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Lesson Plan

A Race With Grace: Sports Poetry in Motion

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A Race With Grace: Sports Poetry in Motion

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Maureen Carroll

Pleasanton, California


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: Exploring Movement

Sessions 2 and 3: Creating a Sports/Movement Center

Session 4: Poetry in Motion

Session 5: Poetry Presentation


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Explore the idea of how to describe movement by looking at images and short films of athletes and discussing them, by generating a class list of words related to movement, and by responding to writing prompts

  • Practice research and critical thinking by viewing, interpreting, and responding to different media

  • Demonstrate comprehension by summarizing information from varied sources

  • Synthesize what they have learned by assembling a body of words and images creating an original poem

  • Practice oral presentation skills by sharing their poem with the class

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Session 1: Exploring Movement

1. Share the following websites with your students. If possible, you may wish to use a projector.

As you visit each website, ask students to respond to what they see, focusing specifically on movement.

2. Tell students they are going to create a class word wall that describes movement. Explain that this is a collection of words that they can use for inspiration and ideas. (The wall should include words but not definitions.) As you construct the wall with students' suggestions, use questions to help them elaborate their choices and further explore the images they are looking at. For example, if a student suggests the word fast you might ask for further elaboration by saying, "Describe what part of his or her body is moving fast."

3. Ask your class to think about what they have just seen on the websites you shared. What other words can they come up with that might work for the wall? Continue adding words until you feel that there is a wide range of movement described. You can also include your own suggestions.

Note: Continue to add to the word wall throughout the lesson activities; it will provide a resource for students to use as they write their poems.

4. Ask each student to respond to the following prompts in a writing journal:

  • How does it feel to move your body?

  • What do you think the phrase beauty in motion means?

  • What do you think the word grace means?

  • What sport do you think is the most beautiful to watch? Why?

  • If you were a painter, which sport would you like to paint? Why?
5. Ask for volunteers to share their responses to the journal prompts. The goal of the discussion is to elicit an understanding of how grace, beauty, and aesthetics are expressed through movement.

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Sessions 2 and 3: Creating a Sports/Movement Center

1. Tell students they that are going to create a classroom Sports/Movement Center that contains examples of bodies in motion. Divide the class into groups of three or four students each. Tell each group that it is responsible for collecting the following:

  • Ten pictures of bodies in motion in a variety of athletic activities

  • Twenty words that describe movement
Explain to students that they will use a variety of resources to assemble their images and words including pictures they take of each other, websites, and the materials you have assembled (see Preparation, Step 6).

2. Bring students outside or to a gymnasium, and provide them with disposable or digital cameras to take photographs of each other as they move. Encourage them to try all different types of movement — playing with balls, climbing on playground equipment, or just running and jumping.

Students can also bring in photographs from home or take the cameras home with them. The pictures will need to be developed or printed off before Step 4.

3. Students should also use the websites you have bookmarked and the materials you have gathered to assemble their words and images (see Preparation, Steps 3 and 6). While the groups are working, answer questions and provide support as needed.

Note: If you do not have enough cameras or computers for the entire class, you may choose to have half the class completing Step 2 while the rest of the class does Step 3

4. Each group should present its collection of images and words for the Sports/Movement Center to the entire class. Add the new words that have been generated to describe movement to the classroom word wall.

You can work with students to determine how they might best present their findings, but some possible ideas for presentations include the following:

  • Collages

  • Posters

  • Slideshows

  • Books

  • Murals
5. Encourage students to discuss their classmates' presentations, as they might find inspiration for the poems they are going to create in Session 4 Place the materials they presented in a center so that other students can use them. You may also wish to invite others in the school to view the class work.

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Session 4: Poetry in Motion

1. Tell students that they are going to write and illustrate a poem that shows the grace and beauty of bodies in motion.

2. Model how to choose a word and work with students to write a poem. You can simply write a word such as ice skating on the board, and ask students to brainstorm ideas for a free form poem. You might also choose to begin with a poem that uses a specific format such as a cinquain, which is a five-line poem. Share the following example with the class:
Graceful, fast
Twirling, gliding, leaping
They dance across the ice
The form of a cinquain poem is as follows:

  • Line 1: subject

  • Line 2: two describing words

  • Line 3: –ing words about what the subject does

  • Line 4: a sentence about the subject

  • Line 5: another name for the subject
3. When you have finished writing the class poem, talk to students about how you would evaluate it. Questions for discussion include:

  • Does the poem make you think of the movement it is describing?

  • Does the poem use words that make you think of the sport?

  • Can you see the images the poem is describing in your mind's eye?

  • Does the poem use creative and appropriate language?
4. Write down students' responses and use them to generate a rubric. Alternatively, you might distribute the Sports Poetry Rubric and ask students to use it to evaluate the poem. When you are finished talk about whether this adequately captures all of the things you need to evaluate in their poems. Use students' responses to help you develop a class rubric.

5. Ask students to select a sport or activity that involves body movement. (If possible, this sport or activity should be one that they have participated in.) Tell them that they may choose to work in small groups, pairs, or individually for this activity.

6. There are several ways you can encourage students' creativity as they begin to write. First, you may wish to have students browse through the Sports/Movement Center collection to get ideas and inspiration. You can also encourage students to use the class word wall as a resource. Playing music in the background is often helpful in unleashing the creative spirit. You may also choose to invite your students to use the interactive Doodle Splash tool as they brainstorm ideas to illustrate and write their poem.

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Session 5: Poetry Presentation

Host a class presentation showcasing students' poems and illustrations. You may choose several options to present students' work. You can create a class slideshow using iPhoto or iMovie, create a mural to serve as a backdrop for the presentation, bind all the poems in a book and have each group or student read a page, or create a classroom website.

You may also wish to videotape the performance if possible to share with others in the school and community.

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  • Encourage students to create a class collection of sports poems. Begin by sharing the following books with your students.

    • Opening Days: Sports Poems edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Harcourt, 1996)

    • Sports! Sports! Sports!, A Poetry Collection edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (HarperCollins, 1999)

  • Write a poem in response to "The Four Dancers" by Edgar Degas.

  • Explore the photographs of dancers in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

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  • Read students' journal reflections and discuss any ideas you feel would be helpful. Use your observations to guide further discussion on aesthetic elements of sports and movement.

  • Observe students' group work in creating presentations for the Sports/Movement Center collection. Foster discussion to generate words and ideas on the lesson theme within the small groups.

  • Use either the Sports Poetry Rubric or the rubric you create with the class to evaluate student poems. You might choose to use the rubric in the following ways as well:

    • Have students use it as a self-evaluation.

    • Work individually with students to revise their poems based on your feedback and their own.

    • Lead a class discussion on the effectiveness of the rubric.

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