"Happiness is a warm puppy."      
~ Charles M. Schulz
1. Watch Charlie Brown and his friends sweetly sing metaphors in their song "Happiness Is...." (The song begins at 1:30.) 

A metaphor, if you need a refresher, is a comparison between two nouns without using "like" or "as." In this assignment, students compare an abstract term with concrete images.

2. Brainstorm words to transform into metaphors. Here is a start: spring, summer, fall, winter, fear, happiness, disgusted, sad, scared, exciting, soft, rough, sweet, salty, fast, noisy, quiet,
any color....
                     
3. Allow students the pleasure of writing sensory-rich images for their word(s). Help them, if necessary, by encouraging them "to use color, sounds, actions, and sensations of touch and smell in their metaphors" (Any Child Can Write 76).

Some student examples:
  • Noisy is screaming kids in the street playing with their friends.
  • Noisy is lions roaring in the zoo because they are mad about being in a cage.
  • Red is a yummy Red Delicious apple being cut up and sliced into a pan, cooked for applesauce, and dumped on a cake.
  • Red is an enormous firetruck racing down the street to get to a fire.
  • Green is a tree that waves as the wind whistles through its leaves.
  • Orange is a juicy fruit that when you take a bite it splashes onto your face.
  • Autumn is colorful leaves falling to the ground.

If you like pre-writing sheets, here's one.

Idea prompted by Harvey S. Wiener in Any Child Can Write, 75-77.
 
 
I am joining my youngest daughter as she reads The Swiss Family Robinson for a history/literature class. The story is told in first person, from the perspective of Mr. Robinson, the father of four boys. The writing makes me smile because, at least in this version, it is very formal, even stuffy.

If you don't own the Bantam Classic edition, invite your students to read chapter 1 and part of chapter 2 here. Based on the writing style, what words would they use to describe the father? Give them the task of revising a few of Wyss's paragraphs, making the writing sound like a different father: their own, one they know, or one they imagine. They can then compare the two versions. What makes them different?

Not only will your students be able to practice revising through this exercise, but they will also see the effects of different voices in writing.
 
 
Part 1
Let's pretend that ten-year-old Lily has given your students the first draft of her story, asking them how she can make it better. Ah, what a wonderful opportunity for them to read slowly, carefully, and analytically and to respond with comments that are kind, insightful, and helpful.

Copy Lily's first draft into a document and print it, allowing your students to write their questions and comments directly on it, or copy it to a Word or PDF document and let them use the review feature.

When I did a similar exercise with a class of high schoolers last year, they sat a little straighter and acted a little smarter as they took the role of mentor. They were able to notice problems in another person's work that they were blind to in their own. I guess that's typical, though, isn't it?!

The Poor Little Girl Who Became a Princess, draft 1
By Lily

Once upon a time there was a poor girl whose father was blind and very old.  Because he was blind and could not work, took her water pot from the shelf where she kept it and went to get water at a nearby well.

One day when she was taking her water pot down from the shelf, she found four beautiful jewels inside.  She did not know what they were because she had never seen jewels before.  Even though she did not know what they were, she thought they were very beautiful and wanted to keep them.  She hid them under her dust cloth and took the pot and went to get water as she usually did.  She did not expect the strange incident to happen again.

The next day she woke up and, after fixing breakfast, went to get her water pot.

She found that inside were a handful of jewels, even more beautiful than before.  She did the same as she had done with the jewels she had found the day before.  That night she thought that this was very strange and wondered who had been putting jewels in her water pot. 

The next day she went and looked in her pot and found that there were two handfuls of jewels, even more beautiful than before.  She put them under the dust cloth and went to fetch water, just as she usually did.  That night she thought about the person who had put the jewels in her water pot.  She wanted to find out who the person was. 

The next day, she ran to her water pot and found three handfuls inside.  This time she decided to go and show them to her father.  While she was bringing them to his room, she remembered that he was blind and would not be able to see them.  But, she thought, he might know what they are and he would be able to feel them.  So, she put the jewels in her father’s hands, and described them.  He knew at once what they were and told her that they were worth a lot of money.  So she went and sold some of them, but kept the first four, because she thought, “I might use them for something someday.”  By the end of the day, she and her father had a big house, plenty of food, and good clothes to wear.

