Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration
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The Heart of the Workshop: 3 Tips & Freebies for Productive Writing Conferences

I sat in the fourth row behind Mike, my not-so-secret crush. I can still remember the anticipation.  Today was the day Mr. Z was handing our essays back to us.  I looked forward to the red-inked notes he wrote on my paper.  Always brief, sometimes only one word, they had the power to make or break my day. 

In junior high, everyone had a role.  Tim was the class clown. Doug was the joker. Mike was the anthropologist who cried when I picked Pompeii as my research topic before he could get to it. I did it just to spite him. I liked ancient history, too. I was "the writer." That was my handle. Everyone knew it. I loved to write. So on days when our writing assignments were handed back to us...well, it was my day. 

As much as I loved Mr. Z's comments on my papers, they did very little to develop my writing skills.  At the risk of aging myself, these were the days when the teacher gave the writing assignment, you did it and turned it in. Then he read it, wrote a grade at the top, a couple of comments, and that was it. No rubric. No coaching. No self-reflection...only self-flagellation when the grade and comments were less than expected.

Times change, people change, situations change...The only thing constant is change.

Times have changed since my junior high days.  Many of us use a writer's workshop approach to teach writing. Hopefully, those days of ineffective comments, and guessing at the assessment targets are gone. When students get their writing pieces back, they should know exactly what writing skills they have mastered, as well as those that they have not mastered. Self-reflection is an integral component for developing writers. 

There are three writing conference strategies that I've identified in my research, teaching and coaching experiences.  We teachers often complicate conferring. It feels daunting and awkward at first. However, three tips can simplify your writing life in your classroom.

Honor the writer. Yep. You heard me. In order for my students to behave like writers, to talk like writers, to think like writers, I have to treat them like writers.

What does that mean? It means I begin each conference with these words, "Tell me about the thinking you're doing today as a writer."  In the beginning, I get blank stares. DON'T GIVE UP! As the school year progresses, your students will be able to answer this question IF you model that type of thinking for them consistently.  

Ask your writer to describe what she's proudest of in her writing. Ask him to talk about his challenges. Ask her if she's tried anything new while writing. Ask them, "What do you want to work on?" Initially, you may get surface level stuff like, "I want to work on my beginning." Don't give up. Ask, "What about your beginning?" Your writers will become more adept at talking about their process if you give them opportunities to do so. Remember that the end goal is not to develop a perfect piece of writing. The end goal is to develop a thoughtful and skilled writer.

 When I meet with a student writer, I pick one teaching point to address. Looking at student writing can be so overwhelming-the punctuation, the sentence structure or lack of, the underdeveloped evidence, etc. But if it's overwhelming for us, imagine what it's like for them. 

I zero in on one teaching point to teach in a writing conference. This saves my sanity, and my students are more successful writers because they can focus on one strategy. We want our students to learn it all...YESTERDAY. Often times, I end a unit feeling defeated because Johnny didn't hit this benchmark or that benchmark.  I have to remind myself, though, that good writing is good writing. The skills translate from genre to genre.  I've begun the habit of tracking my end-of-unit assessment data to inform the teaching decisions I make in the next. 

Data. Did you feel the bile rise up in your throat a bit? Swallow it back down. Believe it or not, writing data can be your best friend. Hear me out. 

When I assess a writing piece using Writing Pathways  or 6 + 1 Traits rubrics, I record all of the scores. I graph them on a grading sheet, so I can see a data picture for each of my student writers. Then I highlight the low scoring  areas. I'm looking for trends. If I have many students who bombed paragraph transitions,  then I teach it again within the same unit or in the next unit if we're moving on. If it's just a few, then I might conduct some small group writing conferences around that teaching point.  If it's just a couple of students, I address it in one-on-one writing conferences. 

I put those writing score sheets on a clip board with other conference sheets I've developed.  The data is front and center for me at each and every writing conference. I can't emphasize how much that has changed the success of my writing conferences and my formative assessment practices.

