Writing Things To Do If… Poems with 1st Graders at Hugo Elementary

Last month, I got to visit Hugo Elementary School in White Bear Lake, MN, at the invitation of Media Specialist Connie Stirling, whom I had run into at the Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference. I was so excited to visit the school and spend an entire day writing poems with 1st graders! This meant the day wasn’t about me, or even about poetry in general. It was about actually writing–with kids. With 1st graders!

Connie and Leah Sitka (1st grade teacher) wanted me to demonstrate the process of writing a poem and touch on some of the poetic elements they would have been studying. So, we read some poems and looked at some of the fun elements of them, like alliteration, personification, metaphor, etc. We looked for sensory words and occasional rhyme and all sorts of fun stuff. Then I shared some mentor texts of Things To Do If… poems. Then the writing fun began.

I had them choose an image for me, and I wrote a Things To Do If… poem right in front of them. I talked through it out loud and made little changes along the way. So I would say things, like, “Oh, the knitting needles are both exactly alike, so I think I’ll call them twins in my poem,” or “If I change ‘fly’ to ‘soar,’ then I’ll have three words with the ‘s’ sound all close together, and I like the way that sounds.”

After my demonstration, we wrote together as a group. The kids did an awesome job of being creative (our top priority) and playing with words. And not judging the words and lines as we wrote that first draft.

Here are a few pictures from this fun writing day. I had such a lovely time with the students and staff there!

There were so many awesome poems and lines! A few wonderful lines:

  • Blink when fluffy clouds get in your eyes! (rocket)
  • Wear a big, green, crumply top hat. (tree)
  • Believe you ARE a real horse. (carousel horse)
  • Attack a bat! / Smack the bat! (baseball)
  • Whisper, “Wwwhhhhhhssssssshhhhhhhhhh!” (roller coaster)

4 Responses

  1. These first graders are amazing. Their little brains are just ripe for receiving and storing all their world has to offer. What you did with them is so creative and I’m impressed with all of you. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Martha. I love first graders! They have bold imaginations:>)

  2. Laura, these poems are wonderful. And I know. I taught first grade for 27 years. My last ten years were at Clay Lamberton Elementary in Berlin, WI. I remember that you said you visited there a few months ago. Gee, if I could have just lasted longer, I would have had the experience of you coming to my classroom. However, I’ve been retired for 16 years. Guess I probably wouldn’t have made it that much longer. Ha! Anyway, you did a terrific job with them. I can tell.

    1. Thank you, Pat:>) Would have loved to have visited your class back in the day, except I was terrified of school visits back then! It was sure a treat to write poems with these imaginative 1st graders:>)

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