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Thursday, June 21, 2012


Simile Poetry is one of my favorite “beginning of the school year” activities. This type of poetry is a simple blend of acrostic poetry

and similes. 

Have each student write his/her name down the left side of a piece of paper.  Using each letter as the first letter in a phrase, s/he writes a series of similes that describe him/herself.

Simile poems are a great way to get to know your students, or at least gain some insight into their self-images.  A display of these poems is a big hit at the fall open house.  Keep these poems in your students’ portfolios.  Repeat the assignment at the end of the year and enjoy comparing the two.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012


Just outside my classroom window, there is a beautiful maple tree.  My kiddos and I love to watch it grow and change throughout the year.  A while back, I decided to make a paper version of that maple and posted it just outside my classroom door.  Then, as a class, we  would mimic the changes the real tree went through.  

I start with a brown, craft paper trunk. 

Prior to school opening in the fall, I use the school's Ellison Die Cut machine to cut bunches of green maple leaves.  Writing each student's name on a leaf helps to make them feel a part of the group and welcomes them back to school.


I put the leaves on the trunk and pretty much leave it alone for awhile.  

As the leaves begin to change colors and fall, we make our tree do the same.  (Swapping the green leaves for the fall leaves is a great activity for early finishers.)

The tree transitions from fall to winter and we replace the leaves with snow (stretched out cotton balls).  All of this is in conjunction with scientific observations of our tree.

Because I do this with 1st graders, the tree does not become a Poet-tree until spring, when they are more skilled writers.  Then, as they write poetry, they make a copy on the computer and print it.  Recycling the green leaves from the fall, my students glue their poems to a leaf and put them on the tree.  It never fails to amaze me how motivating that is for 1st graders!  Before long, the tree is full.

Our tree buds with budding poets!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writing Center Graffiti

It's about time, teachers,... that I admit I am a word collector.  I {heart} words.  I {heart} interesting phrases.  Although I do not feel a need for an intervention, I will (gulp) admit that as a child I used to read the dictionary.  

This love affair with words has continued throughout my adult life and I strive to share my passion with my students.  That is what led me to create a graffiti wall in my writing center.  

My graffiti wall is simply a bulletin board dedicated to posts of interesting words and phrases.  Both the students and I can write words on strips of paper and post them on the board.  At the beginning of the year, I demonstrate this by extracting words and phrases from our read-alouds to post on the board.  Before long, my students are pointing out the words they find interesting.  I invite them to copy them and post them on our graffiti wall.  Students who "catch my fever" even bring phrases in from home.

I've forged an alliance with the computer teacher to further spur our graffiti.  When he introduces fonts to my class, he uses some of our graffiti wall words.  Using the SmartBoard, he gives our words "life" by applying cool fonts to them.  You should hear the ooo-s and ah-s! Naturally, there is a marked increase in graffiti after that lesson!  

As a corollary to our graffiti wall, I have a "tired words" board.  We put overworked words to bed and list alternatives on the foot board.

This, too, gains momentum over time.  Before the year is over, we have a dormitory of beds with tired words!

Both of these boards have improved my students' writing markedly.  They are easy to accomplish and the payoff is huge.  Try it.  You'll like it.