders, so I was excited about implementing it this year. [To see the complete lesson plan, click here.] First, I introduced the poem activity by talking about Mitch and Morrie’s relationship. I asked the students to define it in a single word or short phrase. I wrote what they came up with on the board: teacher-student, father-son, friendship, ‘bros’ (LOL), family, love, etc. I then pointed them to a few pages in their book where the relationship was explained, for example, page 80 which mentions the teacher and a teacher’s influence. I wanted them to start thinking towards teachers/mentors/coaches/influences, which would be the focus of their poems.

After talking about their relationship, I transitioned into the personal connection–‘Morries’ in their lives. We listed examples of teachers at each grade level, coaches, family members, or old friends who had guided them. We also listed qualities of those people, and why they were important.

Here's what the board looked like as we progressed.
Here’s what the board looked like as we progressed.

I used the examples and ideas on the board to move into talking about the poems. I gave each of my students a Poetry Assignment Sheet and Poetry Assignment Rubric explaining what I was looking for and showing them the given template. I always use a template with this activity because 1. it helps to focus the students and 2. it makes poetry much more manageable.

As I handed out the rubric and explanation, I made sure the students understood that I wanted two poems, one of which could be about a family member. I had them highlight that on their sheet and put their name on it.

Then, when I had everyone’s attention, I showed them one of My Examples (both of my examples were typed out on their assignment sheet) and had them follow along. I read the poem about my father, and after reading, I highlighted several important aspects of my poem: grammar, description and detail, and the template. I underlined, on the board, the template as well as detail, showing my students what I wanted them to do in their poems.

After that, I handed each of them a Poetry Brainstorming Worksheet, where they could write out ideas and details for their people and poems. They spent the remainder of the period working on their Brainstorming sheets and if they finished, starting on their poems.

I required the template, but this student asked if she could write one without. I agreed, and this is her second poem, written in her own template with my suggestions for improvement.

Flash forward about a week, and my next step with these poems was to return them to the students with corrections and ideas for making their poems stronger. My students struggle with editing and proofreading, so I wanted to encourage them in a positive direction and help them to see areas of improvement.

I spent the period walking around and helping students with their editing. I also required them to type their poems, so it kept everyone pretty busy for at least the first twenty minutes of class. When students were done with their poems, I had them print them downstairs in the library, and then glue them to construction paper and decorate them to hang on the wall. My hope was to have the poems hung for conferences next week. I wanted to showcase their improvements and hard work!

Here is the progression of the poem activity, with one student’s example:

What I enjoyed about this activity, and how I did it this year, was that it allowed me to not only formatively assess students as they wrote and edited their poems, but it also allowed them to see areas they struggled with, and work to improve those areas before handing in the finished product. I love what my classroom looks like with these poems hung! 🙂


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