Writing conferences are one of the most powerful tools a writing teacher has in her arsenal.  They are formative assessments. They are one-on-one or small group instruction. They are differentiation at its finest. They are the heartbeat of the writer's workshop.  Writing conferences beat out a rhythm for the rest of the workshop. Because I am constantly taking my students' writing pulses, my lessons are more tailored for their needs. I know my writers inside and red pen in sight.

Check out the resources & freebies below!

This is a resource I use every year in my classroom. It details how I organize myself for writing conferences. It'll tell you all about my writing clipboard...the one I can't live without. 

We want a strong connection between reading and writing skills for our students. The lessons below are designed to link the two together. Integration of reading and writing skills develops better thinkers! 

These resources are part of this writing blog series. They're developed for getting reluctant writers started and for character development. Both focus on helping students to write like readers and read like writers. 

And finally...I've included two free videos. Click on the pictures below to access them. In them, I chat about writer's workshop practices.

Until next time, may your writer's workshop rock on! 

Lessons From the Writer's Notebook: Blowing Up Your Writing With Vivid Details

Don't say it was delightful; make us say delightful when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, 'Please will you do the job for me?'"
                                                                                                C.S. Lewis

Raise your hand if you've ever thought about apologizing to the students you taught in the first couple years of your career?  I remember some of it like it was yesterday.  Over other parts, I've drawn a thin, hazy veil of cobwebs. As a writing teacher, I remember being so overwhelmed when I sat with a student and her writing.  I did what many beginning teachers do; I focused on grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It's easily identifiable and fixable. Those early writing conferences often ended with this sage advice: You need to add more detail.

It took about a five years of teaching before I realized the futility of that advice.  What led me to this revelation? Well. I took a writing class. Not just any writing class. I enrolled in the Southern Arizona Writing Project, under the umbrella of the National Writing Project.  It changed my teaching, my writing, and my life, and it is why I am a huge proponent of teachers developing their own writing skills. How can we teach writing if we've never attempted what we ask our students to do?

So there I was in a writers' circle, sharing my writing with my peers and university professors. And someone said to me "You need to add more detail."  

Another colleague, perpetually cute in her Athleta sports dresses and pigtails, said, "You're telling us, not showing us."

My heart quivered from their criticism. Just a little. I went back to my writer's notebook and got to work. However, that writers' circle was a pivotal experience for me as a teacher, too. How often had I said those exact same words to my students, and then walked away? My colleagues did not launch into lengthy explanations of how I might show instead of tell. No one taught me what to do next.  I was left with the uneasy knowledge that my writing was "less than." 

But I was an adult. I figured it out.  My students? Not so much.

Flash forward 19 years.  I'm conferring with one of my fifth grade students who is drafting a literary essay. We've been exploring a variety of ways to support our stance and theme in our essays. Today, "John" is writing a personal mini-story to persuasively support his idea that perseverance pays off.

At the beginning of the writing conference, I ask him to tell me about the thinking he's doing as a writer.  We go through the niceties of a brief oral summary. He points out and shares parts he is really proud of, and then he shares the mini-story he's drafting.  It's flat, like a train track.  I tell him that I can see why he chose this particular mini-story.  I ask him to close his eyes while I read it back to him.

"What do you see in your mind as you listen?" I ask.

His answer is brief.  We talk about the lack of the "movie in his mind" when he listened to the rereading. And then I say the dreaded words,"You need to add more detail." His eyes glaze over. That is the honest-to-God truth.  But then, I ask, "Do you know how to do that?"

He shakes his head, "No." I go in for the kill!

(I need to add a side note here.  As writing teachers, we can find 50 million things that need to be fixed in any writing conference. Heck, I can find that many when I look at my own writing! CHOOSE ONE teaching point. Repeat this mantra 10 times: CHOOSE ONE. Breathe. You can do this).

John has many adjectives. This is common. Students often equate "details" with adjectives. We need verbs. So I ask him to choose a sentence he wants to blow up.  I explain that I want him to imagine verbs like little sticks of dynamite. When we use powerful verbs, our writing blows up with imagery.

I could've chosen to talk about similes or metaphors, personification or hyperbole. I chose verbs because John used too many "be" verbs.  I could've talked about passive tense. I didn't do that because I wanted something immediately accessible for him. The passive tense would become a whole group lesson. Using the sentence John chose, I modeled how to change the verb. He chose another sentence, and he tried it with my guidance.  I left him with the small assignment of choosing two other sentences to "blow up," and I made an appointment with him for later in the week to check on his progress.

Over my last few years of teaching, I've noticed a trend in the data that constantly swirls around me. Students have difficulty identifying and understanding descriptive language while reading. As writers, they are often mystified about how to use descriptive language.  Standardized assessments consistently show that our students' knowledge of vocabulary holds their progress back in reading.  

In my last "When Teachers Write..." post (found here), I wrote about massaging the language arts corpus callosum. There must be carry over between readers and writers workshops. Departmentalization and a lack of connectivity between the two workshops compounds students' struggles with descriptive language and details in reading and writing. 

Over the last two years, I've developed a number of reading and writing lessons for large or small group instruction that help students tackle "the details," so they can read like writers and write like readers. Two of my favorite can be seen by clicking the graphic below. This pack offers a reading mini-lesson and a writing mini-lesson, as well as three different text type passages to use with the lessons. It also includes a student reflection activity. 

One more exciting happening is the ELA Live group that starts tonight! I've joined middle school and secondary teachers to chat about language arts instruction. It's the perfect way to fit in some professional development. Pour yourself a glass of wine and put your feet up while tuning in to live videos on Facebook! The schedule is listed below. We hope you'll join us at 9 p.m., EST.

Aug. 1st at 9 pm EST
"Project Based Learning for Secondary English Classrooms" with Mud & Ink Teaching

Aug. 2nd at 9 pm EST
"Strategies for Writing Commentary for Literary Analysis" with Bespoke ELA

Aug. 3rd at 9 pm EST
"Ideas and Strategies to Incorporate Choice Reading" with Doc Cop

Aug. 4th at 9 pm EST
"Pinpoint the Source of Most Reading Problems in Five Minutes" with Reading Simplified

Aug. 5th at 9 pm EST
"How to Teach Students to Elaborate on their Thinking" with English, Oh My! 

Aug. 6th at 9 pm EST
"How to Run a Book Club" with The Reading and Writing Haven

Aug. 7th at 9 pm EST
"Encourage Independent Reading in Reluctant Learners" with Samson's Shoppe

Aug. 8th at 9 pm EST
"Using Showcase Projects to Increase Engagement" with Spark Creativity

Aug. 9th at 4 pm EST
"How to Publish Student Writing Online and Create E-Portfolios" with Amanda Write Now

Aug. 10th at 9 pm EST
"5 Hidden Gems (books!) that Both Teachers and Students will Love with 2 Lifelong Teachers

Aug. 11th at 9 pm EST
"Starting on the Right Track with Struggling Secondary (Dependent) Learners" with Secondary Urban Legends

Aug. 12th at 9 pm EST
"Back to School Digital Escape Room" with Lit with Lyns

Aug. 13th at 9 pm EST
"Conferring with Student Writers" with Wild Child Designs

Aug. 14th at 9 pm EST
"Giving Meaningful Feedback to Writers" with Read it. Write it. Learn It. 

Aug. 15th at 9 pm EST
"Grammar Manipulations: Holding Language" with Language Arts Classroom

When Teachers Write: Strategies to Build Better Characters + 2 Free Resources!

I'm a HUGE Robin Williams fan. His rapid-fire comedy fascinates me, and I can't help but think that perhaps his synapses fired a little faster than the rest of ours. His visit to the Actor's Studio is one of my favorite recordings to revisit.  He takes a woman's scarf and riffs over 20 characterizations with it, like a scatting jazz artist. Every time I watch it, I can't help but wonder what kind of characters he would've created had he turned his attention to writing. 

