Poet-to-Poet Project

Posted March 28, 2014 & filed under News, Notebook.

Calling all poets in grades 3-12! Below is an exciting opportunity from our friends at Poets.org:

For National Poetry Month 2014, we introduce Poet-to-Poet, a multimedia educational project that invites young people in grades 3-12 to write poems in response to those shared by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors: Poet Laureate of California Juan Felipe Herrera, National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Edward Hirsch, NEA and Guggenheim Fellow Jane Hirshfield, Lannan Foundation Fellow Naomi Shihab Nye, Pulitzer Prize-nominee Ron Padgett, Jackson Poetry Prize-winner Arthur Sze, and Cofounder (with Allen Ginsberg) of the Naropa Institute Anne Waldman.

Students—to participate in Poet-to-Poet, watch the videos of Chancellors reading and discussing one of their poems. Then, write your own poem in response and email it to us at [email protected] by April 30, 2014. Please include your name and the name of the poet below who has inspired your poem. We will consider all student poems for publication on Poets.org in May 2014.

Teachers—if you are interested in using Poet-to-Poet in the classroom, we worked with a curriculum specialist to design a series of activities, aligned with the Common Core, especially for you. Click here for lesson plans.

Markers Are Better Than Crayons

Posted March 7, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

headshotI was surprised to realize this past Tuesday marked my seventh week with Travis. The time really has flown by! I’ve learned so much from my shadowing of MaryScott, and unexpectedly, from the kids as well.

Here are a few things I’ve realized from my time as a WITS intern in the classroom:

1) If children guess your age, they will base it on how tall you are – and unfortunately for me, that means their guesses don’t make it past 13 years old.

2) If you ever want to get a laugh out of kids, just sing them the McDonald’s “Fish McNuggets” jingle.

3) If you want to peek into the future, just ask a 4th grader to describe their invention (Trust me, “Taylor’s Portable Flush-O-Matic” is going to be “bigger than Apple”).

And last, but not least…
4) Markers are always better than crayons.

After watching WITS writer MaryScott in action for the past two months, I finally came around to composing a lesson plan of my own. Over the course of a two week lesson (two days of class time), I plan to help the students utilize “conflict” in their stories. The first half of the lesson will focus on creating a character with a specific set of traits while the second half of the lesson is going to use one of those traits to create a conflict.

DownloadedFileI’m using comic book templates and examples of graphic novels such as Jeff Smith’s “Bone” series, Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and the “Little Lit” series of comics in the lesson. The 4th grade teachers suggested that the lesson also include some exercises with scenery, particularly describing the climate and seasons in which the story will take place. I think I’ve found a neat way to incorporate scenery into the lesson without overwhelming the kids with too many tasks in the 1 hour I have with them.

The lesson kicked off this week– I’m very excited to share with you my thoughts on how it’s going next week!

Stay tuned,

WITS Intern Eriel

The WritingFix Project

Posted August 17, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

If you’re a teacher trying to figure out her first-day-of-school writing prompt, visit the Northern Nevada Writing Project (NNWP) for some wonderful, interactive writing lessons that will get you off to a brilliant beginning.  The NNWP WritingFix page is set up for teachers and features many helpful ideas, routines, and practices for the writing classroom.  Many of them involve art or other forms of fun, hands-on inspiration that will get students in the mood to write!

One of the best parts of WritingFix is YOUR STUDENTS.  That’s right.  NNWP posts high-quality lessons and resources provided by NNWP workshop presenters, but you don’t have to live in Nevada to take advantage of them!  You are welcome to use these lesson plans, available online for free, and then report back on how they manifested in your classroom.

What’s the coolest part of WritingFix?  YOU!  You get to submit work by your students, and many of them are posted as student samples on the website.  This is a fantastic publishing opportunity for your students.  I used the countdown and count-up stories from WritingFix last year in my classroom, and they were a huge hit!

By Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools

Food for Thought

Posted March 17, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

grapes-by-flauto.jpgWhat is more inspiring than food? Nothing!

I enjoy bringing grapes, carrots, and strawberries into the classroom. I use food as a way to encourage students to make observations. The students make observations of the food’s outside: its colors, textures, and shapes. Students must brainstorm a list of ten words or phrases before they are allowed to eat their food. As they eat their food, they are also brainstorming descriptive words about its taste.

I conclude the brainstorming session by having each student share one idea from their list, which I record on the board. Then I ask all the students to write down three more ideas from the board onto their individual lists.

Next we read some poems about food, and we discuss what descriptive words are used. Students are then given time to write their own poems.

The Perfect Grape

When I touch it,
It is cold and wet,
But soft as a baby’s foot.

When I pick it up,
It dangles like a dangling green leaf on a tree.

