Lesson Plan: Language Arts
Student Resource: From "Staying
Alive," by David Wagoner
Media Type: Poetry
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Describe strategies for avoiding problems that occur during
- Explain how careful planning can help a person survive
in situations involving nature.
- Recognize that accidents, especially among teens, can
happen when risks are taken.
Introducing the Lesson
Share news or anecdotal stories about people who have beaten
the odds against surviving various types of natural catastrophes
with students. You might, for example, mention the marine
who was stranded for more than a week in the wilderness several
years back and managed to survive, partly by keeping his wits
and partly by being trained to survive such situations.
Explain that students will presently receive a sort of training
session of their own. Add that it will be in the form of a
lyrical poem titled "Staying Alive."
Distribute copies of the poem or have students read the poem
on the Web site. Get students involved in this unusual poetry
topic by having them read the first line to themselves silently.
Ask: What is the poem's setting? (The woods.) Repeat the process,
this time having students read through the end of line 5.
Ask: What decision does the poet say someone in this situation
would have to make? (Wait for help to arrive, or set off on
After students have completed the reading, you may either
use the following as class discussion questions or assign
them as individual or group work.
- Analyzing. What is the poet's view of risk taking?
What line or lines in the poem reflect this view?
- Synthesizing. What advice does he give regarding
cold temperatures? What information from your health studies
or your own experience could you add that would increase
a person's chances of survival in such a situation?
- Synthesizing. Some of the advice in the poem may
not pertain to the locale you live in. Select two "do's,"
two "don'ts," or a combination of these from the
poem, and rephrase them so that they apply to the climate
and/or geography of your community.
- Making Inferences. Reread the advice that starts
with the words "And if you find a pathway" in
line 41. What is the poet implying you might find if you
follow this advice?
- Extending. One subject not explored in the poem
is clothing you should take with you on a camping or hiking
expedition to increase the chances of surviving in the event
you became lost or separated from your party. Identify such
clothing and other supplies you would need.
Integrating Literature and Health
"Staying Alive" is an example of a specific literary
genre: literature in which a person must confront the forces
of nature. Read another well-known example of this genre,
the short story "To Build a Fire," by Jack London,
or another selection suggested by your school or local librarian.
Compare the information found in this selection with that
provided in "Staying Alive." Ask yourself what additional
information is given about risk taking and strategies for
preventing unfortunate accidents from occurring in the first
place. Share your discoveries in an oral presentation to the