Engage your new students in sharing about themselves, their families, and their summer vacations through a variety of learning activities.
- Identify a positive physical feature of themselves
- Work in pairs to take part in an online writer's workshop
- Create a descriptive poem about their favorite feature
- The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald
- Computers with web access
- Writing With Writers: Poetry Writing With Karla Kuskin activity
- Loose-leaf paper
- Blank paper for publishing poems
- Digital camera with printer or regular camera with film
- One piece each of black and white roll paper, each approximately two feet long, to be used for a picture background
- 12- by 18-inch black construction paper
- 12- by 18-inch construction paper in two or three accent colors
- Optional: Line Guide printable
- Gather materials and cut paper if necessary.
- Read through the book The Best Part of Me to determine if you will read all poems or pick those most appropriate for your class.
- Preview the Poetry Writing With Karla Ruskin online activity that your students complete.
- Make sure the digital camera is ready with charged batteries or the regular camera has film.
- Make a class set of the Line Guide printable, if you plan to use it with students.
Step 1: Gain your class's undivided attention, then roll up your sleeve, hold your elbow out toward them, and look at it like it is the most amazing thing you have ever seen. Say, "So tell me, what do you think of my elbow? Because I absolutely love it! I think it IS the best part of me." They will look at you strangely, but no one is likely to say a disparaging remark because you have just declared your affection for this bony joint. Begin a list on the board of what you love about your elbows. After you have written two or so positive attributes, the rest of the class will start contributing.
Examples: Couldn't eat soup without them, perfect tool for nudging a friend when I think something is funny, etc.
Step 2: Ask students if there is anything about themselves that they love and why. Initially, most children will hesitate to answer for fear of "bragging," but will share when they realize the classroom environment is friendly and tolerant.
Step 3: After a few students have shared, bring students close together for a read aloud. (I have them sit on the carpet in front of me, which they seem to enjoy regardless of their age.) Tell them you are going to share a book of poetry compiled by a photographer who visited third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students at their schools and asked them the question, "What is the best part of you?" Share some/all of the poems from The Best Part of Me and discuss favorites. Showcase the photographs and highlight how simplistic and focused they are.
Step 4: Following the reading, tell students they need to decide on what they think is the very best part of them by the next class session.
Step 5: In your school's computer lab, or with students working in groups of two or three at a computer center, direct students to the Writing With Writers: Poetry Writing With Karla Kuskin activity. Model how the writer's workshop is used and allow students to complete it.
Step 6: Have students write their own descriptive poem about the best part of them following the advice given in the writer's workshop. Poems can then be revised and edited.
Step 7: Have students publish their poems by neatly printing them on blank paper in the style of those in Wendy Ewald's The Best Part of Me.
Optional: To help students print neatly on blank paper, provide them with a copy of the Line Guide printable that they can slip underneath the blank page.
Step 8: As students are writing and publishing their poems, pull students aside one at a time and take a close-up photograph of each child's self-described "best part." It works well to put the students against a contrasting background, like black or white roll paper, for these pictures.
Step 9: Print or develop the pictures for the next class session.
Step 10: Model the following assembly of the Best Part of Me display (see photo of examples below):
- Cut the empty white space away from the photograph and the published poem.
- Size a sheet of black construction paper slightly larger than the photograph and poem sheets to act as a frame.
Note: I usually let the students do these first two steps after I model how, to help foster student ownership, but if you are particular about straight, even edges, you might want to frame them yourself.
- Glue the photograph and published poem in the center of the black construction paper pieces.
- Choose a brightly colored 12- by 18-inch sheet of construction paper.
Note: Whenever I allow students to choose colored paper for a display, I always offer the exact amount of pieces as I have students, with the number of colors divided equally. For example, if I have 24 students, I will offer eight sheets of red, eight teal, and eight orange. Students can still choose and it is much easier to create a symmetric or well-balanced board.
- Arrange the framed poem and photograph on the construction paper. Glue into place.
Step 11: Once students finish putting together their poem displays, arrange all of the poems on a black background in the classroom. Add a title if desired.
- Complete an online writer's workshop
- Write a descriptive poem about a physical attribute
- Did the students have enough knowledge to navigate the Internet independently?
- Was peer editing effective for the poems?
- Was anyone hesitant to discuss a positive attribute? Did you consider why and how you might have helped that child feel comfortable?
- What were your successes here and what would you do differently next time?
- Did you observe students staying focused in order to complete the entire online workshop?
- Did you hear more positive comments being mentioned about physical attributes?
Evaluate each student's poem. Did it follow the models established by the online activity or by the book The Best Part of Me?