Writing as Imitation

Before you go judging me for referencing Weird Al in a sophisticated professional blog, please stick with me till the end – then you can judge me.

So, I’m sure most of you have seen the latest parody of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines by Weird Al. If not here it is for your viewing pleasure.



Clearly, it is nerdy English teacher humor (as my husband would call it). And although it was funny, what actually intrigued me was a video of Weird Al that I stumbled upon after viewing his latest parody. The video was an interview that centered around his motivation as an artist and how he goes about composing his work. As I watched the video there was a brief part that struck me. See if you hear the same thing I noticed. (hint fast forward to 53 seconds into the clip)


See if you heard the same things I heard:

  • “It is sort of an exercise”
  • “I pretend like I’m them (the musicians) and I study their body of work.”
  • I pick it (the music) a part musically and figure out what are the little idiosyncrasies that make them tick stylistically.”

I know for many students the fear of the blank page is paralyzing. Just a thought, but what if we had learners imitate the writing of other great writers – even just as, “sort of an exercise.” I know I sure would be elated if I had learners carefully picking a part piece of writing in order to study stylistic elements and then turn around and try to use those same elements in their own writing. There is no question that Weird Al had to put a lot of work and thought into making the lyrics of his song parody work together just like the actual song and I’m confident that we would be pretty impressed with what our learners came up with if given the opportunity.

Not sure where to start? Don Killgallon has a great resource for any grade level that just might be what you need to try it out!


Sentence Composing for Elementary School

Sentence Composing for Middle School

Sentence Composing for High School




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One thought on “Writing as Imitation

  1. Ruth July 22, 2014 at 1:25 pm Reply

    When I introduced a new poem to my 4th, 5th and 6th graders, we read and reread the poem noting favorite words, phrases, etc. This is much the same thing we did at Frost. When I asked them to try their own poems, I would give them a loose structure similar to the original. It was a good place to start. After a few poems by the same poet, I had students defending choices based a published poets style.


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