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Lesson Plan for

Waiting to Waltz:

A Childhood

by Cynthia Rylant

From Waiting to Waltz:  A Childhood
Drawing by Stephen Gammell

Created By:

Brenda Muse
Benjamin Franklin Middle School - East
375 Middle School Road
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151 or

Rylant, Cynthia. Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood. Illus. Stephen Gammell. New York: Macmillan Books for Young Readers, 1984.


Waiting to Waltz is an example of Appalachian children's poetry at its finest.  Students will get a firsthand account of how poetry is used to portray the life of ordinary residents living in Appalachia. Students will be able to relate personal family experiences and write poetry based on these experiences. Students will discuss and form their own opinions based on the illustrations.  The majority of the poems are written in free verse; therefore, students will not have to be concerned about establishing a rhyme pattern. In addition, the illustrations are dynamic in that they allude to real life drama, thus allowing students to make connections to the world they live in.

Grade Level:  6th

Subject:  Language Arts

Time Frame:  2 days, 45 minutes each day

Learner Outcomes:

  • The student will develop skills in reading poetry.
  • The student will apply a variety of reading strategies in reading poetry.
  • The student will recognize literary elements in the poetry selections.
  • The student will write a variety of free verse poems based on the reading selections and personal experiences.
  • The student will make predictions and draw conclusions based on the illustrations in the work.

Materials:  copies of poems, overhead, transparencies

Plot Summary:

Cynthia Rylant portrays the thoughts and ideas of a young girl reliving her childhood memories in the form of poetry. The poems help the reader to gain insight into Rylant's early childhood--her encounters with individuals in her neighborhood and those she felt close to.


  • A mini-lesson needs to be taught regarding free verse poems and strategies for reading poetry. Free Verse poems have no rhyme scheme or pattern.
  • Predictions will be made based on the title of the book.
  • The teacher will share the poems in one of two ways: small group(s) or read aloud. In a small group(s), students will read three or four of the poems and carry on a discussion about each poem while also sharing personal experiences.
  • A Directed Listening Activity (DLTA) can occur as well.  (See teacher notes below.)
  • Students will examine and analyze each poem by comparing and contrasting.
  • Students will use a Venn Diagram to complete this assignment.

Teacher Notes:

In the DLTA, the teacher reads a small portion of the poem. The teacher stops and asks students to make predictions, draw conclusions, and make inferences. The procedure continues until the poem is finished.

Leading Questions:

1. What is the setting of the poem?
2. Describe the visual images of the poem.
3. Discuss what emotions/feelings are elicited from the poem.
4. Identify examples of figurative language in the poem.
5. Respond to the poem using sensory details.
6. Discuss and identify human characteristics in the poem.


  • Students will reflect upon their childhood and draw visual images pertaining to it. After drawing the images, students can respond to them through a creative, free verse poetry writing assignment.
  • Encourage students to publish their constructed poems on the web.
  • Students who are musically inclined may want to tap out the rhythm to the poems.


  • Teacher observation of group and peer interaction
  • Visual representation
  • Oral and visual presentation to the class


  • Discuss how relating personal experiences to writing assignments has positive and negative consequences.

Additional AppLit Resources:
Analysis of Dialect in Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood
Index of AppLit Pages by Genre: Poetry

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