Before You Go…

It’s nearing the end and there is still so much I want to do with my students before we all wave goodbye on June 8 and the summer sun takes over their days. Chances are, you might be entering into your final weeks as well.

Take a peek into my plan book for some of my final writing exercises as we close the school doors but hopefully ignite some excitement to keep notebooks and writing going through the summer months.

1. Writing to the Beat

Inspired by The Writing Strategies Book, by Jennifer Serravallo,  Listen for (and Write!) Music p. 107

Have you ever just listened to a piece of classical music and imagined how you would write the sound of the beats? As we enter into a unit on poetry these final weeks, I hope to really help students see what creates the rhythm of a poem and inspire them to take the challenge of creating their own rhythms when playing with words.

To start with, we’ll read some popular nursery rhymes and poetry to identify the syllables and words that offer a beat. Is anything repeating? What sounds or syllables are held longer? What kinds of words offer a choppy sound?
Using Beethoven’s 5th Symphony as a starter, I’ll model how to pick out a section of rhythm and draw it on paper using different lengths of lines to represent the lengths of the notes (ie., ____ ____ ____ ________). I’ll ask, what words might work here to match the rhythm of this melody?
Below I’ve listed a few favorite classical songs with distinct rhythmic melodies. Together-as a class, in groups, partners, and then independently students will get to play with sounds and words to create musically inspired poetry.

Playlist:
Beethoven’s 5th Symphony
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Bach’s Fugue in D Minor
Want to choose your own? Here is a variety of snippets to choose from.
Visit the Poetry Foundation to find great examples of poems to use for mentor texts.

2. Ordinary Objects Exercise

Inspired by The Poetry Friday Anthology K-5 Edition by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, p. 179
In the book by Vardell and Wong, the mentor poem for this exercise is titled “Stapler” by Georgia Heard. The exercise challenges students to take an ordinary object and give it human characteristics through personification. Encouraging writers to think about how an ordinary object might come to life is sure to stir up some creative thinking. Together we will create a collection of ordinary objects as inspiration. From there, students will be able to generate ideas and decide the traits their object will carry within a story or poem.

3. Imagination Exercise (Victoria Coe)

My students are HUGE fans of Victoria Coe’s Fenway and Hattie series. Yet, I have not visited her website to do the imagination exercises she offers to students this year. Her books play with point of view and perspective in hilarious and often surprising ways. She challenges students to search deep within their imaginations. I often follow up one or both of these imagination exercises with a writing exercise tapping into the same ideas they explored as Victoria talks them through a scene of “Waking Up” or “Going for a Walk.”

4. What It Is? By Lynda Barry

I have had this book by Lynda Barry for about three years now. Every time I open it I find something new or get inspired in a new way. On page 30, Barry poses the questions, How do they get inside? How do they get outside? This is in reference to images inside of our head. I love this way of thinking about our thinking. I’m excited to share the book with my class and let them peruse and wonder. I also want to model aloud how I might describe an image in my head. How might I get it out? In a sketch? In a list of words?  What images are hiding deep in our imaginations? What’s in their head? How did it get there?

5. Get Awesometastically Creative!

Inspired by The Creativity Project, Edited by Colby Sharp

If you haven’t had the opportunity to take a look inside the pages of The Creativity Project, a newly published book by Colby Sharp, you and your writers are in for a treat. I began reading the book to my class this week. To quickly summarize the project, authors and illustrators were invited to share two prompt ideas (pictures, images, poems, drawings, etc.) with Colby. He then shipped the prompts to other participating authors or illustrators. From there, the participant could share whatever was inspired by the prompt. There are stories, letters, comics, poems, and all kinds of creative interpretations of different ideas. My students were overjoyed to see the names of authors they know and love had participated. One student finally said, “Hey, we could do this!” It’s like he read my mind. I can hardly wait to share more of the ideas and then let students come up with their own to share with each other. Should be a pretty fantastic day of writing, planning, thinking, and creating!

I’m excited to end the year strong and share some of my favorite writing exercises that students can go off and try themselves this summer. What are some of your favorite writing exercises to share with your students? What writing exercise are you planning on trying out this summer in your own notebook?