Well Defined: Vocabulary Poems

2 03 2014

I showed my students the book, Well Defined, Vocabulary in Rhyme.

It is a really neat book taht takes vocabulary words and personifies them. The words int he poem also define the vocabulry word.

I read some of the poems to my students, we created some together and then sent them off writing their own.

These are some rough drafts of poems that we created:


Never expects anything to go right

She immediately rolls her eyes

She shakes her head

She says, “no way will that work”

Pessimism is easily annoyed with optimism,

can’t stand kudos and utterly hates bravo!



He likes to guess in an educated kind of way

When trying to figure it out he writes it down

He assumes he is right, that his guess is true

He likes to get together with experiment and have rendezvous

“I think, I believe, I assume” are phrases he blurts out.


Six Word Memoirs- So Simple, Yet So Profound

26 01 2014

I recently had my students write their own six word memoirs. If you haven’t seen any of the books, there are multiple Six Word Memoirs that Smith Magazine has compiled. The most recent is my favorite-I Can’t Keep My Own Secret:Six Word Memoirs by Teens Famous and Obscure.

These are memoirs that tell an entire story in only six words. I was nervous about having my student’s try this because I wasn’t sure if they would get it and be able to think of their own. I showed them examples from the book (see below) and then made some of my own examples. I showed them how I brainstormed my ideas, and then edited to get it to say just what I wanted. I then gave the students a planning sheet and let them loose- well they wowed me!

They created such amazing six word memoirs. Some were funny, sad, powerful, light, deep… they had them all!!!!  I had them write their six word memoir on large notecards and then illustrate or color them to fit the tone of the memoir. I put them up on a bulletin board and they loved looking at everyone’s memoirs! Some wrote more than one, and some have been doing them “for fun!” :)

Some of the examples I showed them from the book are below:

Met online; love before first sight.

I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.

I’m seventeen, engaged, and not pregnant.

My mom had my boyfriend deported.

Late for school every single day.

According to Facebook, we broke up.

Here are pictures I took of six word memoirs from my kids:

Snowy Day Writing Activity

6 01 2014

Snowmen at Night             Snowmen All Year

Snowmen at Nightby Caralyn Buehner She has also written Snowmen All Year.

Since we are in the middle of a huge winter cold freeze and lots of snow, I thought I would share a short create writing activity that you can do with your class.

I recently read to my students, Snowmen at Night. It is a neat book about snowmen that come alive at night and the adventures that they have. After the students llisten to the story, I give them a choice of various writing activities that they can do. I then have them share it with the class.

Here is an example of my activities:


Create a dialogue   between snowmen/ snowwomen about how to keep their late night fun a secret   from humans.


Create a news report. You can use your own   winter ideas or use the article heading:
  Snowman seen running around town!


Take your snowman on   a journey through the seasons! What if a snowman/   snowwoman was alive all year long? What would you have to teach him/ her   about since he/ she is only used to cold weather? What activities would he/   she love to partake in?


Create a debate between   a snowman and the sun or winter and summer. Give reasons why they don’t like the other.


Create a song about   snow, cold, snowman, winter or anything related. You can write it to the tune of a Christmas   song, or take lyrics from a popular song and change them to fit your topic.


Have a snowman/   snowwoman persuade a kid to help keep him/ her alive and not let him/ her   melt.


Write a story from   the perspective of a snowman/ snowwoman. Tell us about the good and difficult times in the life of a snowman/snowwoman.


Brainstorm words   related to winter to create a poem. Some types of poems you may want to   choose are: free verse, two   voice, This is Just to Say, Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird, limerick   etc..


If   you want to take a topic from a square and pick a different genre than   listed you may.

If  you have another idea, see the teacher for approval.

Interest Journals- Write about your interests.

3 11 2013

Interest journals are a neat way for students to share their writing with others for years to come. How does it work, you ask? Well, interest journals are simple to set up, yet provide a neat audience and it allows you to shake up your writing sparks (journal writing) time.


