Grade: Elementary
Subject: Literature

#3248. Heartsongs poetry by Mattie Stepanek

Literature, level: Elementary
Posted Mon Oct 11 11:28:00 PDT 2004 by Jennifer Kennevan (
UPJ, Pittsburgh, PA
Materials Required: Heartsongs books, 'I am" poem model/format
Activity Time: 50 minutes
Concepts Taught: Poetry themes, writing poetry

Topic: Heartsongs poetry by Mattie Stepanek
Grade: 4th, 5th, and 6th grade
Relationship to State Standards:
• 1.1 Learning to Read Independently -- 5A Establish the purpose for reading a type of text (literature, information) before reading. 5G Demonstrate after reading understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfiction text -- 3 Clarify ideas and understandings through rereading and discussion.
• 1.3 Reading, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature -- 5F Read and respond to nonfiction and fiction including poetry and drama.
• 1.4 Types of Writing -- 5A Write poems, plays and multi-paragraph stories -- Include detailed descriptions of people, places and things.
• Students will be able to describe the themes in Mattie Stepanek's poetry.
• Students will be able to draw conclusions about Mattie Stepanek's life by reading his poetry.
• Students will be able to write their own poem, talking about their own life, experiences, and feelings like in the Heartsongs book of poetry.
Cross-curricular Integration: writing
Materials: Heartsongs books, 'I am" poem model/format
New Vocabulary: muscular dystrophy
Instructional Procedure:
Anticipatory Set --
• Read students the introduction to Mattie's book that talks a little about himself and why he writes poetry.
• Have the students make predictions about the topics they might find in Mattie's poems based on the introduction.
Developmental Activities --
• Have students read aloud the poem Mattie wrote about himself.
• Ask the students questions about the content of the poem.
• Have the students make inferences and draw conclusions about Mattie's life based on the poem.
• Have students read aloud Mattie's master poem "Heartsong".
• Ask the students to explain what they think a heartsong is and the message the poem is trying to send.
• Explain the purpose of the 'heartsong' and the meaning of the poem.
• Discuss the message Mattie is trying to make that everyone has a special story to share and go over the different ways they can share it.
Closure Activity --
• Have the students write their own poems about themselves following a three stanza model.
• Ask the students to keep in mind the things Mattie writes about in his poetry; family, feelings, struggles, and try to incorporate these things about their lives in their own poems.
Assessment: Evaluate student's understanding of the poems read and ability to answer questions about it. Evaluate student's ability to express thoughts and ideas in their poem.
Special Needs Adaptation: For a visually impaired child a large print copy of the poem and large print copy of the "I am" poem model would be provided.
Technology Integration:
For a class with one computer, internet access, and overhead projection:
Share a power-point with pictures of Mattie Stepanek and several of his most well-known poems -- autobiographical poem, heartsong poem, should be six slides.
For a class with six computers, internet access, and overhead projection:
Assign students to groups and have them go to to research Mattie Stepanek prior to the lesson. Give each group certain questions they must answer about Mattie. These will be questions about his books, his family, specific likes and dislikes, themes of his poetry, etc. Each group will present the information in class.
For a class with computers for each student, internet access, and overhead projection:
As a follow up exercise have each child go to the Poet Heroes webpage at and choose a child, poet hero to read more about. Have students turn in a paragraph summary on hero and a paragraph saying why they admire that person. Then have students write their responses online in the my hero guest book at the same website.