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Always Write
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Mentor Texts: WritingFix's iPods & Song Lyrics Across the Curriculum Inservice Class
sharing lessons and resources from Northern Nevada teacher workshops
"This was the first inservice class I've taken that made me want to teach writing. You guys are inspiring!" (--James S., high school science teacher)
"Music is the last true voice of the human spirit. It can go beyond language, beyond age, and beyond color straight to the mind and heart of all people." -- Ben Harper

Hello, my name is Rob Stone, a high school language arts and social studies teacher and the Page Host for this iPod-inspired Writing Across the Curriculum homepage here at Writingfix. And here is what I believe…

If you asked today’s students to rank the things that are most important to them, two things are sure to make nearly every list. As a matter of fact, for them, these two things supersede any mere list and move into an almost spiritual realm that includes things that are vital to their very survival. Those two things, of course, are technology and music.

The reality is that, though classic literature, chapter books and picture books will always maintain their well-deserved importance in growing minds, today’s students find inspiration in places beyond the published works traditionally used in the classroom. If we truly want to reach them and make connections, we have to meet them where they are and “link” our world as teachers to their world as millennial learners.

I passionately believe that one of the places to look for that missing link is where today’s technology meets music: the iPod. Skeptical? Pull out an iPod in class and watch the interest immediately appear on your students' faces. Put lyrics on the overhead and watch the focus in their eyes. Hit play and they are yours. Implement a well-designed lesson attached to that song and you can do magic…

So what would a lesson for students look like if it was inspired by something shared from the teacher's iPod? The purpose of this page is to answer that question. It contains many writing across the curriculum lessons created by many amazing teachers from nearly all curriculum areas. Each lesson is tied to the writing process, the writing traits and a “mentor text” which, in each poetry lesson below, is the song and its lyrics. Read, enjoy, and give some of them a try. We will consistently be adding great lessons to this page. Perhaps yours will be one of them.

Propose an iPod-inspired Writing Lesson! Join the WritingFix Family!

Propose your own ipod lesson to be posted at WritingFix! Here is our template for our iPod lessons. If we end up using your lesson at WritingFix, we will send you any two of the NNWP's Print Resources as our way of saying thank-you for sharing your ideas with the thousands of teachers who use this website.

Rob's iPod-inspired Writing Lessons

Inspired by: Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands as well as John Mayer’s Waiting On The World To Change.

Students write: a poem about how they might change the world.


Inspired by: Yesterday by the Beatles, Today by the Smashing Pumpkins, and Tomorrow from the Annie Soundtrack.

Students write: a poem exploring the past, present, and future.


Inspired by: Run D.M.C.’s My Adidas.

Students write: a creative piece of writing from the perspective of a personal object or item.

Inspired by: Shakespeare’s The Seven Ages of Man and Harry Chapin’s Cat’s In The Cradle.

Students write: a poem about their own life's stages.

Tell Rob what you think of these lessons. Join his Music Inspires Writing! ning and post your thoughts!

Inspired by: Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Students write: a poetic examination of a historical event.

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Off-site Web Recommendations:


On Rob's Bookshelf...

The Green Book of Songs by Subject: The Thematic Guide to Popular Music

This book also has an accompanying website.

Our Newest iPod Lesson
(Click on the image to access a newly posted lesson)

Creating a 2nd-Person
Choice Story

Demonstration Lessons Featured at the NNWP's iPods Across the Curriculum Teacher In-service Workshop:

In 2008, thanks to support from the Washoe County School District's Technology Department (headed by NNWP Consultant Joe Elcano), the Northern Nevada Writing Project began hosting a new type of inservice class for teachers. Our iPods Across the Curriculum Course challenged educators to not only establish a classroom iPod, but it also showed them ways that an iPod might inspire excellent and thoughtful writing assignments in any curriculum area.

