This Poem is Late

poem by Jesse Anna Bornemann , illustrated by Dante Hookey

Learning Intention:

I am learning to recognise and understand the concept of metafiction so that I can develop the skills to identify its techniques and incorporate them into my own writing.


Success Criteria:

  • I can discuss the concept of metafiction and identify published examples that occur in print and film
  • I can identify techniques used in metafiction texts and can discuss how this differs to traditional narrative writing.
  • I can experiment with the use of metafiction techniques in my own writing.


Essential knowledge:

Use The School Magazine video for the English Textual Concept of Genre to help students consider what features they may use to identify metafiction throughout the lesson.


Metafiction consists of writing that refers to itself and that it is a fictional piece of literature that you are reading. It often:

  • Refers to itself, narrator or characters within the writing.
  • Experimental, so there are less rules for the writing of a metafiction piece including nonlinear narrative structures, unconventional plot development and fragmented story telling.
  • Breaking the fourth wall, when characters or narrators talk directly to the audience/reader.


Understanding text:

Read the poem aloud, or if you have a digital subscription you may wish to listen to the audio version. Afterwards, ask students what they think is unusual about this poem. They should identify that the poem refers to itself throughout. Explain that this is known as self-referential fiction or metafiction.

Discuss students’ understanding of this concept and any other examples that students have read or watched. Explain that this can be found across all types of fiction and a common feature of this that they may be familiar with is talking to the audience, otherwise known as ‘breaking the fourth wall’.

Watch one of the following videos as an example of how metafiction techniques are used in animation. You may wish to select the video that would be of most interest to your student cohort.


Discuss examples of how the video you selected was self-referential (e.g., talking to the audience or animator, characters discussing their ‘acting’ jobs, interacting with scene transitions).

Further discuss examples of metafictional books that students may be familiar with, such as:

  • Lemony Snickett’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler
  • We are in a Book by Mo Willems
  • The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone (Sesame Street)

If copies are available at your school, you may wish to provide these for students or choose one to read.

Play the video for the song Tribute by Tenacious D, stopping at 3:40, and discuss the concept of the song. Ensure that students understand that tribute means something that is created to pay respect or admiration to something else.

Students should identify that Jack Black is singing about the fact that they wrote the greatest song in the world, but they can’t remember it, so this song is a tribute to it. Unpack the comedy of the concept, exploring the idea that they are claiming to have created the greatest song in the world, but nobody is able to listen to it or judge that for themselves because they are only giving us the tribute version.

Next, watch the video for Fight Song by Rachel Platten and stop it at 2:10. Ask students what they perceive to be the differences between this song and Tribute. They should identify that while Tribute is more comedic and telling a fictional story, this song is the singer talking about her own struggles, and it references the song itself in a way that is about how the writing of it empowers her to find her voice and strength.


Creating text:

Explain to students that they are going to experiment with metafiction. Allow them to choose whether they write either a short story, poem or song. This can be done independently or collaboratively.

To begin this process, they should first decide the angle at which they are going to approach it. Discuss the metafiction that has been explored in this lesson, identifying the differences between comedic / absurd approach and the more straightforward and serious, as well as referencing the creative process and its result (This Poem is Late, Duck Amuck, Fight Song) or intertwining it as part of a story (Tribute, The Monster at the End of This Book).

Once this has been decided, students should brainstorm and begin a plan of their creative direction as well as opportunities for keywords and rhymes, if relevant. Allow time for students to explore and experiment with this concept and their writing.


Assessment for/as learning:


Using Gallery Walk and post it notes, ask students to display their plan for the creative direction of their metafiction piece.

Ask peers to circulate around the room, taking time to read through and reflect on the plans of their peers.

Using the post it notes, children are to provide 2-3 peers with Two stars and a wish feedback directly relating to their plan for metafiction.

Students are to consider the feedback and choose whether to incorporate the peer feedback into the composition.