Creating characters with students is so much fun.  The possibilities are endless. However, if we want our students to "go deep" with their characters, we need them to write with intention.  How do we get our writers to engage in that kind of thinking in writer's workshop?

Believe it or not, it happens in reader's workshop! As teachers of reading, we are so adept at talking about characters.  We compare and contrast them and make text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.  We pay attention to their actions and personalities to predict their next moves. We use their inner worlds to make inferences about their problems.  We often miss out on transformational discussions if we go no further than that. 

Think about reader's and writer's workshops as two hemispheres of the language arts brain.  The two hemispheres are connected by a corpus callosum. There must be talk that bridges the two workshops in order for students take their learning about characters into their writing.  The particular type of talk and thinking you do with your students about the author's writing acts as the corpus callosum between the two workshop hemispheres.  

For example, my students and I were reading Bridge to Terabithia by Katharine Paterson.  We were discussing the Jesse character.  As readers, my kids were drawing parallels between Jesse and Hollis Woods in Pictures of Hollis Woods. They noticed that both characters used their art as a way of connecting with others. Both characters were emotionally isolated.  Both characters transformed because of their artwork. This was good stuff. This was deep stuff. But, I wanted to go farther. I wanted them to think like writers. So I asked, "Why do you think Katharine Paterson and Patricia Reilly Giff give their characters their art props...their art habits? Why did they make those decisions?"

This type of questioning opened up our dialogue about author's craft.  Students began and then continued to notice the intentional decisions our authors were making.  This helped them make better reading predictions because they realized that there are no accidental happenings in stories.  "Katharine Paterson didn't just wake up one day and say, 'Hmmmm. I think I'll make Jesse an artist instead of a jock.'" I told them. 

When this type of  talk and thinking go on over the course of an entire school year, writer's workshop comes alive. The questioning you do in reader's workshop is like a massage for the language arts corpus callosum! One of the side effects of thinking like a writer in reader's workshop is that students will begin to apply that thinking to their own characters.  

You can see it when you hold writing conferences with your students.  Recently, I was conferring with a student about a fiction story he was writing.  He had created a "Captain Underpants" kind of character. Inwardly, I cringed a little.  It wasn't the depth of character I was hoping to encounter in my students' writing. But I kept an open mind. 

Me: So tell me about the thinking you're doing today as a writer.

Student: Well, I'm creating this superhero character. He's going to be a character who defends older brothers and sisters against their little brothers and sisters.  

Me: Tell me more.

Student:  In the scene I'm working on, the big brother and little brother are at the water park.  The little brother keeps giving the big brother wedgies in front of his friends.  

Me: So what does the superhero character do?

Student: He's going to swoop down and teach the little brother a lesson. 

Me: Like tell the parents?

Student: No. My superhero character wouldn't do that. 

Me: What do you mean? Why not?

Student: Superheroes are supposed to give out their own justice. They don't call the cops. 

Me (working hard to suppress a giggle): Ohhhh. I see what you mean. So what powers does your superhero have? How will he enact justice?

The writing conference continued.  When I look back on this, I notice something important. My student was being intentional. He was thinking about who his character was going to be and what actions made sense based on those rules. Even more impressive, he felt empowered to defend his writing decisions.

Check out some questions that can massage your students' corpus callosums below. If you click on the graphic, you'll find a downloadable version.

Teaching writing is not an easy task, especially when you don't view yourself as a writer.  But in order for your students to think like writers, there has to be a connection between the reading and writing workshops. The corpus callosum must be massaged...frequently!  Higher level questioning is just one way to help your students develop their characters. 

I've included a writer's notebook page for your students to use when writing and crafting new characters.  You can find a downloadable version by clicking on the chart below.

Next Wednesday, we'll be exploring setting and descriptive writing, as well as a new product that will help your writing conferences pop with power! Until then, write on!