The next day, she decided to go and sell her old clothes which weren’t very ragged yet.  She sold them to a poor man, who thanked her and told her that his wife would need them.  She went to bed that night and decided that it had been very good that she sold them and thought about how blessed the man and his wife would feel.

The next day it was very early in the morning when she heard a knock at the door. She answered it and when she opened the door, she saw that there was a man dressed in rich clothes.  He asked her if this was the Smith household and she said it was.  He handed her an invitation to a ball at the palace.  She thanked him and he went away and she shut the door.  She hurried to her room to get her best clothes ready. 

That night at the ball she got to dance with the prince and they fell in love.  And soon after, they were married.  And they lived happily ever after.

Part 2
Lily actually sent me her story for my mentoring help. She revised it a couple of times and sent me her "new and improved" version.

Ask your students to read both drafts carefully, writing down their observations of what Lily did to make her story better.

The Poor Little Girl Who Became a Princess, Revised
By Lily

Once upon a time there was a poor girl whose father was blind and very old. Because he was blind and could not work, she had to do all the housework by herself.  Every day she took her water pot from the shelf and went to get water at a nearby well. 

One day while cleaning the house, she removed her water pot so that she could dust the shelf.  As she was finishing the task, she peeked inside and found four beautiful jewels.  Each one was a different, rich color.  She reached inside and picked one up.  It was smooth and slippery.  “What is it?” she wondered. She thought they were interesting, so she wanted to keep them.  Then she hid them under her dust cloth and took the pot to get water as she usually did.  She did not expect the strange incident to happen again.

The following morning she woke up and, after fixing breakfast, hurried to get her water pot. Again she found a handful of jewels. She put those under her dust cloth, too. That night she thought that this was very strange. “Who is putting those beautiful things in my water pot?” she thought. 

When she woke up the next day, she quickly ran and looked in her pot and discovered that there were two handfuls of jewels.  She put them under the dust cloth and walked to the well, just as she usually did.  That night she wondered greatly about who had been doing this strangely wonderful deed.  She wanted to find out who the person could be.

As soon as she awoke, she ran to her water pot and found three handfuls inside. This time she decided to go and show them to her father.  “He might know what they are,” she thought.  So, she put the jewels in her father’s hands, and described them. 

“These are jewels Mary! They are worth a lot of money!” he said excitedly.            

So she hurried to sell some of them, but kept the first four, because she thought, “I might use them for something someday.” She earned 16,000 gold coins.

Later that day she decided to give away her old clothes which weren’t very ragged.  She gave them to a poor man, who thanked her and told her that his wife needed them.  She went to bed that night and thought about how blessed the man and his wife felt.

Very early the next morning, she heard a knock at the door.  When she opened the door, she saw a footman from the palace dressed in rich clothes. “Good morning. Here is an invitation to the royal ball,” he announced.   

“THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!” she yelled and then slammed the door.  She dashed to her room to get her best gown ready.

That night at the ball she danced with the prince and they fell in love. Later that night, they sat together and talked. “So, tell me how you grew up,” the prince said.

“Well, me and my father were very poor until one day someone started putting jewels in my water pot,” she replied. Then, she had an idea. “Do you know who put jewels in my water pot?” she asked. The prince was about to answer when they both heard a deep voice.  

“I did.”           

The prince jumped. “Father?” he said. They both turned around. There standing in front of them was the king himself!

The girl quickly curtsied and said, “Your Majesty.”             

“No need,” he continued. “I did, because when you went to fetch water every morning I noticed how kind and gentle you are. I wanted my son to marry you and I knew that the only way he could see you was at a ball, and the only way you could be invited was if you were wealthy. So, I did.” He smiled. “I can see that my plans went just as I pleased,” he said.  The prince and the girl were speechless.  Suddenly the girl broke the silence.

“I must tell my father! He will be so grateful to you.”          

The king replied, “Certainly you will tell your father. You may go home to tell him right now.”

When the girl returned, she brought her father with her. “My lord,” he murmured. 

“My good man, it pleases me to know that you raised such a kind and beautiful daughter,” the king told him. The girl’s father smiled with pride. “Will you give your permission for my son to marry your daughter?” the king asked.

“Yes, of course,” the girl’s father replied.     

The wedding was splendid. And so, with lots of love (and great riches) they all lived happily ever after.

THE END
 
 
Who: Elementary-aged students (The publisher recommends the books for children in grades 3-6.)

What: Learn about different types of writing--non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama--and the specific elements required for each type; get practice by studying photos, considering the authors' questions about them, and doing exercises and assignments inspired by them.

Let me give you the flavor of these books which are written by different women but follow the same structure.

Each two-page spread has a focus. In Picture Yourself Writing Non-Fiction, for example, the author focuses on Detailing the Facts, Sensory Details, Unique Comparisons (similes and metaphors), Characters, Dialogue, Plot, Setting, Scene, Purpose and Audience, Point of View, and Bias. She explains, defines, and gives examples on the first page. On the second, she includes a photo with a "Write about It!" prompt.

These books include everything students need for independent study. Concentrating on one two-page spread a day will get them through one book every two weeks. If they do this for all four books, they will  know the elements of four types of writing and have a collection of their own pieces two months later.

If your students do an exercise or assignment they would like to share, post them in the comments or submit them to the Student Showcase.
 
 
My daughter's Advanced Placement teacher used exercises from Voice Lessons to help her students develop their writing voices.

Each lesson is one page, including a quotation from literature which illustrates one of five categories--diction, detail, imagery, syntax, and tone--a couple of questions to lead students to examine the text closely, and a short assignment for application. In less than twenty minutes per lesson, students can learn to read as writers, appreciating what authors do well and practicing it in their own writing.
Discovering Voice is similar to Voice Lessons, except that it's intended for a slightly younger crowd. The quotations come from less advanced literature, and a sixth category--figurative language--is added. I used this resource with my 9th and 10th grade students last year, many of whom hadn't been in a prior formal writing class.
Two recommendations:
With either book, discuss the quotations, so that students have the privilege of both sharing and hearing insights.

View the exercises as tools to help students unveil the craft behind the words, not as worksheets to be completed halfheartedly.
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Five Minute Friday kids edition
I went on an unplanned online journey yesterday and ended up at Lisa-Jo Baker's site, where I learned about Five Minute Friday. Each Friday, Lisa-Jo posts a word, her readers sit and write for five minutes about that word without editing or self-critiquing (at least that's the idea), they link their results, and they encourage the person who linked before them.  One of Lisa-Jo's readers, a mom at Desperate Homeschoolers, has regularly participated in Five Minute Friday , inviting her eight-, six-, and two-year-old daughters to join her, writing or drawing as they are able. Until recently, she has linked their work with hers.  Now it has a special spot, and your children's writing can be there, too, on the Five Minute Friday: Kids' Edition!

What a perfect way for moms and their children to write together with an achievable weekly goal and an audience.

Friday is coming! Cast the vision. Find some loose paper or start a writer's notebook. Sharpen the pencils. Ready...Set...Write!
 
 

I like using Harvey S. Wiener's idea from Any Child Can Write (68-69) to help young or reluctant writers transform a simple sentence. 

Begin with a simple sentence. In his example, Wiener uses "A child played."

Describe the Child: A child with brown eyes played.

Tell When: A child with brown eyes played one crisp winter morning.

Name a Sound: Giggling, a child with brown eyes played one crisp winter morning.

Tell Where: Giggling in front of his house, a child with brown eyes played one crisp winter morning.

Use Other Specific Words: Giggling in front of his house, a boy with brown eyes jumped up and down one crisp winter morning.

Once the student is happy with his improved sentence, ask him to rearrange it several times.

  • A boy with brown eyes jumped up and down one crisp winter morning, giggling in front of his house.
  • A boy with brown eyes, giggling in front of his house, jumped up and down one crisp winter morning.
  • Jumping up and down one crisp winter morning, a boy with brown eyes giggled in front of his house.
  • Giggling, a boy with brown eyes  jumped up and down in front of his house one crisp winter morning.
  • In front of his house, a giggling boy with brown eyes jumped up and down one crisp winter morning.

Possible discussion cues:
    Have the student rank his sentences from his most favorite one to his least favorite one.
    Notice how the punctuation changes from one sentence to another.
    Discuss what happens to the sentence when the subject is not mentioned immediately.

Other simple sentences from Wiener (69):
A man worked.
The book fell.
A tree moved.
The car drove away.
A cloud passed by.
A woman danced.
A girl ran.
The baby cried.
The radio played.
She pulled him.
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