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Lesson Plan

Making History Come Alive Through Poetry and Song

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Making History Come Alive Through Poetry and Song

Grades 6 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Ann Kelly Cox

Normal, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






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Venn Diagram

Grades   K – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Venn Diagram

This interactive tool allows students to create Venn diagrams that contain two or three overlapping circles, enabling them to organize their information logically.


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  • Gordon Lightfoot: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

    This site provides historical background on the shipwreck, links to the lyrics and music, as well as links to additional Edmund Fitzgerald websites and news articles.


  • Critical Evaluation of Information

    This site includes an extensive amount of information on conducting Internet research and evaluating websites, including surveys to guide students as they complete their research.


  • Poetic Forms & Techniques

    This site, from the Academy of American Poets, contains brief definitions and examples of poetic devices.


  • Purdue Online Writing Lab

    Students and teachers will find step-by-step instructions on how to cite sources using MLA format.


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  1. If your classroom does not have computer access, arrange for class time in the computer lab.
  2. Make copies of “The Cruelest Month,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics, Prewriting Chart, Historical Poem Checklist, Historical Poem Rubric, and Reflection Sheet.
  3. Prepare a montage of song clips about historical events. Suggestions: Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Nena’s “99 Luftballons,” Kanye West’s “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” or U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
  4. Depending on your students’ familiarity with research and citations, you may wish to spend time teaching these concepts. See the ReadWriteThink lesson Wading Through the Web: Teaching Internet Research Strategies for more information. You may also wish to refer to Critical Evaluation of Information or Purdue Online Writing Lab.
  5. Depending on your students’ comfort level with reading and writing poetry, you may decide to spend time teaching or reviewing these concepts. See the ReadWriteThink lessons What is Poetry? Contrasting Poetry and Prose or Poetry: Sound and Sense for ideas. You may also wish to refer to Poetic Forms & Techniques for brief definitions and examples of poetic devices.
  6. Test the Venn Diagrams to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

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