If you missed last week's post, the start of this writing series, click here!

When Teachers Write: 7 Strategies for You and Your Students When Getting Started is Tough

I do not sit down at my desk to put to verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood. We write in order to understand.
                                                                                                     ---C.S. Lewis

The  end-of-the-school-year build up felt particularly hard this year---like a climb uphill carrying a 100 pound pack while wearing too tight hiking boots with cotton socks. My brain felt blistered.  I'm a believer that one can not deny her true self forever. Trying to do so leads to unhappiness, and I find that what I'm trying to deny or restrain ends up oozing out of my pores eventually.  

I've been a writer since elementary school. While other kids rolled their eyes and groaned at the newest writing assignment, I relished them and often did more just for "extra credit." When I entered the teaching field in 1991, I felt I was relinquishing my writing dreams.  But starting this blog and my TpT journey has helped me reclaim those dreams. 

I recently dusted off manuscripts, complete and incomplete, from years ago.  And I have a new one in the works.  And it won't go away.  It's oozing out of my pores and comes into my mind at the oddest of times.  And so, this is my summer of writing. I don't mean dabbling. I mean writing 4 hours every day. Every day. Because I have to. School let out on June 16th for me. That's last Friday. I've already begun to write. 

But because I am a writer who also teaches, I'm very interested in learning lessons from my own writing processes that I can pass on to my students.  We know that learners and teachers learn from doing.  Every Wednesday until school begins (the last week in August), I will be writing on this blog about my own writing process and offering tips and lessons for your writers in your classroom. My lessons have already begun. They began on Saturday morning, June 17th. Here is what I've learned about writing, so far:

As I began writing my manuscript the day after school let out, I was struck by a tsunami of anxiety.  It was almost overwhelming.  Thoughts like, "This idea sucks." and "Who do you think you are?" hovered over my head as I put pencil to paper.  I pushed through, however and was able to begin. HOW I was able to do that made me think about my own students who struggle to begin.  What could I share with them? Here's what I discovered about beginning...

  1. Start by sketching.  Words weren't coming to me at first, even though they had been for weeks before I sat down with my writer's notebook.  So I sketched at first.  This helped my brain relax.
  2. Use a pen, especially if you are a perfectionist. Using a pen is messy. It allows for all of your ideas to to be seen...even the ones you think are crappy.  Later on, when you've had some distance between you and the page, you might not think they aren't so crappy. If you erase them, you're missing out on opportunities to rediscover and remember. Students are famous for wearing down their erasers instead of their pencil leads.
  3. Talk to the voice in your head. That's write. Talk to the voice that is telling you that your idea(s) or story is worthless. Tell it to shut up. Or, tell it that if you don't believe in yourself, no one else will either.
4. Write this: I don't know what to write...I don't know what to write...I don't know what to right. Sounds weird, I know.  But the simple act of getting your pen or pencil on the paper will start the process. Eventually, the words will come.

5. Write out of sequence. Sometimes, beginnings are the hardest for me.  I've learned to skip them if I'm really hung up. I will start writing a scene that my mind can't seem to stop seeing, instead.

6. Phone a friend. One thing I have discovered both as a teacher AND as a writer, is that I need to orally rehearse.  That's right. I'm almost 50 years old, and I need to tell my stories to trusted friends. Doing so makes me a much better writer. My fifth graders need to do this, too. Sometimes, I tell my stories to them.  They HELP ME when I'm stuck. I've learned to build this practice into my classroom writer's workshop, as well as my personal writing process.

7. Research if you can't write. Sometimes, I just can't begin writing the story in my head. So, I research details I know I'll need to tell my story.  My last few sessions, I've been researching trees and how they communicate with each other.  Researching keeps me moving in the right direction when my writing anxiety feels overwhelming.  Wouldn't this work for my students, too?

I'm really looking forward to pushing myself as a writer this summer.  Even if my manuscripts are never published, I will be able to say I've finished something. I've tried. I've grown from the effort, both as a teacher and writer.  

