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Creative Writing, Language


9th, 10th


English Language Arts


90 minutes

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - West, Hawai'i


Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Figurative Language in Sustainability Songs

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Oct 2, 2023
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In this lesson, students explore the Hawaiian term aloha ‘āina and learn how it relates to sustainability, review figurative language terms, and use the concept of aloha ‘āina to write their own song or poem.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students brainstorm a definition and personal understanding of aloha ‘āina and its relationship to sustainability.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students review figurative language, identify figurative language in Hawaiian and English song lyrics, and evaluate their effectiveness.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students identify personal action that helps the ecosystem and use figurative language to write a song or poem that captures what aloha ‘āina means to them.
Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson aligns with Hawai‘i’s Nā Hopena A'o HĀ-BREATH Framework.

  • This lesson can be used as a standalone, used as part of a poetry or personal narrative unit, or as part of a lesson in the literature of Hawai‘i, Hawaiian Studies, or history.

  • Students are given a voice and create their own steps to affirm sustainable actions and good practices.

  • Students connect the Hawaiian language, values, and worldview to the foundations of why climate change is important.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have a basic understanding of poetry and figurative language.

  • Students should have a basic understanding of aloha and ‘āina or sustainability and its relationship to climate change.

  • Teacher should watch the music video before teaching the lesson.

  • Teacher could create their own list of school-appropriate land or sustainability songs for the lesson choice.


  • This lesson is easy to pair with the lesson Deforestation Odes and Elegies.

  • Teacher can replace The Vitals 808’s “Hō‘ā” music video with other songs or poems that address land or sustainability in Hawai‘i or elsewhere. Some examples include the following:

  • This lesson can be adapted for higher grades or levels with discussions on other language or literary devices including oxymoron,  juxtaposition, synecdoche, or rhyme schemes.

  • Students can extend their learning into music by creating their own melody, writing new lyrics into an existing song, or considering components of tonality and rhythm.

  • Students can further explore the definitions of aloha 'āina through Hawai'i TED talks, comparing and contrasting how this term is defined. Students can explore the song’s allusion to Kaulana Nā Pua, a resistance song about refusing the annexation of the islands and instead being satisfied with eating stones. Comparison or further analysis of the connections can be made.
  • This lesson can be turned into a portfolio assignment in which students write different poems embodying different actions of local sustainability.
  • Teachers can deepen their understanding of aloha ‘āina with Hawai‘i Public Radio’s extended series on aloha 'āina.

Scientist Notes

This lesson teaches students about figurative language and how to write a sustainability song or poem on the best ways to preserve and safeguard Hawaiian Indigenous lands and natural resources (aloha 'āina). Students study a song that describes how Native Hawaiians, ecosystems, and livelihood services would all benefit from protecting the environment through active stewardship and sustainable practices. The techniques would increase their capacity for resistance to colonialism and resilience to climate change. After examination, the lesson was deemed suitable for instruction.


Primary Standards

  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Language (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
    • Reading: Literature (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
    • Writing (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Supporting Standard

  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Literature (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
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  • I am the author of the lesson (cannot feel I can objectively rate this), and have taught an abridged version twice, with students who were already familiar with the Hawaiian term "aloha 'āina." I taught a 30 minute version with juniors and seniors that reviews the major concepts of aloha 'āina and figurative language. 40 minutes would be a more comfortable time frame for this lesson. Here's what I did: 1. wrote "aloha" and "'āina" on the board, and asked students to go up and write words or ideas they associate with these terms on the board. For "aloha," students wrote welcoming, greeting, and love. For 'āina, students wrote land, mauka to makai, lāhui, and taro/lo'i. 2. together, we discussed the ideas and then talked about what "aloha 'āina" means and how it might be different from "mālama 'āina." I went over the 2 major definitions of love of the land, and patriotism. 3. we went over the major figurative language terms--I quickly asked the class to define them, since it should be a review. 4. we watched the video, and I asked the students to fill out just 4 questions--the purpose of the song, the audience, the song's definition of aloha 'āina, and any figurative language they noticed. While we didn't have time to go over every single detail of figurative language, students definitely picked up on how the song was action oriented. The purpose of the song was about how love of and for the land is not just expressed, but expressed through physical action. The visuals of the music video helped, and students seemed to appreciate the music and message. If I taught it again, I would use this definition for aloha 'āina, as I find it more comprehensive: https://hilo.hawaii.edu/wehe/?q=aloha+aina. This lesson would be useful for teaching language arts concepts and literary terms with a Hawaiian focus. I could follow up with the sustainable aspects: I would remind us of the definition of aloha 'āina, ask for examples, and ask students to write their own poem.
    1 month ago