Here’s how I set them up: I got about 35 journals when they were on sale at the beginning of the year. I always like to have a few more than students I have. I label each journal with a broad topic. When the students come in, the journals are spread out all over the room. I review the topics with them and then have them go and find the journal they are interested in. When they sit down to write, they can review all the other entries on that topic by students whom I’ve had in the past, and by some of their classmates from interest journals we’ve done this year.

I give the students a few minutes to browse the other entries and then I have them start writing. When they are done, I make sure that they date and write their name at the end of the post. I like to do interest journals every few weeks, when I feel like we need something fresh.

Some of the topics I have used that my students have loved: shoes, life, being a teenage, books/movies/music, war/peace, shoes, I hate, I love, vacation/travel, video games, colors, family, sports, holidays, memories, middle school, seasons, goals- the possibilities are endless!

I store the interest journals in a simple clear rubbermaid tub next to the other tubs with their student’s individual journals.


Try interest journals out, and let me know how they go!

The Perfect Poem to Close Read!

27 10 2013

We did a close reading of the poem, Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser last week. I read the poem aloud, then had the students read it again individually and then hold their thinking and note their observations, thoughts, questions etc.. 
Then we brok the poem down and looked at the tone of the poem. We found words that stuck out to us that showed the tone (broken, something went wrong,money scarce, winters cold). I had the students wrote the mood down and then find specific lines that supported the mood. We noted how each stanza talked about a different person: a man, woman and child. I had the students go back to the poem and find out specific things we knew about the people in the poem, and list them (the man was tall, the woman liked lilacs, the child played with a tractor etc..). We looked at repetition, figurative language and we discussed specific word choices that the author made.

Click here to check out the poem

Although we did a close reading of this poem, the students really did a nice job. They noticed a lot of really interesting things.   I liked this poem because we could discuss all of the things I mentioned above and the students were able to understand the poem. They didn’t feel like the content, topic or language was above their heads. It was a manageable length to close read, and  It didn’t scare them.

After we read the poem I had my students write a journal prompt about a place where they live, or have things. What would their room, house, or objects say about them. I also showed them this image. I felt this image really went well with the poem. They shared their writing and we all enjoyed a close reading and a writing session.

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 8.50.02 PM

Give a try, and let me know how it went! :)

More Sparks Comin’ your way!

10 10 2013

Looking for some writing sparks? (Click  to check out how I use writing sparks in my classroom here and here).

National Geographic is celebrating 125 years and I found this site where people can submit their pictures. Many of them make some amazing writing prompts. Sometimes I will print a bunch of them out, and have my students go and grab one to write about. Sometimes I’ll scatter a few on their tables, and other times I will show them one and we all write about that one. 

Yesterday I used a picture and I gave it a title, and I had my students write about the title, they could take the perspective of one of the people in the picture, or they could be the narrator. They could take a word from the title and write form that. They could write a poem, story, or whatever they wanted. I can’t find the original source of the picture I used yesterday. But I titled it, Is This Happiness? and it was a picture of a bride and groom in the middle of their reception and the bride is not smiling. The people around them were all happy. It was really neat to see what the kids came up with. I’ll work hard to find the picture to share with you. 

Try it out with your students. This would make a neat prompt. Challenge your students to personify this frog! “Stayin’ Dry”

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 8.18.53 PM

What are some of your favorite writing sparks?

Wordless Picture Books

14 09 2013

I’m back. Life got crazy and busy and blogging HAD to take a back seat. I often thought about things I wanted to share and blog about, but I wasn’t ever able to find the time to sit and write. I am making it a goal to write on this consistently at least once a week. So here we go, hope I have some readers still out there…


I wanted to have my students write short stories. I always have those kids who can just go and write and a story. Then there are the rest of my kids who have no idea, and don’t know where to start and come up blank. To spark their ideas, I decided to get a bunch of wordless picture books from the library. After we talked about the elements of a short story, I gave each group a wordless picture book and some post it notes. I had them come up with the story, and write their story on the post it notes. The students could stick the post it notes write on the pages, or they could put them on paper to something like a storyboard. When they were done, we made sure that the stories they wrote had all of the elements that we had discussed.

