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.

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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”

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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


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!

Book of Awesome- pretty AWESOME!

25 04 2011

Here’s a great end of the year writing assignment:

The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things by Neil Pasricha.  It is a great book to use in the classroom as either a writing spark or a writing assignment.

In the book are small awesome things that we may find in  you every day lives that makes you stop for a moment and say, Awesome! After each awesome moment is a brief story or explanation- many will leave you nodding your head yeah that is awesome! We have started a tradition in our house where we read one awesome moment at dinner every night- it is a simple reminder to appreciate the small awesome moments in our lives. 

Since the end of the year is coming to a close, I wanted each of my kids to write a page to go into our class Book of Awesome! I am giving  them guidelines, and writing an example myself. I want them to illustrate or design their page in their style and in any way they want that reflects them.I then want to have them share their awesome pages in a gallery walk.

I am excited to see how these turn out, and I will share with you how the kids respond to them! 🙂

Figurative Language & Creative Writing

9 03 2011

So you teach your students the definitions of all the figurative language terms, and you read some poems and writing with figurative language in them, so now what? Why do we teach figurative language? Do you ever get your students to write using figurative language?

I found lots of writing ideas that you can share with your students in the book, Rip The PageL Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke. The book is written for people who want to practice their creative writing skills, but there are lots of ideas with examples that you can share with kids. You can also look inside the page here.

Some of these I will require students to try, and others may be at a writing station that they can pick through a try. I may even use some as writing sparks.

Some of my favorite ideas  with the chapter titles are:

Sly Similes and Mighty Metaphors: Using similes and metaphors and giving them the titles- self portrait and my soul

Nothing, You Got that: Have nothing to write about? What gets you angry, annoyed, frustrated, sad, yelling- mad? Spit out everything you don’t want to say. Everything you refuse. All that you despise.

A Color Only My Soul can Understand: Pick a color, then take a walk. Take your time to see and feel all the things that are this color.

Personification party: Here’s what happened at a party when the colors showed up personified, and a poem about what the rain would be like if it were a fisherman.

Catching Whispers: Finish the sentences below:

Today a cloud said…

Last night a spider admitted…

The weeds pushing through the sidewalk asked if…The hangers in my closet were wondering if…

I could go on and on, but I feel that this book is packed with prompts, ideas, writing examples and notes from writers to improve the craft of writing, check it out for yourself! 🙂


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