Sunday, February 11, 2018

Valentine Hyperbole Poems

Love amplifies everything in our lives. It slows down time. It makes our hearts pound in our chests. It takes our breath away. That is why love is the perfect emotion for writing hyperboles, and Valentine's Day is the perfect time for writing a Valentine's Day Hyperbole poem.

Hyperboles are exaggerations.  When we are hyperbolic we can do almost anything: we could eat a million pancakes, sleep for two years, eyes pop out of our heads, we steal hearts, our hearts break in two, we die from love, and we die from boredom. Add love to the equation, and we are climbing the highest mountain, swimming the widest sea, and we are screaming our feelings so loud the whole world can hear us.

Students have fun writing hyperboles any time of the year. It's a challenge to try and outdo everyone else in the class with one's ability to exaggerate. That's why Tall Tales are so amusing and capture our imagination throughout time, and through so many generations.

This year as I watched the stores fill up with Valentine's merchandise, and the many brightly colored, glittered declarations of love, I thought it would be fun to write a love poem using hyperboles. However, since I teach 3rd grade I decided a romantic love poem wasn't the way to go. 

3rd graders might not have much experience to draw from in the romantic love department, but they have plenty of experience with things and activities that they love. Why not exaggerate how much we love pancakes, or climbing trees, or playing football? Are our favorite tacos really good enough for us to swim the deepest ocean for? Does reading a good book make us feel like we are floating on a cloud of cotton candy? Would my heart rocket out of my chest and orbit the Earth if I had a chance to see a whale swim near me in the ocean? (Probably!)

Students should think of something they really love doing, or eating, or playing, etc. and write a Valentine's Hyperbole poem about it. They should try and include as many hyperboles as they can think of in the poem to really emphasize their love. Finally, if you want to add a technology component to the activity, have them create a Google Drawing with a picture of themselves in it, and lines from their Valentine's poem surrounding them.Valentine's Hyperbole Poems

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Name Poems

Paige is new like a warm, blueberry bagel
Paige moves like a daisy growing
Paige sounds like a hummingbird
Paige is yellow like a tumbleweed
Paige means beautiful drawings

Paige, Kindergarten

Names are something most people are pretty passionate and opinionated about. If you've ever named a child, or even a pet for that matter with someone else, you realize really quickly that certain names trigger strong emotions. This is exactly why name poems are fun to write with students. It's fun to name things, and to find out the meaning of our own names.

One of the poems I like to have my students write each year is a name poem. We first start out talking about why our parents gave us our names. Some students don't know why their parents chose their name. Others are named for their mother's best friend, a grandparent, a sibling who passed, a special moment in their parent's lives, or just because their name sounded pleasing to both parents, and they could agree on it. After naming my own children, I have come to realize that picking a name that both my husband and I could both be happy with was no small feat, and sometimes that is enough. Students usually have lots of opinions about their names. Some love their name because it is unique. While others dislike their name because it has a strange spelling, or people can never pronounce it. Some, like I did when I was little, feel their name is too popular. Others enjoy having a name that honors someone in their family.

Regardless of their feelings about their names, I tell the students that like everything we do in poetry we are going to look at our names in a different way. First, I tell students to give their name an age. I ask them to think of their name and to decide if it is an old name, or a new name. This answer doesn't need to have anything to do with how long their name has been used historically. I tell students that my name, Sara, is an old name because it comes from the bible, however that doesn't mean I have to think of it that way. I can think of it any way I like because it is my name. There isn't a wrong answer for this. I could say that Sara is new like a bright, copper penny, or it is old like the dusty pages of a worn out book.

Name Poem Activity (Click here for free Name Poem Activity)

Next, we imagine that if our names could move how they would move. For example, Ezra moves like a lightning bolt, or Sara scampers like an arctic hare through the snow. I usually try to demonstrate how several names would move for the students. If my theatrics don't inspire an idea, they usually give my students, or a teacher passing by in the hall something to laugh at.


Conner reminds me of ancient empires, mighty and strong
Conner is old like crumbling castles, or remains of once mighty cities
Conner moves quickly like a hare
Conner is the green of growing plants
Conner feels like a solid stone wall, protecting a city
Conner looks like a ship approaching a harbor, coming from the endless distance of the blue sea
Conner means ponderer, a thinker who plays and thinks of strategies carefully

Conner means the one who is much wanted, always a friend waiting

Conner, 6th grade

Then, I ask students to imagine how their name would sound if it had a voice. Would it boom like a foghorn, or drip drop like an icicle melting? What would the voice of someone with their name sound like? What color would their name be? Yellow like buttery sponge cake, or prickly pear pink? Some years I have students give their names a number, and an explanation of why it would be that particular number. A name might be the number 13 because it is an unlucky name, or the number 4 because it is the number of people in their family. Other years, students will use the five senses to describe their names, or use their name in a line of alliteration. Sara stares at sparkly stars.


Cherish means to hold dear everyone
Cherish reminds me of a forest casting green and blue shadows on the forest floor
Cherish is old like the sky and the mountains
Cherish moves like the pond in a vast area, slightly moving
Cherish is white like freshly made snow
Cherish is a new viper zooming around town
Cherish’s voice is like a whisper barely being heard

6th grade

Finally, I always look up each student's name and find the meaning of their names, and the language their name comes from. Students love seeing what their name means, and what everyone elses' name means. To find their names' meanings I just look at, or a baby name website. Sometimes I have to look up a variant of the name to find its meaning, but I can usually find something for each student. I save the name meaning sheet until the end of the lesson because it causes considerable excitement and chaos. Students often include their name meaning at the end of their poems. When students don't like what their names means, I encourage them to invent their own name meaning. For instance, I prefer my name, Sara, meaning book lover versus it's real meaning which is God's princess.

Poetry is the perfect vehicle for thinking about our names in different ways. Whenever we think of a name it sparks images, and the personality of a person we've known who carries that name. Names remind us of people we want to remember, and perhaps people we'd rather forget. Names have layers of depth beyond just the way they look on paper, or they sound to the ear. They have a meaning and a life of their own.


Emma is as young as a little blue ocean wave waving around.
Emma is like a boring school day moving to the weekend.
Emma is as Mint green as mint ice cream on a hot sunny day.
Emma is the sound of wind blowing on a cold autumn day,
Emma is the smell of a freshly baked apple pie coming out of the oven,
Emma is the sight of a colorful poem waving around in the wind

Emma, 3rd grade

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Finding Poems

Sadie, Grade 5

In one of my favorite poems "Valentine for Ernest Mann" by Naomi Shihab Nye the idea of where we  find our poetry is explored. Nye starts the poems by telling the reader that "You can't order a poem like you order a taco./ Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"/and expect to have it to be handed back to you on a shiny plate."

Valentine for Ernest Mann
By: Naomi Shihab Nye

  You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
  Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
  and expect it to be handed back to you
  on a shiny plate.

  Still, I like your spirit.
  Anyone who says, "Here's my address
  write me a poem," deserves a something in reply.
  So I'll tell you a secret instead:
  poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
  they are sleeping. They are the shadows
  drifting across our ceilings the moment
  before we wake up. What we have to do
  is live in a way that lets us find them.

  Once I knew a man who gave his wife
  two skunks for a valentine.
  He couldn't understand why she was crying.
  "I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
  And he was serious. He was a serious man
  who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
  just because the world said so. He really
  liked those skunks. So, he reinvented them
  as valentines and they became beautiful.
  At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
  in the eyes of skunks for centuries
  crawled out and curled up at his feet.

  Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us
  we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
  in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
  And let me know.

I love the absurdity of this idea, ordering a taco poem. It makes me imagine a whole fantasy, fast food restaurant where a person could actually order literature. You could order a novella, hold the cheese, with a side of similes if you weren't that hungry. Or you could order a trilogy, a sonnet, and an ode for dessert if you had worked up a literary appetite.

However, despite the literary tangent the poem inspires in my brain, what I really love about these lines are the meaning behind ordering a poem like a taco. The reality is that the best writing does not come to us prepackaged, and without any work. Authentic poetry that truly touches us, and speaks with our voice, can't be manufactured, or bought. So where does it come from?

Cianna, 4th grade

Nye goes on to explore ideas where her poetry comes from in the rest of the poem. She tells the reader that poems hide in small moments like "the shadows/drifting across our ceilings the moment/ before we wake up." Poems can exist in recognizing beauty in something that others don't see the beauty in like two skunks that a man gives his wife as a Valentine's present in the poem because he thought they were beautiful. Finally, Nye explains that perhaps "if we re-invent whatever our lives give us/we find poems. Check your garage, the off sock/ in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite."

At the end of our poetry unit, I share and discuss this poem with my students. We talk about the ideas we like best, and the images that stick with us after we read it. Students are always intrigued with using the off sock in their drawers as inspiration to write. In fact, after a lively discussion about where those odd socks go one year, we all brought in a sock that had lost its partner and wrote a fictional story about what happens to those lost socks. We hung the socks and the stories in the hallway, and had a lot of fun investigating the adventures of this long lost socks.

For this poem I ask students to share where they find their poetry. What little details in life can inspire a poem? What can we re-imagine and find beauty inside of to create a poem? Where does our spark of writing and inspiration come from? These poems always strike a chord with me. They allow students to really reflect on themselves as writers and think about the writing process.

How do you write? Where do you find your poems? If you want to find out, try writing poetry poems in your classroom. Rediscover your inspiration by exploring the moments that make poetry in your life.
Poetry Poem Activity and Examples

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Recipe Poems

Recipes are stories passed from generation to generation, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, teacher to student, and even stranger to stranger. The recipes that we choose to share with people, speak to the message of ourselves that we want to send to others. Recipes can convey the story of our heritage, the traditions we grew up with, our sense of adventure, or our desire to comfort and help others.

Lately my classroom has been going through a recipe writing craze! It started in a writing workshop when I mentioned that students could write a recipe while they are working on their writing. One of my third grade girls ran with the idea, and when students shared their writing with the class she shared her Recipe for a Love Potion. The Potion was magical, imaginative and so much fun. Her ingredients included one tear of joy, the wart from a good witch, and some glittery pixie dust along with many other beautiful details. The rest of my class was blown away by her ideas and inspired. 

After that, recipes began popping up in other student's writing. Students wrote real recipes. One student wrote down her family's special recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Students wrote recipes they wanted to create. There was a series of smoothie recipes one of my students wanted to try out someday. After she wrote them down, she followed them up by writing fictional newspaper reviews written by fictional people who loved her new creations. These articles and recipes had voice and energy, and they were something I never would have thought up for an assignment. Many students liked creating imaginative recipes for things like the perfect football player, or the perfect soccer player. They created recipes for  haunted houses, zombies, and witches (it's October, so we definitely have a Halloween theme happening).

The format of a recipe is fun to play with when we write, and it is perfect for writing poems. Every year, I teach recipe poems. But before we write the actual poem, I usually first teach a lesson about the language and format of recipes. 

Recipes start with a title that tells the reader what the recipe is for. A title should also appeal to the reader. It should sound interesting to the ear, and appeal to the reader's sense of intrigue. 

Next, a recipe has a list of ingredients. Here is where I teach the students how good recipes need to include measurements in the ingredients. It is not enough to list that someone needs eggs for a recipe, we must list how many eggs. 3rd graders and even 6th graders need to review how we measure things for cooking. We list on the board cups and 1/2 cups, Tbsp and tsp, ounces, pats, lbs, pinches, and dashes, and sprinkles. 

After the ingredients, recipes have instructions on how to put all the ingredients together in the right order. Here is where the language of transitions are needed to stress to the students that readers need to know the correct order a recipe is created. Words like: first, then, next, finally help guide a reader through a recipe. 

There are special tools that we use for recipes: whisks, pans, spatulas, blenders, mixing bowls, measuring cups, knifes, cutting boards, muffin pans, etc. Using these tools for even an imaginative recipe for an ogre, or the worst day ever, makes a recipe sound more authentic. 

Finally, I like to discuss strong verbs for recipe poems. We brainstorm words like saute, chop, julienne, fry, bake, mince, blend so that our recipes will pop with strong word choices and voice. 

Then I let the students go. The only restrictions for recipe poems are that they have to be a recipe for something that a person couldn't really make. I don't want their family's recipe for apple pie, I want a recipe straight from their imaginations. My students have come up with wonderfully creative and unexpected recipe poems. If you haven't ever played with the recipe format for creative writing, give it a shot, and try out the recipe for an amazing poem.

Recipe Poem Instructions, Examples, and Brainstorming Worksheets.

Recipe for Comfort
-1 bowl comfort -1 pinch of sleep
-a sprinkle of family -your pet
-warmth -1 lbs. of home sweet home
-dash of memories -1 cup laughter and play
-handful of peace -an evening walk
-a bit of friendship -1 corn stalk
-music -1 pint joy
Mix a bowl of pleasure, add a pinch of sleep
Sprinkle on some family
And stir in your pet to make it sweet
Simmer up some warmth
And a pound of Home Sweet Home
Boil a dash of memories from all the places your roam
Season with some love and caring
Grill up a summer day
Marinate a moment
Stuffed with laughter and play
Microwave some peace
And fry an evening’s walk
Saute a bit of friendship and a big, tall corn stalk
Add in some music that goes on for all time
Defrost a pint of joy that you have when you see sunshine
Pour on some braveness that you have when you’ve worked up your nerve
And finally after all that work
Your comfort is ready to serve

By:Sadie, 4th grade

Recipe for an Unappy Mom, by Abby, 6th grade

Saturday, October 7, 2017

We've Got the Blues

The Dog Poop Blues Free vector graphic: Poop, Feces, Smelly, Crap, Dog - Free Image ...

Sometimes life can be pretty hard
My neighbor’s dog went and pooped in my yard

I sent my brother out to scoop
That nasty piece of charcoal poop

He came to me with a pale, green face
I knew right then I should get out of his space

And to my horror what did I see?
My brother upchucking on me

And so my friends I’m sad to say
This is how dog poo ruined my day

Hailey, 6th grade

Let's admit it, even the most optimistic of us out there sometimes get the blues. We can let little things, annoying things, and big things, stew for a while, sometimes for a long while. It feels good every now and then to vent and let our troubles out. That's when a Blues Poem can be the perfect antidote for a cloudy day, week, or month.

Blues music is an American genre of music. Although no one knows who invented the Blues, it has its roots in African-American work songs, spirituals, and field hollers. The music expressed the struggles, pain and hopes of slaves, tenant farmers and rural America. At the turn of the century, it began spreading out of the Mississippi delta and Texas Piedmont area. Blues players were mostly acoustic guitar players, or part of a jug band. Jug bands created instruments out of everyday work objects like jugs, wash bins, spoons, washboards, etc. As African-American people migrated out of the south and into larger cities like Chicago, Blues music began to express the troubles of a more urban existence. Electric guitars and bass were added to the Blues' sound. The rhythmic and soulful quality of Blues music makes it, and Jazz music, the foundation for rock and roll. Rock and Roll bands in the 1960s like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin covered old Blues Songs and revived interest in the musical genre.

The Fart Blues
By: Darren

My name is Darren and I try not to fart,
to hold it in and be a sweetheart.

The lunchroom served chili and I have to say,
they’re the reason that I feel this way.

My stomach is moving and grooving and doing the jig,
and I feel as bloated as a big, fat pig.

The bus ride home goes on and on.
I can’t wait to see my own front lawn.

I run to the bathroom and turn on the light.
I’ve never felt better to my delight.

When we write Blues Poems in my classroom we first look at a few examples of Blues Songs. We notice the rhythmic quality of the lines by clapping out the lines as we read them, and highlight the end rhyme. End rhyme is rhyme that occurs at the end of a line of poetry. We then play around with rhyming words as a class. I am always a bit amazed that some of my students don't know how to rhyme. Rhyming is a skill, I always practiced with my daughters when they were little. In fact, my five-year-old and I often practice rhyming games in the car or when we take walks. She picks a word and then we brainstorm as many words as possible that we can rhyme with it. For example she might say, "I saw the sun." Then we rhyme as many words as we can with sun. Fun, run, done, pun. Here is a practice worksheet I created to help students investigate their rhyming abilities. Rhyme Worksheet

Then I brainstorm with my class,  about some things that give us the Blues. Chores, dying pets, homework, and annoying siblings usually top the list of things that give elementary and middle school students the Blues. I share with my students a few of the things that get me down like falling on the ice or getting paper cuts, which for some reason I get all the time. We look at how I used end rhyme and couplets to write my blues poem. Sharing your own work with students encourages students to write and take risks themselves. I think it is vital to model your own writing in front of your students. Let them see your process, your failures, edits, and embarrassing moments. It creates a classroom climate where students are more willing to take risks and share their writing with others, or at the very least you their teacher.

Ice Walking Blues
Every day the sidewalks full of ice
All that slipping and sliding it sure ain’t nice

Even when I try, I slip on my boots
Gives all of my neighbors the hollers and hoots

That nasty ice makes me fall on my bum
You can’t wash it away like you can with soap scum

You’ve got to get out and shovel and salt
Otherwise you’re gonna fall and it’ll be your own fault

Oh I’ve got the ice walking, the ice walking blues
That ice will make you slip even when you refuse

Oh I’ve got the ice walking, the ice walking blues
My poor hands and poor hips that ice wants to abuse

Sara Kiffe

How to survive winter weather > 182nd Airlift Wing > Features

My requirements for a Blues Poem are pretty basic. I ask my students to write a blues poem about something that gets them down.  They should write a minimum of 10 sentences, 5 couplets, and the poem should have at least 5 rhymes at the end of the line. Blues Poem Assignment.

Writing about the Blues can be cathartic and fun. Students practice their rhyming skills, we all get a little time to commiserate in the small and annoying things that get us down, and we get to dabble in an old and American writing tradition.

Spider Rejection Blues
By: Joseph, 3rd grade

Whenever I try to pick up a spider,
they run away and leave me a crier.

They never think it’s a joke,
when I go to give them a poke.

When they see me picking them up,
they run like one scared little pup.

I’d pay with any big jewel,
to get them to stop thinking I’m cruel

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Similes and Silly Body Poems

Do your students ever tell you they can't think of anything to write? We've all been there. We are asked to write something, or we want to write and suddenly we can't think of anything we want to say. I often tell students to think about their memories, things they like to do, write a list, doodle a drawing, or when all else fails look around the room to see something that inspires words to start flowing.

One source of inspiration, that we carry with us everwhere we go, is our bodies. As human beings we are pretty obsessed with ourselves. We try to impose our ideas, our feelings, and even our bodies on everything around us. Think about it. Our chairs and couches have backs, arms, and legs. Clocks have faces and hands. Books have spines. We rise to the head of the class. We get to the heart of the matter, and always strive to not be the butt of a joke.

I don't think human's body obsession is all hubris, I think it comes down to the fact that we understand the world through what we know. Our bodies and other human bodies are all around us, and it's easy to think about how they are like, and not like everything else we see. That is why they are the perfect source of insipriation when students are learning about similes.

Similes are comparisons between two different things that use the words like or as. Easy examples of similes are "My dad is like a bear", or "My dad is as hairy as a bear." Body parts are also easy to compare to something else, and make into similes. The first thing I have students do in this poetry lesson is brainstorm a huge list of body parts on the board. It may seem like this is an unnecessary step, but I always get one or two students who write one simile such as "My hair is like spaghetti" and then  "claim" they can't think of any other body parts. Generating a list, gives students lots of options for similes. It can also help students who are self-conscious about their spelling by giving them a quick reference for words that they might be scared to try and spell on their own.

Next, I have students use similes to compare at least 5 of their body parts to something else. Students usually have a fun time creating these poems, and the results have been pretty amazing. In years past, if students finished early I encouraged them to draw pictures of themselves with their simile body parts. The result was drawings in which people had spaghetti and meatball hair, bubble gum cheeks, and tree branch arms. The drawings were funny and quirky, and we all got a kick out of seeing them.

My Body
By: Finley, 3rd grade

My toes are stars in the night
My head is like a wooly mammoth
My arms are like tent poles
My blood veins are like chocolate milk in a long straw
My cheeks are as red as roses
My hair is like spaghetti
My bones are a museum
My nose is like a pencil
My back is like a turtle’s shell
My neck is like a butterfly
My lips are like pink spaghetti

My heart is a rose

A few years ago I can across the book, My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks: And Other Funny Family Portraits by Hanoch Piven. It went along perfectly with teaching similes, and body poems. The book is about a little girl who is asked to draw a family portrait in class. She does, but is unhappy with the results because the portrait doesn't show all the little details that make her family so special. She then redoes the portrait using similes. Then a picture is put together with all the parts making a portrait of each family member. For instance her dad is nutty so he has a nut for a mouth. Her dog smells like dirty socks so in the picture dirty socks are used for her dog's ears.

I thought this book would be perfect to share with my students when we were learning similes, and creating our body poems. I also wanted to think of a way we could replicate the book's art using technology. Two years ago, I had my students write body poems about their family members, and then I had them try to create a portrait of their family in Google Drawing. I used my family as the example the first year. I described my youngest daughter's cheeks as being as pink and round as balloons. In my drawing, I found pictures of balloons using Google Images and used them as her cheeks in her portrait. This year I had my students write body poems about themselves, and now they are creating simile portraits using the same idea using Google Drawing.

 If you don't have access to chromebooks or technology on a regular basis this activity could easily be done using paper and magazines. Students could cut out objects to become their body parts and paste them to a piece of paper. I have never done that in class, but I think the results would be wonderful and fun.

Body poems are a silly and simple way to teach your students about similes. The human body is also a great inspiration whenever you, or your students, need to break through writer's block. Give similes and body poems a try, and watch your classroom's body of poetry grow!

Valentine Hyperbole Poems

Love amplifies everything in our lives. It slows down time. It makes our hearts pound in our chests. It takes our breath away. That is w...