Between spring of 2008 and spring of 2009, one-hundred specially-invited teachers attended this course and participated as writers, using many of the lessons posted below. In exchange for proposing their own lessons at the end of the class, the specially-invited teachers received a classroom iPod and an iTalk. Further down on this page, you will find some of the lessons this course inspired from its attendees.

Starting in fall of of 2009, the NNWP's iPods Across the Curriculum Course will be offered once annually, and although we won't have the funding to give away iPods any more, we are confident teachers will continue to take the course to learn how a simple piece of technology--the iPod--can bridge the gap between teachers and learners while inspiring students to write about issues and ideas that are important to them.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Dena Harrison

Dena teaches middle school language arts in Sparks, Nevada. She became a Consultant with the Northern Nevada Writing Project in 2001, and she currently coordinates inservice classes that help teachers utilize 6-trait language better in their classrooms. She is also Page Host at WritingFix's Revision Homepage. You can easily access all of Dena's on-line lessons by visiting her classroom webpage.

One Minute in Time Poems

Overview: Inspired by the Cure’s song 10:15 on a Saturday Night, students write about a slowed-down minute in time.

Color my World Grey and Blue

Overview: Inspired by Grey Street by the Dave Matthews Band and the song Blue is a Mood by Blu Cantrell, students will explore the role of color in a piece of writing

You Can't Ask for That Poems

Overview: Here is a new lesson that Dena is still developing! Both Sara Bareilles' song, Love Song, and Naomi Shihab Nye's wonderful poem, Valentine for Ernest Mann, talk about things you shouldn't ask for from another person. After comparing and contrasting the song with the poem, students write a You Can't Ask for That! poem about an original topic.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Corbett Harrison

Corbett served as Director of the Northern Nevada Writing Project between 2002 and 2007. He currently coordinates the NNWP's Writing Across the Curriculum inservice courses and teacher workshops, and he as acts webmaster for the WritingFix website. You can easily access all of Corbett's on-line lessons by visiting his personal webpage.

Quest Item Poems

Overview: Inspired by Jim Croce's I've Got a Name and two stories from Greek mythology, students plan a poem about being on life's journey and walking down the road of existence.

Tribute to an Artist and a Painting

Overview: Inspired by a Don McLean song (Vincent) and a Tupac Shakur poem (Starry Night) that both pay tribute to Van Gogh, student writers research an artist in order to pay a similar tribute.

CSI: The Cory Crime Scene

Overview: Here is a new lesson that Corbett is still developing! After comparing a famous poem--"Richard Cory"--and song by Simon and Garfunkel written about the poem, students create an interpretation that explains why they think Cory kills himself. Students then create three pieces of evidence that--if found by a CSI team--would lead those investigators to interpret the poem the same way.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Lisa Larson

After enrolling in every one-credit teacher inservice class offered by the NNWP, Lisa finally joined the Northern Nevada Writing Project as a Consultant in 2009 by participating in its five-credit summer institute. Lisa teaches middle school in Cold Springs, Nevada, and we are thrilled that she is now presenting at NNWP inservices instead of just taking them!

If Today is Your Last Day

Overview: Inspired by Nickelback’s If Today Was Your Last Day, s tudents will vividly share a memory and detail the importance of the loved one in their life.

Beautiful Noise Poetry

Overview: After listening to Neil Diamond’s Beautiful Noise and recording the images that he describes in the song, students will choose their own "beautiful noise" and turn the images of those sounds into a poem

Summarizing History with a Found Poem

Overview: Here is a new lesson that Lisa is just developing! Inspired by James Keelaghan's song, Cold Missouri Waters, students will identify the main message and story; they will use a note-taking strategy and create a "found poem." They will then apply this strategy to an article from a printed mentor text of the teacher's choosing.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Tamara Turnbeaugh

A full-time high school language arts teacher, Tamara became a Consultant for the Northern Nevada Writing Project in 2006. She is passionate about both literature and music, and she works hard to show her students how the two connect. Tamara also coordinates the NNWP's Literature Excerpts as Mentor Text inservice class.

Ain't That America

Overview: Students rewrite a song's lyrics--John Mellencamp's Pink Houses--incorporating conflicts from literature they are reading, history they are studying, or conflicts an original character they create might be having.

Creating Memorable Advice

Overview: Inspired by Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen), students write advice on life to others.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Amie Newberry

After a hiatus from teaching to raise two wonderful children, Amie returned to the classroom in 2007 and immediately became a Consultant for the Northern Nevada Writing Project. Amie also serves as Page Host for WritingFix's Creative Publishing Page, and she Coordinates the NNWP's annual Chapter Books as Mentor Texts inservice class.

Advice to Youth on Things Now GONE

Overview: After comparing Gone by Switchfoot to a famous "old" poem, students will create their own song or poem about their philosophy of life.

The Next Thing on my List

Overview: Inspired by Nickelback's If Today Was Your last Day, students write a polished list that details the things each student would like to experience in their lives.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Barbara Surritte-Barker

Barbara became a Northern Nevada Writing Project Consultant in 2006. She is a Nationally Board Certified teacher who artfully helps reluctant middle school students become better readers and writers in Sparks, Nevada. Barbara keeps a portfolio of her online lessons here at WritingFix, and she loves to enroll in other NNWP Consultants' classes.

Song-inspired Color Poetry

Overview: inspired by two songs--"Over the Rainbow" and "Color Me Blind"--students create an original color poem, then they craft a "layered collage" that represents the color they have written about.

My Big Break

Overview: inspired by Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway," students create a personal essay and a People Magazine cover dedicated to their strengths and dreams for the upcoming school year.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Yvette Deighton

Yvette is a both science teacher and literacy trainer who became a Northern Nevada Writing Project Consultant in 2008. Working for Nevada's Northwest Professional Development Program, she coordinates and facilitates trainings for Instructional Coaches. She is an admitted "NPR addict," which explains her passion for using their podcasts in her i-Pod presentations.

this i believe Essays...Science

Overview: Inspired by episodes of the “This I Believe” and “Science Friday” podcasts, students will write a "This I Believe" essay about a current scientific issue, which can be published on a classroom iPod or webpage.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Jamie Stone

Softly spoken and amazingly creative, Jamie became a Northern Nevada Writing Project Consultant in 2007 after participating in its five-credit summer institute. Not only does Jamie, a high school teacher, keep a personal portfolio of online lessons here at WritingFix, but she also co-hosts our Pre-Writing Homepage.

Paradox Poetry

Overview: Jack Johnson's Inaudible Melodies creates an interesting paradox of how society presents itself versus how society really behaves. Students will create a paradox of their own that they feel describes the difference between perception and reality. Students will then turn their paradox into an extended poem, using the song as a model for their own writing.


Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Karen McGee

Karen joined the Northern Nevada Writing Project as a Consultant in 1985 when she was teaching kindergarten. Before retiring twenty years later, she served as Washoe County School District's kindergarten coordinator as well as the head instructor for the NNWP's Summer Open Institute. Karen also hosts WritingFix's Alphabet Books Across the Curriculum Resource Page.

Things I Love Poems and Songs

Overview: Inspired by Tom T. Hall's song, I Love, as well as Eloise Greenfield's poem, Honey, I Love, students will create a poem/song about things they love.

Here You Are

Overview: inspired by a song from Carly Patterson, students create a personal essay explaining events that shaped them.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Temoca Dixon

After enrolling in every one-credit teacher inservice class offered by the NNWP, Temoca finally joined the Northern Nevada Writing Project as a Consultant in 2009 by participating in its five-credit summer institute. Temoca teaches middle school in Sparks, Nevada, and we are thrilled that she is now presenting at NNWP inservices instead of just taking them!

Bucket List Poetry

Overview: Using the song Live Like You Were Dying from the soundtrack for The Bucket List as a model, students will take a look at their values and the things they would like to accomplish in their lives before they run out of time. They will use their writing skills to create their own unique "bucket list," taking this piece of work through the entire writing process.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Jodie Black

Former NNWP Co-Director and always-amazing Kindergarten teacher, Jodie has been an active Consultant for the Northern Nevada Writing Project since 1990. In 2008, Jodie coordinated the creation of the NNWP's Six by Six Traits Guide for Kindergarten and First-Grade Teachers, whose contents can be perused on WritingFix's Traits in the Primary Grades Homepage.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...

Overview: For this environmentally-conscious lesson, students will use a song by Jack Johnson to develop ideas about how to “green” up their own classrooms. Students will also learn clever songs written to the tune of old classics that will lead them to brainstorming ideas for reducing, reusing, and recycling in their own classroom.

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Campbell Valle

Campbell, a truly gifted middle school teacher, joined the Northern Nevada Writing Project as a Consultant in 2007. Her commitment to academic standards and student engagement is well known in her school district, and her classroom is observed often as a model classroom. Campbell also hosts WritingFix's Response Homepage.

Teaching Character Traits

Overview: Inspired by the moral lessons from Free to Be You and Me, students will compose stories to be shared with elementary school children that teach character traits. They will watch videos and use plot charts to plan and organize their stories. Writers discover their own character by sharing their original stories with little ones!

Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Amy Richards

When Amy became a Consultant with the Northern Nevada Writing Project in 2007, she shared with us a lesson she used with her fourth graders that was inspired by multiple interpretations of Gershwin's Summertime. The NNWP was developing its iPods Across the Curriculum that same summer, and Amy quickly became one of our first presenters.

Summertime-inspired Memoirs

Overview: Using various modern and classic renditions of Summertime, from the opera Porgy and Bess, students study mood as it pertains to musical style and attempt to add mood to a reflection of a summertime memory.


Meet NNWP iPod Presenter:
Abby Olde

Abby, a fantastic middle school language arts teacher, became a Northern Nevada Writing Project Consultant in 2006. In addition to presenting her very popular iPod lesson, she also is working on WritingFix's Notetaking Project, and she maintains a personal portfolio of online lessons at our website.

Where is the Love? A Persuasive Essay

Overview: Inspired by two songs, students will think about worldly injustices and create an essay based on a persuasive argument. This lesson will hopefully help ignite a passion in students to stand up for change in their own persuasive essays.


Some Innovative Lessons Proposed by Participants of our iPods Across the Curriculum Inservice Workshop

Linear & Exponential
Growth Poetry

Overview: Students choose numbers and units of measurements, and then create short poems that compare and contrast exponential (or multiplied) and linear growth. This lesson is inspired by Schoolhouse rock songs as well as other videos.

Lesson Authors: Kellie Kareck, high school teacher

Math Songs

Overview: Students write instructions for math procedures that can be sung to the tunes of familiar nursery rhymes or songs. Working first in small groups, then as individuals, this activity helps students put ideas from notes into individual words.

Lesson Author: Lisa Baehr, high school teacher

Boogie Woogie
with a B

Overview: After discussing both the word choice and the patriotic tones of the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," students create new songs (sung to the same tune) that speak of other WWII patriotic characters.

Lesson Author: Marie Johnson, elementary teacher

I Say to You...
I Have a Dream

Overview: Inspired by Martin Luther King’s words and U2’s Pride (In the Name of Love), students will write speeches detailing their dreams for the future, using a format borrowed from King’s famous speech.

Lesson Author: Tami Ruf, high school teacher

Dancing with
the Math Stars!

Overview: Using disco music and the inspiration of TV's "Dancing with the Stars," students write the biographies of equations and graphs that are dancing on a television show where math-inspired dancers compete against each other.

