An Easter Surprise

He dearly loved his three granddaughters,
and wanted to make them happy.
Three chicks that had been dyed blue, red, and pink,
an Easter surprise for everyone including Grandma.
When he opened the box and lifted out the three beauties,
we all oooohed and aaaahed and oooohed and aaaahed! 

He dearly loved his three granddaughters,
and wanted to make them happy.

We named our chicks Bluey, Reddy, and Pinky
and taught them how to follow us around like dogs.
My grandmother never grew any fonder of them,
but she didn’t have the heart to say we had to give them up.

He dearly loved his three granddaughters,
and wanted to make them happy.
To our great dismay, as our chicks grew older,
they started fighting with each other… constantly.
It was then that we realized our chicks had grown up;
our little darlings turned out to be three spirited roosters. 

He dearly loved his three granddaughters,
and wanted to make them happy.
It broke his heart to tell us we had to let them go,
and as we drove away, I thought Grandma was hiding a smile
as she stood in the driveway and waved good-bye
to my grandfather, her three grandkids, and three Banty roosters!

April 30th is the last day of National Poetry Month. Add a book of poems to your shelf today.

Your Turn: Creating an Ice-cream Memory to Use Your Senses

Hook:  How many of you like ice-cream or sherbet?  Turn and talk with your partner about your favorite flavors. Let’s share with the whole group (Teacher records some on the board).

Brainstorm: (Prewrite) Make your own list in your writer’s notebook.  Students share in small group before you distribute your list. Take your favorite flavor and create word storm in your notebook (feelings, senses, thoughts, opinions, associations). You may use it later to write another notebook entry. Turn and talk with a partner.

Purpose: Today we are going to use ice-cream flavors to help us recall a vivid memory for our writer’s notebook.  The entry will probably be fairly short, maybe four to ten sentences.  You will probably use many writing strategies quite naturally such as appeal to the senses, color words, and vivid adjectives.

Model:   Teacher writes ice-cream memory on the board.

The light, tinkling music from the Good Humor truck as it rolls down Durham Street pulls the children from their houses like a powerful magnet.  Slap-slaps of screen doors are followed by the jingling of coins stuffed deep into shorts and jeans pockets as we dash for the street. Each child has a favorite.  Mine is the rocket with its creamy vanilla ice-cream swirled with chocolate.  I like to push up the ice-cream slowly so I can enjoy the cool taste on a hot August day for a long time.  My younger sister Sandy, with huge baby blues and ringlets of gold that jiggle as she jumps up and down in front of the truck window, always asks for an orange creamsicle and spatters the sidewalk with drops of sticky sweetness – a prize for the ants!

Guided Writing: Turn and talk about the memory.  What did you like about it?  Open your notebook and try to write an ice-cream memory. It may be helpful to have students brainstorm settings and write one sentence about each before deciding on the entry.  For example: Boardwalk – I sat on the hard, wooden bench and watched the waves rolling in and out, licking my creamy vanilla cone in rhythm with the waves.   I will walk around the room and peek at what you are doing (Roving conferences with clipboard).  After some time, have students share in small groups and in whole groups.  Copy some of their sentences on the overhead to include as “expert” samples.

Independent Practice:  Now try to write a notebook entry about a real ice-cream memory.  Think a moment, do a web or list to get started, refer to your word storm, settings, or just start writing. Remember, you are not writing an entire story!  Here is my example (Share on overhead or distribute your thoughts on a handout).  Give students time to write and share (even if only with a partner).

Reflection: Let’s look at my paragraph.  What writing strategies did I use?  Reflect on the strategies you seem to use naturally and automatically as a writer.  What are your “fingerprints”?

Write and Reflect Again:  If you would revise this entry, what is one thing you would absolutely do?  Try it out.  Perhaps rewrite your entry as a found poem in any format.  Compare entries.  Which do you like better?  Why?

Projection (Optional): Create a goal for yourself that will help your reader to visualize your words.

  • Try to appeal to a sense you don’t usually use – like smell, taste, or touch. 
  • Look at your adjectives.  Are they vivid and exact? 
  • Do you use color? 
  • Examine past portfolio entries to see how you have used the senses to create description.  Choose a piece for possible revision(s).
  • Find examples in your reading where authors appeal to the senses and copy them into your notebooks.  What strategy has an author used that you could try on for size?

Write and Reflect Again – A found poem.

I enjoyed writing the poem and found that I needed to add some Good Humor favorites to make the poem work. I am still considering ending with “spattering the sidewalk with sticky sweetness.” I think I will revise again after rereading several times aloud and maybe to a peer.

Light, tinkling music from the Good Humor truck

 rolling down my block of Durham Street in East Mt. Airy.

Like a powerful magnet, pulling children from their houses.

All at once, the slap-slaps of screen doors,  

then the jingling of coins stuffed deep into pockets

as we dash madly for the street to follow the music.

Each child has a favorite – sandwiches, toasted almond bar.

Mine, the Rocket, vanilla ice-cream swirled with chocolate. 

I like to push up the ice-cream slowly,

enjoying the cool taste on a hot August day.

My sister Sandy, with huge baby blues that sparkle,

her ringlets of gold jiggling as she jumps up and down

in front of the truck window in anticipation.

Always asking for an orange creamsicle,

She rips off the paper and begins licking,

spatterimg the sidewalk on the way home

with drops of sticky sweetness…

a prize for the ants!

Reflections on Lake Tahoe

Such unbridled beauty and raw splendor

I am participating in #SOL Tuesdays,

that I could not drink it all in at once;

taking small sips to savor a flavor not yet tasted.

Inky blue water, a color I had never seen before,

and the startling emerald waters of a hidden bay.

The paddle boat’s rhythm, slow and easy;

my heartbeat, rapid and full of wild expectations.

Nighttime here would be unwelcomed,

the hunger for the vast blueness of the pristine lake

framed by majestic mountains built an insatiable appetite,

rendering me powerless to take my eyes away from the view.

A rugged, yet tranquil beauty I had not known before,

This dazzling  alpine lake framed by majestic mountains,


I am writing a poem each day in April to celebrate National Poetry Month.

An Open Letter to My Grandfather

Grandpa, remember when you caught a fish for me with your bare hands?

Together, we drove around the Lehigh Valley searching for horse pastures.

You taught me how to feed a horse an apple, fingers held tightly together,

palm turned upward.

Grandpa, I love you because you have shown me so many things: how to ice-skate,

to swim, to dive.

We swam in Sailor’s Lake and Wallenpaupack and dove off big boulders.

In the fall you raked mounds of leaves that rose like small elephants on the front

lawn in Coopersburg.

Pixie and I jumped in every one and scattered brown parachutes to the wind.

You surprised me with my own rink on Christmas morning, hosing down the yard

to make a sheet of silver-smooth ice.

Together we walked up the mountain and rescued a tiny fir tree,

 Little Pocono.

Grandpa, remember how we danced the polka with me standing on your stockinged feet?

We practiced driving in your Dodge that had no power steering.

You are special because you truly live your life by the Golden Rule.

You taught me to try to live my life that way, too.

You are my teacher, my best friend, my hero.

You are the sun and the moon and the stars.

You are my universe.

I will always love you.

Your granddaughter,


I am writing a poem each day of April to celebrate National Poetry Month. My grandfather was a maker of many things. Read Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s With My Hands: Poems About Making Things.

I am Henry “Box” Brown

Where I’m From

a poem written by Lynne Dorfman using the mentor text, “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.

Where I’m From and other poems by George Ella Lyon.

I come from Costa Rica and Malaysia.

I come from the Andes Mountains.

I come from Ecuador and West Africa.

I come from tropical regions.

I come from a pond near your backyard.

I like to be warm and wet.

I am Amphibian.

I am Frog.

Hear my song.

I come from googly-eyed ancient ancestors,

Creatures who hopped, swam, and crawled on Earth.

I come from a past of millions of years.

Will I have a future?

I come from shrinking forests.

I come from shrinking wetlands.

I am Amphibian.

I am Frog.

Hear my song.

I come from a polluted world.

I can die from a fungus on the lily pads.

Sometimes, I am hunted for food.

Sometimes, I am hunted for medicines.

The health of my population is important.

It tells you about the health of the planet we share.

I am Amphibian.

I am Frog.

Hear my song.

From mentor text “Where I’m From” written by the fifth graders at UMIS.

I am a slave…

I want to be free…

Hear my story.

I am unaware of my birth date;

I don’t even know how old I am.

I worked at the big house,

Worked for my master

And was traded to his son.

I am slave…

I want to be free…

Hear my cry!

Torn from my family

Like leaves from the trees.

I married a girl named Nancy,

And had three children.

My heart, twisted like tobacco leaves,

My wife and children were sold,

Sold at the slave market.

I am a slave…

I want to be free…

Hear my dream!

Knowing I’d never see my family again,

I mailed myself to Philadelphia.

Inside a wooden box, I wait…

Wait to breathe freedom,

Wait to be free from slavery,

Wait for a new start.

My new name – Henry “Box” Brown.

I am not a slave anymore

I am free like the birds…

I finally have a birthday…

Hear my song!

I am Henry Box Brown,

I am waiting for a different world,

I am waiting for something more than freedom for myself,

I am waiting for understanding, equality, justice….

I am waiting for America to get it right.

I am still waiting.

