I have officially found my new favorite first week of school getting to know you activity!
I borrowed the idea from Stephanie at Teaching In Room 6. If you haven’t checked out her blog, I highly recommend it when you have some time! She has such fabulous ideas!! I modified her activity a little bit to fit the needs of my students, but you can check out her original post here if you’d like.
We started off by reading The Important Book by Maragret Wise Brown as a quick read aloud. Together, we discussed the poetic pattern and the students’ observations about how each page was organized and set up. They noticed that the first and last line on each page were the same and began with, “The important thing about ________ is _________.”
Using that as a springboard, the students brainstormed important things about themselves that they would want people to know. A bunch of my students started off by saying that the important thing about them was that they were “nice” or “fun.” Therefore, I used our brainstorming session as an opportunity to teach into strong word choices and synonyms.
I then had the students walk around the classroom and talk to different people in order to share ideas of the things they like and love to do. By allowing them to get up and move around, I was able to maintain engagement and they were able to gain new ideas and talk to people they don’t normally sit with.
Like Stephanie, I also gave my students a sentence frame. (Grab a freebie copy HERE.) I used my ELMO to show a book page on my board while we looked at the sentence frame sheet together. I also provided the students with an example of my own poem photocopied on the back of their sentence frame sheet so that they could reference my model when creating their own.
They soon got busy working and were able to successfully create their poems on their own using the sentence frame. The only problem in the beginning was that the peoms were pretty basic. For example, “She loves to desserts.”
Being that one of the common core standards is to expand sentences for meaning, interest, and style that’s what we did the following day. Using my own sample that they all had a copy of, I demonstrated how to expand my sentence to make it stronger. The students did such a fabulous job when they went back and expanded their own poems. The student who had, “She loves desserts” turned her line into, “She loves warm, sweet, and gooey pastries.”
We also looked back at the book and noticed how sometimes the author chose to keep the sentences short and sweet in order to create a certain flow of the poem. Therefore, when revising their work, they should decided which lines are appropriate to expand and which might be better left short.
One more thing we were able to learn about while creating these fabulous poems was point of view. Typically, when students write about themselves they write in the first person. However, keeping with the theme of the book, we decided to make our poems written in the third person. We discussed the difference before they began writing.
Once the poems were revised and ready to go, I printed out a template for the class to use. (Grab a free copy HERE.) Keep in mind, this is created on legal size paper! So make sure you have a printer that is capable of printing that size. I purposely made the paper big so that the students didn’t have to limit their ideas and sentences just because it didn’t fit.
Finally, the last part of the assignment was to bring in magazines and search for pictures, words, or phrases that help to represent the important things about them. While it was difficult to find exactly what they wrote about, the students were able to find many things that they liked and could represent their interests and personalities. They had a blast cutting out the items to decorate their poem, but the best part was they were all sharing and collaborating with one another while doing so. It was an unplanned community building activity! If they found a picture they thought another classmate would like, they cut it out and shared it with them.
While this project took us a about 3-4 forty minute class periods to complete, I do think it was super beneficial and we crammed so much in! I also have lots of great plans on how to extend this lesson in the future. For instance, during our Character Study unit, they can create another poem, “The Important Thing About (Insert Character’s Name). Or rather when reading nonfiction, they can write an informational poem, “The Important Thing About (Insert Topic)” in which they select the main idea as the most important thing. I can’t wait to try them! I’ll be sure to post about them if I do! :)