Lost Words of the Desert

Sequence of Activities:

Welcome and Introduction (5 minutes)

If you have a copy of The Lost Words, bring it with you! Share the beautiful illustrations, read a few poems, and highlight the inspiration behind this book, which is to remember parts of the natural world we may have forgotten as we go about our busy, tech-consumed lives. This is a perfect time for a discussion on outdoor adventure. The teacher can elicit personal storytelling from students. Have you walked out into the Sonoran Desert? What did you notice? What did you see or hear? Together, make a list of plants and animals that call the Sonoran Desert home.

Sample lists:

elf owl

palo verde
desert lupine
Mexican poppy
barrel cactus
ironwood tree

Optional: Create a slideshow of some of the lesser-known Sonoran Desert species and use the pictures (or even videos) throughout class as inspiration.

Literary Model and Discussion (5-10 minutes)

An acrostic is a poem wherein the poet takes a word (in this case the name of a plant or animal) vertically and then writes each line beginning with each letter. In the .pdf version of this lesson plan, located in the right side bar, are two examples from The Lost Words.

What do you notice about these poems? Notice that each line need not be a complete sentence, and sometimes the line spills over into the next letter. In other words, each starter letter need not be the beginning of a new thought/phrase. It can carry over from the line preceding it!

Collaborative Writing (20-30 minutes)

Pick a word from the desert animals and plants list, perhaps a species with which most people are familiar with, and write a group poem. Students can raise their hands as ideas come to them and the facilitator can call upon students. The facilitator is a compiler of the ideas being shared and should feel free to move words and phrases around to show students how they can creatively play with the vertical and horizontal aspects of the poem.

Individual Writing and Illustration (20-30 minutes)

Each student should pick another word from the list and write their own acrostic.

Pass The Lost Words around and invite students to explore the large double page illustrations. Using extra-large watercolor paper and large brushes, students should illustrate their poem. Students often want to draw small. Encourage them to use their whole body when they paint and to feel playful. They can also try splattering, adding salt, and using sponges to make nature textures, such as water, desert rock, or clouds at sunset.

Sharing Poems and Illustrations (5 minutes)




Students will learn about plants and animals from the Sonoran Desert by writing acrostics and painting watercolor illustrations.

Education Level: 

Junior High
High School




Lesson Plan

Time Frame: 

60 minutes

Prior Knowledge/Skills: 

Grade level reading and comprehension

Required Materials: 

Paper, pencil, and excerpt from the book The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Literary model: 

Excerpt from the Lost Words (see lesson plan .pdf)

Lesson Plan: