Hot Object: A Lesson Plan w/ Samples

17 Sep

“Hot Objects” inside the bag!


I have been teaching college-level Intro to Creative Writing for 4 years now, and taught Creative Writing for about a year (2007-2008) with Houston’s Writers in the Schools (WITS) program.  I always try to come up with innovative, fun ideas to teach objectives to my students, most of whom are 18-20 years old and have had little to no experience with creative writing.


My “Hot Object” exercise (the actual title of this lesson comes from–gasp–an epidose of “Felicity” where Ben was taking a theatre class and had to bring in a “hot object” (as the professor called it) that would say something about who he was or where he has been) is always a show-stopper and I think could be used for almost every grade level (K-12 and Intro to CW at the college level).


Objective: To have students become familiar with elements of point of view and perspective in creative writing.


Materials:  A bag (or box) of random, classroom-friendly objects such as a balloon, a cary key, an apple, a paintbrush, an eraser, a lipstick, a rock, and a pinecone.


Method: 1) Have students choose one item from the bag at random.  As the students are choosing the item, tell students to think about their item in terms of color, sensory detail, and the history of the item.  Encourage them to jot down notes about the item (this will later become their character sketch).  2)  Next, ask students guiding questions about point of view/perspective to gauge their knowledge of these terms, their uses, and of personal pronouns (first, second, third (limited and omniscient).  3) Next, go over these terms with examples on board or overhead, giving definitions of each.  Explain to students why POV/perspective is essential in creative writing.  Discuss the three main pronouns and discuss how each one can change the perspective of a story.  Discuss with students how to “think outside of the box” when determining the POV they will use in future creative works.  Encourage them to not choose a POV that’s obvious, but one that would be less expected.  Give examples, if possible.  4) After the lesson on POV/perspective has concluded, introduce the second part of the lesson: the students will write a brief introduction, usually 2-4 brief paragraphs, in the voice (from the POV/perspective) of their chosen object using elements from their character sketch.  Stress that they will want to use as much detail as possible to bring the character to life for the reader.  5) Have students complete their character sketches and work on their narratives on their own (20-30 minutes).  6) Finally, have a students volunteer (or choose them if you have a timid class) to share their narratives with the class.  7)  Close the lesson with a revisit of the importance of POV and discuss how students should think about POV in their own writing.  Encourage students to keep their narrative for potential use in another assignment (such as a persona poem).




Item: Door Stop/Door Jam:  “I was made in China in the late 80s.  I’m almost invisible to human beings, especially ones in my same room.  I was created to be behind doors of this cold room and to take care of a boring white wall who doesn’t like to be touched by the door handles.  I really don’t like my function on this planet — everyone hits me at any moment agressively and my migraines are unstoppable. ”


Item: old digital camera: “Hello, guys, my name is Hypster Power.  That’s what the HP on me stands for.  I was born in China in 2003.  I have been all around the world before I made my home at the Wal-Mart in the United States of America.  I have taken  a lot of pictures of a lifetime with my 4.0 megapixel lens.  I have a patch over my eye when I am not being used.”


Item: car key: “Being people’s pass everywhere certainly has its advantages.  My name is Kurt.  I’m 10 years old and I am a Toyota car key.  I’ve seen things in purses, backpacks, keychains, and human hands you wouldn’t see in a lifetime.  I’m a slim guy who has a few jagged edges, but who doesn’t?  I fear entering any other small place besides my designated car keyhole.  People don’t seem to realize that even though we are made with tough, shiny, silver metal, we are fragile.”


Item: Pinecone: “My name is Kong and I fell away from home.  I used to live under the branch of a majestic pine tree.  I fell away from home because I had come of age and now I have to strike it out on my own.”


Item: Watercolor set:  “My name is Rainbow.  I got that name because I have all of the colors of the rainbow around me.  My best friend, who’s always with me, is Slim.  He always has his hair wet and straight up.  I’m usually happy in class when the child that’s using me is gentle and smooth with Slim.  When a child is rough, my colors start to mix together and Slim’s hair gets messed up and then we don’t talk for awhile until we both get cleaned up (usually the teacher makes this happen.)


I can’t tell you how much I love doing this lesson.  I know it’s not “serious,” but it’s such a great, fun way to discuss POV/perspective.  The routine of workshop, lecture, and free writing can get old and it’s nice to be able to introduce a very important topic in a way that will grab the students’ attention.  The students will be more likely to remember POV when its introduced in this manner (or similar) than if it was introduced in yet another lecture or power point.  One thing I’ve learned (among many) in teaching is you have to keep it fresh, modern, and engaging or you’ll lose the students.  Some older students might think this lesson is silly, but I haven’t found an objector, yet.  If you try this lesson, I’d love to hear your feedback and what objects you chose to use!




3 Responses to “Hot Object: A Lesson Plan w/ Samples”

  1. geraldvonbourdeau November 10, 2012 at 5:42 AM #

    Yo Auchter,

    This is an oldie but a goodie! Have you ever heard of Peha Kucha? It is Japanese for “Show and Tell.” Next time forget the awkward box. Have students use what they bring to class with them. If they don’t have anything interesting with them (maybe they brought a pencil), have ’em open up the photo albums in their smart phones and pick an object from there snapshots. Begin with conversation (since it is their primary discourse) then let the pens hit the pads.

  2. geraldvonbourdeau November 10, 2012 at 5:43 AM #

    their snapshots not there snapshots (omg)


  1. Oldie but a Goodie From a Friend | Teaching Unplugged in the Triggering Town - November 10, 2012

    […] This is an oldie but a goodie my friend posted on her blog. I suggest leaving the box at home and doing a pecha kucha. See page 53 in Medding’s and Thornbury’s book Teaching Unplugged. Here is the link to Amanda Auchter’s lesson plan. […]

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