Be sure to stop by every Wednesday to hear more about "When Teachers Write..." And, feel free to tell me about your own writing journey by commenting on this post!

I've put together these seven strategies into a little interactive notebook page for you to use with your students. You can download it by clicking the picture below. Enjoy and please leave some feedback love if you're appreciative.

You might also be interested in this!


See you on Sunday, for my regularly scheduled post! Come back to read about an different kind of book tasting event. Until next time...

The Kindess Poetry Project: 10 Writing Exercises from Poet Andrew Green

As part of the 3 E’s Blogging Collaborative monthly link-up series on empathy, equity, and empowerment, I’d like to introduce you to our guest blogger, Andrew Green from Potato Hill Poetry.  I first met Andrew in a weekend workshop in Phoenix, Arizona.  As a teacher-learner, I watched as he inspired us to experience poetry as writers, teachers and learners. And I thought to myself, “This is something special.” Fast forward fifteen years.  I am teaching in Michigan, and I stumble over Andrew’s materials in my filing cabinet.  I find his website.  I reach out to him. He travels from Boston to Michigan to be our writer-in-residence.  I watch our students, eating poetry out of the palm of his hand. I think to myself, “His work. It’s still something special.”  He brings a unique perspective to teaching the 3 E’s as he travels the greater New England area and the rest of the United States. And yes, he’s still something pretty special. 

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
                                                —Henry James

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.
                                                —Dalai Lama, XIV

I work as a poet in the schools. My job is to inspire, motivate, and encourage kids to read and write poetry. I do this by sharing my love of poetry with them. I read them poems. I share my writing notebooks and writing habits with them. We read poems out loud and talk about them. We write poems together on the board and then we all write our own. If we have time, we revise them. Finally, we share and celebrate them in pairs and as a large group. We notice what we like. We ask questions about things we don’t understand. We encourage revision. We applaud the effort. And kids love it. Especially the sharing out loud.

It’s that simple. The trick is to help each student find a connection to poetry. This can be done by sharing many different poems so that students see all the ways poems can be written. Once students discover a poem about a subject they like, suddenly a light goes off. Bingo. Poetry speaks to me. Poetry is about something I care about. Poetry has purpose and pleasure and power.

This year, we took the act of kindness as one of our main themes to explore in our poetry. We talked about what kindness is and how we show it? We talked about the different ways people can be kind to each other. We read poems about kindness and then we went on “Kindness Hunts” to see where and how we might witness it. We discovered these acts all around us.

Kindness was everywhere. In our classrooms, lunchrooms, at recess, on the playground, in our kitchens and homes, on the sports fields, in parking lots and stores, on the sidewalks and in traffic.

And we wrote about it. We wrote poems describing what we observed. We shared them. We passed them on to others. We gave them as gifts.

When writing poems about acts of kindness, one learns that there are many different kinds of kindness. There are small momentary kindnesses to strangers – holding the door for someone, picking up someone’s dropped pencil, letting someone slide into the long line of morning traffic.

There are planned kindnesses – writing a poem for someone, taking a day off from work to stay home and nurse someone back to health, surprising someone with a special gift.

And then, there are the daily kindnesses to those we love: packing a lunch for someone, driving someone to school in the morning, helping someone with homework or reading them a story before bed.

Poetry is one place to acknowledge these acts of kindness, to write them down and measure them out, to describe them in words on the page. By describing these moments on the page, we make them come to life in a poem – it’s a way of saying thank you to those who make our lives better.

Writing Time:

When you write a poem about an act of kindness you have many choices.

Your job is to write a lot about a little act of kindness you witness. Here are some questions, strategies, and thoughts to consider when writing:

Questions to Ponder when Writing:

1.What are different types of kindnesses you can write about?  This is a good classroom topic for discussion as a pre-writing exercise.

2.What kinds of things can you include in your poem?

3.Will the five senses help you to convey the scene?