I look at it.
It is the color of lilac.

It is sour, juicy and delicious.

It’s chilly like the Antarctic.

It’s green like a
Green lime and reminds
Me of the perfect green grass.

By Clinton, 3rd Grade

A fun way to publish the poems is to have students write their revisions on paper plates.

Posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools

She Sells Sea Shells

Posted March 3, 2008 & filed under Notebook.



Nature is a wonderful source of inspiration. I brought in seashells for the class to observe. The children put the shells against their ears and listened to the sounds of the waves. They admired the delicate beauty of the shells. They smelled them and shook them a bit, listening for clues about the soul of a shell.

Next the students brainstormed a list of words to describe the shells’ properties, such as “smooth, pointy, and colorful.” Their lists also included any other ideas they had about shells, such has “hermit crabs live in them” and “they live in the ocean.” We discussed the different ideas generated, and I created a word bank on the chalkboard. Each student created a poem that personified the shell.

A Perfect Shell

I am a shell, as
black as writing ink,
hard as a brick,
and whirly like rich

I am lovely like pasta
on the inside.
I am like glass,
so delicate and

Then one day I will wash
upon a beach where
someone will pick me up and
put me in a big red pail.

Don’t you want to be a shell?amy-lin-in-a-maze.jpg

Jonathan, 3rd Grade

posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools

(photo by ramislevy via Flickr)

Thinking Inside the Box

Posted February 19, 2008 & filed under Notebook.


Usually we want our students to think outside of the box, but for this writing activity, I ask students to do just the opposite.

Last week I brought three ornate boxes into the classroom. We sat in a circle, and the students passed the boxes around. I told them that they could shake the boxes, but they weren’t allowed to open them. The students imagined something was inside the box that would give them special powers.

I told the class we were going to write a three part story. Here’s the breakdown:

Beginning –Describe the box and what is found inside.

Middle –What special power do you get? What happens when you get the power?

End –Do you get to keep the special power? Does it weaken? Get stronger?

I told students they could look inside the boxes if they worked hard during writing time. The students enjoyed writing these stories. Here’s one example.

The Magical Nickel

Today I went outside, and I saw a box. It was a big, green, glowing box. I went by it and a magic nickel just came flying out. I soon figured out that it was a magical nickel. I made a wish that I was the fastest runner in the world. Then I did a race with everybody in the world. I always won. I said, “I like this nickel already.”

Then I wished that I was rich. It happened. I was thrilled. I had like a million dollars. Then I wished I could fly and before you knew it, I was flying as fast as an eagle. Then I flew back to my house and went to sleep. Then I woke, did more wishing, and I shared my wishes.

That’s how my life went on until I was a grown up. Then the nickel went back into the box and then flew into a dimension far far far away from here. I tried to reach it, but I couldn’t. But my life was still good. I really don’t need the nickel any more.

by Orkan, 3rd Gradeamy-lin-in-a-maze.jpg

Posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools

Don’t Burst My Bubble

Posted January 4, 2008 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook.


I tell students that one way to develop their characters is by including their thoughts and dialogue. I draw a speech bubble and thought bubble on the board and then we discuss the differences. Students always catch on quickly because they read comics. As a class, we practice adding thoughts and dialogue to an example story.

When it’s time to revise on their own, students draw speech and thought bubbles directly onto their paper with a colored pencil, so they can see the changes they’ve made. Another way to do this activity is by having students draw their bubbles onto Post It wits-blog-pics-007.jpgnotes and then sticking them directly onto their draft.

posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools

Judge a Book by Its Cover

Posted December 5, 2007 & filed under Notebook.


People do judge books by their covers, and in this creative writing lesson, students were asked to do just that! I removed book jackets from several books and covered up the synopsis. Students examined the pictures closely and thought about the meaning of the title. The class discussed possible characters, plot lines, and settings that could be inspired by the various covers. Then students wrote “the missing story” to go with the book cover of their choice.

A Disguise

Long, long ago, a girl named Emily lived at the beach in a beach house. She lived with her mom and dad. One sunny afternoon, her dad said, “Emily, you get bullied a lot. You should wear a disguise.” Emily was so happy, she didn’t finish the rest of her dinner. She went upstairs to make a disguise to put on. After that, she went to school. Everyone stared at her and said, “Who is she?” Emily thought she would make a friend. Then a kid named Kelly got bullied. Emily just walked over to the kid and said, “Why don’t you wear a disguise?” Then another kid named Briana with long black hair as black as night didn’t get bullied because of Emily. Emily helped many, many kids.

by Briana, 2nd Grade

wits-blog-pics-007.jpgposted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools (WITS)