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Language Arts Ideas <br>Cemetery Studies

Language Arts Ideas

On this page you will find some of the lessons that you can use with your students dealing with Language Arts.

Reading Activity
In The 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul book there is a section called "On Death and Dying" . There are thirteen stories. All of these would be good for Middle School on up to read.

Elaine Hostetler suggests a middle school novel on "death and dying," Zindel's "Begonia for Miss Applebaum."
Garnet McQuitty who teaches 11th grade spends several weeks reading from Edgar Lee Masters Spoon River Anthology. If you are not familiar with it, it is a collection of poems in the form of epitaphs of the people who lived in the town of Spoon River.

You can find several stories on the internet. Just follow these links.

Death in America (Alvina Part One)
Kids stories on Death

Writing Activity

Before going to the cemetery, one writing activity that the students are asked to do is to write a "free write" about everything that comes to mind when they hear the word "DEATH." The students are asked to share the writings. From each student we decide what one sentence we feel has the most impact or was the strongest statement. Each line was then typed up in the order they were collected and from that a poem was written. This is an example of how it turns out:


A Collective Poem
Written by the Eighth Grade
Class Of 2002

When I hear the word death, chills go down my spine
The fear of death is harsh
When I hear the word death, I feel shocked and angry
If death were a color, it would be black
I think that when you die you go to heaven
I think that dying is a part of life; it has to happen to everyone
I mostly think about cold weather.
Is there an afterlife?
I picture death as the beginning of something new
When someone dies they are reborn a different person
Death scares me because Iím afraid of losing the ones I love
I picture the after world as peaceful and full of surprise.
No one can ever get over s
omeone that has died
Death is so many things, Death is just a hateful word!
I think saying good-bye is hard, but not saying good-bye is harder
I think that death sucks
Not living any more, pushing up daisies

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Upon returning to the class, the students are given the following as choices in writing.
  1. Write a short story about someone you met.
    This means you need to look at the one on either "Through the Years" or on the "Cemetery Packet" sheet for interesting people you came across. Create a story about that person. Remember it must have all the elements of a short story.


  1. Persuade (Several ideas are listed here)
    1. The trip is one that should be done every school.
    2. The trip is on that should happen every year.
    3. The trip was a waste of time and should never be taken again.
    4. Persuade someone that did not go on the trip that this trip was very educational and explain what you learned.  
  1. Informative
    1. Write and tell next year Eighth Graders everything about the trip. What to expect, look for, avoid, how to make the best out of the day.
    2. Write to inform another school what your day was like and what the outcomes were. You will need to tell them everything we did to prepare for the trip and afterwards. Be sure that you talk about each subject that was covered and how
  1. Write a thank you letter
    Write a letter to the person who gave us the tour of the cemetery. You need to include what you learned, enjoyed, and was surprised about. Be sure to follow the proper letter form  


Another thing that the students are required to do is write obituaries. They write one as they were to die during this year, one as if they died 25 years from now and one if they died in 50 years. These really force the students to think about what they might want to do with their lives and how they would like others to remember them. Many obituaries are brought into the classroom to show them as models. They are asked to write one of the "big and important" ones and not just the ones that list the name and who was left behind.

We also use obituaries writing to have a little fun. For extra credit the students are allowed to write them for cartoon figures. This idea came from Mad Magazine.
You may read some from the magazine and some sample student works by clicking here.


Before going we also talk about EPITAPHS. This can bring some simple poetry in the class. The students are first given a paper that is called EERIE EPITAPHS. This has the following information on it: An Epitaph is an inscription o a tombstone in memory of someone who died. Read these Epitaphs and then try a few of your own.

Here lies my teacher, old Miss Blass-
I was the smartest kid in her Class!


Here lies my pet, a dog named Rover,
When hit by a car, his life was over.


A baseball bat and ball used often
Are buried with Michael in his coffin.


The baby sitter we drove insane
Was killed when hit with Jeremy's train.


Old Mr. Crow, the village baker,
Just got back from the undertaker.


While sitting her sleeping in a paper sack,
I got run over on the railroad track.


Here lies my friend, a gal from the South.
She died when she tried to put her foot in her mouth.

They are also given some serious ones to read. Examples of these are:

In memory of
James Corse

First of the mane in America
m. In Deerfield abt 1690
d. May 15, 1996 aged about 30


Beneath This Stone
A lump of Clay
Lies Arabella Young
Who on the 11th Day
Of May
Began to Hold
Her Tongue.




(You may find more interesting epitaphs on some of the cemetery links that are posted)

They are also given a paper that has a tombstone on it, and are asked to make one for themselves. The "rules" are
1) There has to be the same number of syllables in both lines.
2) They have to put their name in it.
3) The end of the lines must rhyme.

We hang the finished ones out in the hall (The hall becomes a virtual cemetery) for the rest of the school to view. The students also get a few extra credit points it they make epitaphs for staff members in the school.

Once the students get to the cemetery they are very aware of interesting epitaphs and go in search of them.


The followning epitaphs were taken from PinkVision (Pinkbear's Graveyard)

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