    4.What observations can you make about the people, the setting, 
        the light, the time of day, the weather?

5.Could you include a line (or more) of dialogue – what are people actually saying?

6.What are some examples of your topic that you could show us?

7.What struck you the most about this act of kindness?

8.Will the Five W’s help you? Who? What? When? Where? Why?

9.How did the people involved act and react?

10. What thoughts do you have about this act of kindness?

Ten Exercises for Writing a Poem on Kindness:

1.Write a poem about an act of kindness that you observe between two people. This could be in a coffee shop or school cafeteria or anywhere you observe people.

    2.Write a poem about an act of kindness that someone you live    
       with does for you each and every day.

    3.Write a poem about a friend who does something kind for you. What do they do that makes you feel good about yourself

and about them?

    4.Write a poem about a relative and some act of kindness they     have done for you in the past.

5.Write a poem about an act of kindness you have done for someone else. Don’t be bashful. Describe it in detail.

6. Write a poem about an act of kindness from a teacher or coach.

7.Write a portrait poem describing a person you know who is kind to you.

8.Write a poem describing your thoughts on what kindness is and why it’s important.

9.Write a poem using only simile or metaphor describing what kindness is.

10. Write a poem about the kindness of a pet or an animal or something from the natural world.

Remember, the best poems are those that don’t tell us, but show us and therefore leave the conclusions up to the reader. Put on your discovery hat and go discover kindness out there. Then write your poems.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.


Here are several sample poems:

At The Grocery Store

By Andrew Green

As he walks up behind her

She turns

At the last minute

And decides

To hold the door for him

Who gladly accepts

And in return

Holds the inside door for her

Each of them

Thanking the other

For that brief moment

Before they scurry on their way

He to the produce aisle

For a box of strawberries

She to the deli

For a quarter pound of pastrami.

The Kindness of Grass
By Maisie

The first thing you do

Is see the grass.

It catches your eye.

You smell the grass.

It smells as beautiful

As perfume.

The grass is as fresh

As a strawberry just picked

From the patch.

I love the grass.

It tickles between your toes

And it’s as soft as your pillow.


By Samantha

He stops unloading the light bulbs

Out of his red van

To push me on the swings

With his dirty hands

He hugs and kisses me good-bye

Every day sending me

Well wishes

He always has time

After his long and weary days

To play with me

On the hoverboards

He kills the evil spiders

When I am too scared to

He asks me how

My day was every day

After school

He kisses me good night

Each night.


By Meghan

We are friends

Me and her

Her and me

And that is fact

As always will be

I see her

She sees me

Friends from beginning

Puppy her

Baby me

Friends are friends

We’ll never leave

And that is a fact

As always will be

Me and her

Her and me.

Mrs. Flieger
By Annie

She asks, “Are you okay, my love?”

She helps me stay focused

She stops her work to talk to me

She calms me when I’m stressed

She comforts me when I’m down.


By Findlay

B flat, F, F, G, F, D, E flat, F —

Mr. Harlow stopped me.

He told me:

Chin up, elbows down.

I continued:

F, G, G, F —

My hands started to hurt.

D, C.

He told me:

Take a break.

I calmed down and continued:

B flat, B flat, B flat, B flat —

I felt dizzy.

Then Mr. Harlow stopped me again

And said:

Smaller embouchure,

Slower breathing.

It helped.

I kept playing.


By Jasper

Every weekend: pancakes.

Recipe memorized in my head:

Flour, sugar, salt, baking powder,

Then the wet.

Butter, eggs, milk, vanilla.

Then fruit: banana, strawberry blueberry.

Then the chocolate chips.

Sizzle, sizzle, goes the batter

On the griddle.

You can check out Andrew's Potato Hill Poetry residencies and workshops right here!

This post is the last posting you'll see from the 3E's Blogging Collaborative until August! Until we meet again, you can find us at

Meanwhile, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, put your feet up, and check out the other teacher authors in our collaborative this month. Their links are below!