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Lesson Plans

Use this Lesson Plan with the following health topics or with other relevant content from the textbook:
  • Mental Health
  • Decision Making

Cross Curriculum 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 extreme weather.
  • 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."

Teaching Strategies

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 your own.)

After students have completed the reading, you may either use the following as class discussion questions or assign them as individual or group work.

Follow Up

  1. Analyzing. What is the poet's view of risk taking? What line or lines in the poem reflect this view?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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 class.

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