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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



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



This lesson pairs a magazine article about the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck in 1975 with the Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” After comparing and contrasting the elements of each text, students will choose a historical event and, using the song as a model, create a narrative poem about their chosen event.

In addition, more contemporary songs and current events will also work for this activity.


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Increasing student interest and motivation is a constant concern for teachers. Incorporating history and music into an English Language Arts lesson can serve to “motivate students, increase student achievement, [and] promote positive attitudes toward subject matter” (Cruickshank). NCTE echoes this idea in its Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies, noting, “It is the interplay of meaning-making systems (alphabetic, oral, visual, etc.) that teachers should strive to study and produce. ‘Multiple ways of knowing’ also include…music.”

In its “Adolescent Literary: A Policy Research Brief,” NCTE also notes that “allowing student choice in writing tasks…can increase motivation.” Further, NCTE asserts that “self-selection and variety engage students by enabling ownership in literacy activities.”

Further Reading

Cruickshank, Douglas. "Kaleidoscopic Learning: An Overview of Integrated Studies." Edutopia. The George Lucas Foundation, 7 Oct. 2008. Web. 30 Aug. 2012. http://www.edutopia.org/integrated-studies-interdisciplinary-learning-overview.


NCTE Executive Committee. 2005. Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies. Web. November 2009. http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/multimodalliteracies.


National Council of of Teachers of English. 2007. NCTE Principles of Adolescent Literacy Reform: A Policy Research Brief. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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