Lesson Author: Holly Young, high school teacher


Overview: Students write accurate and organized summaries after hearing about current events in science from the New York Times weekly podcasts: Science Times. These summaries will go into student portfolios so that students can compare their ability to summarize at the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

Lesson Author: Nick Nemsgern, middle school teacher

Lesson Overview: Using two songs by India Arie, students will explore their own self image. After analyzing the qualities that each student feels that they embody, they will compare these to the qualities that they portray to others. The students will then be creating and taking through the writing process an expository essay comparing who they are internally vs. who they are seen as externally

Lesson Author: Allie Eckert, middle school teacher

How Will You Be Remembered?

Overview: In this lesson, students will be exploring self image. They will be analyzing how they would like to ultimately be remembered by writing a eulogy, inspired by Sarah McLachlan's I Will Remember You.

Lesson Author: Allie Eckart, Nevada middle school teacher

Favorite Things

Overview: Using the song My Favorite Things from the musical, The Sound of Music, as inspiration, students will create their own song or poem that lists their favorite things. Each verse will focus on their favorite things throughout a specific time during their lives--childhood, now and in the future.

Lesson Author: Shannon Devereaux, high school teacher

A Call
for Change

Overview: Using Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ as a model, students will brainstorm change. Their final product will be either a poem that models Dylan’s call for change or a prose piece which persuades someone to heed the call of this changing world.

Lesson Author: Rebekah Foster, high school teacher

Your Own
Personal Dream Team

Overview: Using the song Dream Team by Spearhead as a guide, students will craft an event program outlining and highlighting their own dream team. They will discover who is important in their lives, who motivates and inspires them, and how they can creatively describe these people to share with others in a fun and easy format.

Lesson Author: Whitney Foehl, high school teacher

Oh, the
Places You'll Go!

Overview: Using Van Morrison's Days Like This and Lee Ann Womack's I Hope You Dance as inspiration, explore and write about wisdom they have made about the world during their short time on this earth.

Lesson Author: Jennifer Reynolds, middle school teacher

The American

Overview: Using a song, two videos, and several readings, students will explore their views of the American Dream, and use a new personal understanding to create “animoto” videos that express a personal opinion or take on the dream.

Lesson Author: Cyndi Kirklin, high school teacher

Ain't Gonna Rain
No More

Overview: Using Mance Lipscomb's blues rendition of "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More" and Karen Beaumont's picture book I Ain't Gonna Paint No More as inspiration, students create an original four-line stanza that can be sung to this classic campfire song.  As they write to this quick-write, students study our language's helping verbs.

Lesson Authors: Jodie Black and Corbett Harrison, teachers

Compare & Contrast:
Poems vs. Lyrics

Overview: After listening and analyzing song lyrics and poems, students will discover how similar song writing and poetry writing can be. Students will get their own chance to write a small version of each genre to truly see that songs are really poems just put to music.

Lesson Author: Chrystal M. Johnson, high school language arts teacher

School Song

Overview: Using Weird Al Yankovic's "Eat It" alongside Alan Katz's picture book Take Me out of the Bathtub as inspiration, students create a song about something from school.  Students choose a song that the entire class is familiar with and craft new lyrics to the song.

Lesson Author: Tara Robertson, elementary teacher

The Dust Bowl

Overview: Students do not always empathize with the hardships of the past generations. Using Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads, students will combine the song lyrics with essential quotes from Out of the Dust/Grapes of Wrath to create their own "woven lyrical poetry" about the time period to show empathy and a theme.

Lesson Author: Caroline Hatcher, high school teacher

Creating a 2nd-Person
Choice Story

Overview: Students--perhaps inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure-style books--really enjoy writing choice-based stories for each other. This lesson is designed to help students understand plot dimensions and literary devices while writing a multi-faceted short story that has many possible outcomes.

Lesson Author: Dawn Callahan, high school teacher

Love Metaphors

Overview: Students--inspired by our serendipitous love metaphor making machine--create and explore multiple original metaphors for love. After expanding on them in their writer's notebook, they choose their best metaphor and turn it into a longer poem.

Lesson Author: Corbett Harrison, high school teacher



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