After we shared the group stories, I then placed other Worldess picture books around the room and let them walk around and see if a book sparked their interest or spark an idea. They then took the book back to their desk and used it to help them rite their story.

Overall I thought it helped some kids come up with an idea of what to write about. Some students wrote a story on the entire book, and others just took a page or two and wrote from that. I liked having the students come up with a story together before they started writing their own stories. It helped them generate ideas, but it also made them talk together, listen to each other’s ideas and share their thoughts ( A Common Core  Speaking and listening Standard! :) )


Here are some of the wordless picture books I used:

Free Fall by  David Wiesner

Chalk by Bill Thomson

The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Rainy Day Dream by Chesworth, Michae

Flotsam by David Wiesner

The Arrival by Tan Shaun 

A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka

Home by Jeannie Baker

Clown by Blake, Quentin

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the National Gallery by  Weitzmann and Glasser

Zoom by Istvan Banyai

Re-Zoom by Istvan Banyai

Shadow by Suzy Lee

Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang


The Mysteries of Harris Burdick revealed!

31 10 2011

I use the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick at the beginning of the year , as a writing prompt (click here to read more about how my lesson). My students pick a picture and then they use that to spark their writing idea. I recently came across the book, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. In this book, 14 well known authors from Lemony Snicket to Linda Sue Park to Lois Lowry to Louis Sachar to Sherman Alexie to Steven King all have written their own short stories based on the picture.

I picked a few short stories to read to my students, before they wrote their own stores based on the pictures. I felt that it really let them see an example of good writing, and that every story can go in such a different direction that what you may originally think. It also has an interesting introduction about the pictures, and where they came from written by Lemony Snicket.

If you don’t have these books, they are a must for your classroom! They enhance writing, discussion and reading!!

Websites to get Kids Writing!

12 08 2011

Your Child’s Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity and Skill at Every Age: by Pam Allyn 

Here is part two of my thoughts, see the last post, for my initial thoughts about why teachers and parents should get this book!

This is starred in my copy that I need to keep in mind as I teach writing:

Also found in Your Child’s Writing Life by Pam Allyn was a list of  some amazing websites that foster real and new audiences for writing (aren’t we all looking for authentic publishing opportunities?)

Has anyone used any of these sites in your classroom, and wants to share ?

Check them out, and may they inspire you to get your student’s writing!! :)  

Your Child’s Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity and Skill at Every Age!

7 08 2011

Your Child’s Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn is a book that I came across that I started flipping through, and then realized this would be a good book for me to have. Although I don’t have any biological children of my own, I do have hundred every school year that I consider my own!

The book is useful for parents with kids or teachers. It focuses mostly on children from birth to 12 and how we can enhance their writing life and experiences.

Something that struck me from the beginning of the book that immediately struck me was we, as teachers, are looking to create life long readers in our classroom. Do we also think about and want to create life long writers in our classroom?

After reading this book my goal for this upcoming school year is to create life long readers and writers.

Here are some of the highlights from the book that I jotted down as I read it:

  • Writing leads to guaranteed improvement in academic achievement.
  • “ Writing fosters a child’s emotional growth. Writing is a way to pay better attention to our lives and to build the confidence to trust our opinions and voices.”  Middle school students struggle so much with confidence and voicing their opinions. I have seen in the past that when students share their writing, they are able to voice their feelings, opinions and stories. It helps them to gain confidence in themselves when others respond positively to their writing.
  • The book also has a list of Twenty Great books to inspire writing- if nothing else, these titles make it worth it to get the book- add these to your classroom library!
  • Another good tip was that older children may be hesitant to share their writing, so sharing writing from other people (yourself, real authors, past students) may help your student to feel more confident in their writing.
These are just a few notes I jotted down, in a few days, I will add other thoughts I had after reading this book!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers

%d bloggers like this: