826 National logoThe following lesson plan was written by Thao Nguyen for Don't Forget to Write: for the Secondary Grades (Jossey-Bass, 2011), a collection of lesson plans compiled by 826 National, a network of nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping students, ages six through eighteen, with expository and creative writing, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. This lesson plan is intended for one session of twenty to thirty minutes.



A live flamenco guitar player or recorded dramatic romantic music



My main objective when working with teenagers is to get them to loosen up. This was originally a creative songwriting lesson designed as a warm-up, to encourage students to emote and be silly and abandon some of their finely honed reservations… to encourage self-expression, and have them express themselves outside their own experience.

Another objective of this exercise is to write succinctly and evocatively—enough to hypothetically win a heart.

Everyone talks and cries about love some time. And even if the student has not personally dealt in love, imagining oneself in the throes should be feasible enough. In this exercise, they do exactly that.

1. Set a scene. Please be overly dramatic—set a tone for freewheeling silliness and passionate expression: The love of your life is about to sail away. You have messed up! BIG TIME! You have four lines to make him or her stay.

2. Explain that the lines have to be good enough to convince the person you have wronged to stay and give you a second chance. The lines should also sound good being delivered. “But I like you” might not read as well given the high drama and tension of the moment. Basic rules: no clichés, no poems that start with “Roses are red, violets are blue.”

3. Give the students ten minutes to compose their verses. Rhyming is optional.

4. Ask a student volunteer to stand on a chair or desk or any kind of raised platform. Tell the student that he or she is at the edge of the ship’s deck. Provide a handkerchief to wave. Ask the student to try tearing up, or at the very least to look sad and disappointed.

5. Cue music.

6. Ask for another student to step forward and deliver his or her lines. Encourage passion and emotion. Maybe have the student take a knee. Turn up dramatic romantic music so he or she has to plead and woo over it. We have had great success with students clutching their verses to their hearts and fake sobbing.

7. If the student on the ship is not compelled to stay, please invite the next volunteer to pine and profess.