Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us



Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.



Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.



Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Writing Free Verse in the "Voice" of Cesar Chavez

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)


Writing Free Verse in the "Voice" of Cesar Chavez

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 40- to 50-minute class sessions
Lesson Author

Dori Maria Jones

Oxnard, California


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Identify the characteristics of free verse and be able to use the characteristics in the writing of a free verse poem

  • Express the impact of specific experiences on Cesar Chavez's life and write descriptive notes about these experiences from Chavez's viewpoint

  • Compose a free verse poem in the "voice" of Chavez that recounts his experiences

  • Revise and polish the free verse poem using specific strategies, including graphic organizers and a rubric

back to top


Session 1

1. Ask students what they know about Cesar Chavez, the labor activist and founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW). Then have students develop questions that they still have about Chavez. Using an overhead projector, write the questions that students generate.

2. Read aloud chapters 3 through 5 of Cesar Chavez: A Real-Life Reader Biography by Susan Zannos. As you read, have students take notes as they hear the answers to their questions. (Not all questions they have asked will be answered by the reading.)

3. Discuss the answers to students' questions.

back to top


Session 2

1. Read aloud three free verse poems, including

2. Ask students to identify what they think are the distinguishing characteristics of a free verse poem. Then summarize the characteristics by referring to the Characteristics of Free Verse Poetry that you have posted in the classroom.

3. Distribute copies of chapter 2, paragraph 1 from Cesar E. Chavez: Middle School Biography. Have students read this passage silently.

4. Have students name the major events in the passage. Copy them onto an overhead transparency.

5. Point out to students that the poem "A Bad Day at School" is based upon the events described in the passage. Explain that the poem relates the events in the first person. That is, as a young child, Chavez is speaking to his mother about his early school experiences. The poem is told in Chavez's words and from his point of view. Tell students that after reading about events in the life of Chavez, they, too, will write a free verse poem in Chavez's voice.

6. Display the graphic organizer Preparing to Write a Free Verse Poem About Cesar Chavez on an overhead projector. Model the use of the graphic organizer by referring to the one that you prepared in advance of the lesson (see Preparation, 2) and explaining how the organizer is used to summarize the events in Chavez's life.

back to top


Session 3

1. Distribute copies of the story that you have selected from Cesar E. Chavez: Middle School Biography.

2. Have students read the story silently or aloud.

3. If all students are writing poems based upon the same story, review the events of the story. Write down the events using an overhead projector.

4. Distribute the graphic organizer Preparing to Write a Free Verse Poem About Cesar Chavez.

5. Give students time to use the graphic organizer to tell the story using their own descriptive words and phrases. Remind them that they must write in the first person, from Chavez's perspective. Discuss how Chavez's language, description, and perspective on the event might change as his age changes. After they write these notes, it may help to break their notes into shorter lines by using a slash to indicate line breaks.

6. Show students the model of Focusing on the Language of Your Free Verse Poem that you prepared in advance for "A Bad Day at School" (see Preparation, 2). Go over it with them, explaining changes that you made in the language of the poem.

back to top


Session 4

1. Have students revise their poems by using Focusing on the Language of Your Free Verse Poem. Students can add new words and eliminate unnecessary words. Provide one-on-one assistance to those who need further help with this aspect of the writing process.

2. Have students read first drafts of their poems in collaborative groups of four or five students.

3. Give students the Rubric for Polishing Your Poem, which presents strategies for writing powerful poetry. Help students evaluate their own poems; read each question aloud and have students fill in the answer. Discuss how they will use the rubric to determine which parts of their poems need revising.

4. Give students time at home (from one weekend to a full week) to polish their poems and to write final drafts.

back to top



  • Have students read final drafts of their poems in class.

  • Reinforce students' understanding of the free verse poetic form by examining the poem "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins.

  • Using a second story about Cesar Chavez, have students write another free verse poem from the point of view of Chavez, using the graphic organizer to summarize the event and the rubric to polish the poem.

back to top



  • Have students find and share three more examples of free verse poetry. Have them tell, orally or in writing, the characteristics that make them free verse poems.

  • Use the Rubric for Polishing Your Poem to assess the final drafts of the poems that students have written for this lesson.

  • Using Preparing to Write a Free Verse Poem About Cesar Chavez, evaluate whether students' poems are an accurate representation of the story.

back to top