Canyonlands - America's Wild West Teaching Canyonlands

Write About It

Students will discuss figures of speech used in the video narration and write their own figures of speech and haiku about imagery in "Canyonlands."

Grade level: 5-8
Subject areas: Language Arts
Estimated time of completion: 1 hour

Instructional Objectives
Relevant National Standards
Tools and Materials Needed
Teaching Procedure: Figures of Speech
Teaching Procedure: Haiku
Assessment Recommendations
Extension Ideas
Web Resources

Instructional Objectives
Students will have the opportunity to:

  • identify and interpret grade appropriate figurative language
  • recognize why an author might chose to use figures of speech
  • construct their own figures of speech
  • write their own haikus

Relevant National Standards
National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association List of Standards for the English Language Arts

  • Students adjust their use of spoken, written and visual language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Tools and Materials Needed
PBS video, "Canyonlands"
TV and VCR
Pencil and paper

Teaching Procedure: Figures of Speech
1. After viewing the video, tell the class that the narrator of Canyonlands uses many figures of speech in her narration. Ask if they know what a figure of speech is and why people use them. Explain that the narrator uses metaphors, similes, and personification. (A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two different things without using a word of comparison such as "like" or "as." A simile is a figure of speech that make a comparison using either "like" or "as." Personification is a figure of speech in which an idea, object, or animal is given human qualities.) Or, show the video again have the students listen for figures of speech.

2. Review the some of the figures of speech used in the video and their meaning. Canyonland is a place where the voice of nature is heard. 01:29 Water is a rare treasure. 09:43 Autumn surrenders the land to winter. 21:44 The night pulses with life. 32:05 The chief architect is water. 08:17 Rain is liquid treasure. 09:43

3. Have the students choose an animal or plant in the video and write either a metaphor, simile, or personification. Then have them choose some other visual imagery from the video and write a metaphor, simile, or personification.

Teaching Procedure: Haiku
1. Tell the students that the narrator made the statement "few parts of our planet can inspire such wonder, awe, and reverence as the Canyonlands" (1:02). Ask students what they think she means. Tell the class there is a type of Japanese poetry about nature called haiku, which might be used to describe the awe and wonder of the Canyonlands. A haiku is three lines long. The first line is five syllables; the second, seven; the third, five. Below are examples of haiku written by fifth graders:

colored leaves falling

Floating in the sky

into the rippling river

White fluffy clouds passing by

while the sun shines bright

The sun shines golden

2. Have the students write haikus about the Canyonlands; then write a haiku about the area where they live.

Assessment Recommendations

  • The important aspect in assessment for this activity is to determine whether the student's work meets the criteria for each kind of writing.
  • Have students read each other's writing and have them judge whether that piece of writing met the criteria and to comment on their feelings about the writing.

Extension Ideas

  • Have the students write figures of speech and haiku about the area where they live. Either make a display of them or publish them in a book to share with others.
  • Students could make a calendar using the writings or combine the writings and have students illustrate them.

Web Resources
Basics of metaphor and simile


More Haiku

Similes, Metaphors, Haiku, and Other Poetry
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