Research, Real Life, and Coney Island

By Linda Morel and Jessie Paddock

In this lesson plan developed by T&W writers Linda Morel and Jessie Paddock for third-grade classes at PS 90 in Coney Island, New York City, the teaching artists invite students to explore how their real-world experience of place can inform their understanding of research.

Grade: 3rd

Genre: Poetry

Download: Research, Real Life, and Coney Island

Common Core Standards (Refer to the ELA Standards > Writing > Grade 3): 

  • ELA-LITERACY.W.3.4: With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.
  • ELA-LITERACY.W.3.7: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

Lesson Objectives: 

Students will:

  • Expand their understanding of research by learning how it can be a tool and source of inspiration for poetry through recognizing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes around them.
  • Use sensory language as a way to describe a place, in this case, Coney Island, Brooklyn.
  • Read George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From.”

Guiding Questions: 

  • What is research?
  • Can observing your surroundings and experience be considered research?
  • How can we use sensory language to explore (research) and draw personal connection to setting—in this case, Coney Island?
  • What are the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of Coney Island?

Opening Ritual (1 minute): 

The following is a call and response led by TA (teaching artist):

I have a voice (repeat)
My voice is powerful (repeat)
My voice can change the world (repeat)

Warm Up (2 minutes):

  • Pre-writing activity: Answer the following prompt in 1-2 sentences or a short phrase. What is your favorite sight or thing to do in Coney Island?

Mentor Text (10 minutes): 

  • TA distributes “Where I’m From,” shows image of author, and reads author bio to the class.
  • TA reads poem aloud. Students are encouraged to underline sensory details and images of place in support of close reading.
  • Student volunteer(s) reads the poem aloud a second time.
  • TA leads a brief discussion about the poem by asking the following questions. Remind students to offer textual evidence in response to the questions.
  • What did we learn about Lyon’s home (she lived in the country, what plants grew in the yard, foods, friends, family of church people, box of photos of people past)?
  • What sensory details and descriptions of place did she use to describe her home?
  • How does the author feel about her home? How do you know that?

Writing (10 minutes): 

  • TA leads students in a group modeling/pre-writing exercise in preparation for individual writing. Invite students to reflect on their own sensory experience of Coney Island. Name some of the geographical elements of Coney Island such as: the ocean, boardwalk, sand, amusement parks, rollercoasters, nautical street names, Aquarium, and parachute jump.
  • TA makes a list of student suggestions on SmartBoard or chart paper. Let students know that this list is their “word bank” to draw from for their poems.
  • Students begin writing their own “Where I’m From” poem.

Sharing (2 minutes):

  • Students are invited to read (a portion of) their poems aloud.

Closing Ritual (1 minute):

The following is a call and response led by TA:

I’m a poet (repeat)
And I know it (repeat)
I have my whole life to show it (repeat)


Vocabulary: Sensory details, memory

Multi-Modal Approaches to Learning: Verbal-Linguistic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal


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