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Lesson Plan - Epitaphs

Grade 4


Claudia Richardson


NE Standards:

4.1.3      By the end of the fourth grade, students will identify the basic facts and essential ideas in what they have read or viewed.

4.1.4      By the end of the fourth grade, students will locate, access, and evaluate resources to identify appropriate information.

4.1.5      By the end of the fourth grade, students will identify characteristics of different types of text.

4.2.1      By the end of the fourth grade, students will identify, describe, and apply knowledge of the structure of the English language and Standard English conventions for sentence structure, usage, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.

4.4.1      By the end of the fourth grade, students will gain information or complete tasks by listening.



        Students will be understand what an epitaph is.

        Students will evaluate a poem and write and epitaph about the character in the poem.

        Students will present their epitaphs to the class.



A copy of the poem, "There Was and Old Woman"

A copy of the recording of the poem "There Was and Old Woman"

Pictures of actual epitaphs on tombstones or access to a cemetery for a field trip.

Drawing paper




Anticipatory Set: Read "There Was and Old Woman" aloud and invite the children to read along with you. If possible, obtain a recording of this song. Several recordings of this song have been made by popular folk singers. If you have the chance to play the song for the children, invite them to sing along.

Explain that an epitaph is an inscription on a tombstone that tells about the person buried there. Epitaphs commemorate and epitomize the dead person, and are sometimes funny or witty as well.











1.       Share the following epitaph with the class.

This is the grave of Mike O'Day

Who died maintaining his right of way.

His right was clear, his will was strong,

But he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong.

2.     Explain that epitaphs are a very old form of poetry. They have even been found on ancient Egyptian coffins.

3.     Take a walk through a cemetery or bring in reference materials with photos of epitaphs.

4.     Point out that epitaphs are short, presumably because gravestones are not very big, and that epitaphs usually rhyme.

5.     Distribute drawing paper and crayons to each child.

6.     Explain that they are to draw and cut out a tombstone for the old woman in the poem you read to them (or they listened to).

7.     Have students write an epitaph on the "stone."


Provisions for special needs: Provide a hard copy of the poem to help the students follow along with the musical recording. The students could work in pairs to write the epitaphs..



Invite the students to share their finished work with the class. Create a bulletin board "cemetery" with all of the tombstones marking the gravesites.





References: Poetry Plus!, Leslie Feirerstone Barna. (1992). Troll Associates.