Source: Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad  by Ellen Levine

Exploring Poetry

    “She Wrote…”

 By Lynne R. Dorfman

With words she
Reasons, ponders, and
Imagines the possibilities
That tickle her mind and
Even her soul with
Ripe ideas ready for story.

A Trade

    By Lynne R. Dorfman

Raggedy Ann kept Grandpa company.
Every day she traveled to work.
I stood on the curbside,
Jumping up and down…
Stretching to watch the old Dodge
Slowly make its way
Down the friendly Emmaus street.
Grandpa waving Raggedy Ann out the window,
Grandma clutching my hand to keep me safe.
Funny…that’s why I sent my doll with him –
To keep Grandpa safe.

Every evening they would return
With stories about their day.
Minnie (that’s what I called her)
And Grandpa had deliciously delicious tales.
Allentown Plumbing and Heating Supply,
A bustling place filled with mostly men.
I was secretly greener-than-green with envy.
I wished I could have traded places.
I wished I could have been that doll.
I yearned for all her adventures,
The fun she had each day with Grandpa.

Grandpa’s been gone for many years,
But I still have that doll.
She sits on my bureau where I can see her.
Every day, I see her and the photo beside her.
My eyes linger there for a long time –
The silvery hair and the too-much-time-in-the-sun face,
The hazel eyes that match my own and the high brow,
The strong hands that often held a rake or a saw,
The wisdom earned from being a stepfather and grandfather.

I am glad I still have Raggedy Ann, but…
Wish I could trade her for Grandpa.

Quiet Until the Thaw  
Her name tells of how it was with her.
The truth is she did not speak in winter.
Everyone learned not to ask her questions in winter once this happened.
We looked in her mouth to see if something was frozen. 
Her tongue maybe, or something else in there. But after the thaw she spoke again and told us it was fine for her that way. So each spring we looked forward to that.
Rain Straight Down   For a long time we thought this boy loved only things that fell straight down. He didn’t seem to care about anything else. We were afraid he could only HEAR things that fell straight down! We watched him stand outside in rain.  Later it was said he put a tiny pond of rainwater in his wife’s ear while she slept, and leaned over to listen to it. I remember he was happiest talking about all kinds of rain. The kind that comes off herons’ wings when they fly up from the lake. I know he wanted some of the heron rain for his wife’s ear, too! He walked out in spring to watch the young girls rub wild onion under their eyes until the tears came out. He knew a name for that rain, too. Sad onion rain. That rain fell straight down Too, off their faces And he saw it.  
Cree Indian Naming Poems

Her name tells of how it was with her,

The truth was that she loved to be with children.

Everyone knew she would let the children

               show the way…

Deciding to do a dinosaur museum,

Creating poetry performances and plays,

Writing skits for Reader’s Theater,

And basking in their parents’ praises

               during portfolio celebrations.

She looked forward to the summers

with mixed emotions,

Hating to watch the children leave

                       on the last day,

Brushing tears from her cheeks as

                       she said goodbye.

But in September she again felt

                       the quiet excitement

And told us it was fine for her

                       that way

Each year a new family to nurture

Each year watching the children learn

               and grow in wonder…

Her name was Teacher.

A poem using the scaffold of a Cree Indian naming poem, “Quiet Until the Thaw.” 

Poem by Lynne R. Dorfman

Imitating a Mentor Text to Create a Poem

January Rides the Wind
by Charlotte F. Otten


  By Charlotte F. Otten

February turns everything to gray:
gray lakes, gray fog, gray sun.
Gray squirrels lose their bearings
hunting for acorns buried
beneath thick gray snow.

Text Box: What do you notice?  Write your ideas in the space below.




Maybe you noticed the poem has five lines but only two complete thoughts. The poem focuses on describing a month through one color. The first line ends in a colon, and a list of three items follows. Each list item begins with the color word and is followed by a noun. There is no connecting “and” used in this list. The third line also begins with the color word. Lines 3, 4, and 5 are part of one sentence. You must read all the way to the period on line five. The last line also includes the color word and a new noun follows. The last line is a prepositional phrase. The poem uses effective repetition – gray is mentioned six times. Why do you think the poet chose to do this?

By Lynne Dorfman

August turns everything to yellow:
yellow skies, yellow grass, yellow roses.
Yellow bees buzz busily
between tall sunflowers
that reach for the yellow sun.

By Lynne R. Dorfman

            January turns everything to white:
white sidewalks, white roads, white rooftops.
White frozen lakes mirror the cold moon
smiling at her dreamy reflection
on these wintry-white nights.

Notice how the following poem moves away from the scaffold. We no longer are highlighting a color or a month of the year. This process is part of using a mentor text. At first, we imitate closely. Then, when we have more confidence, we move away from the scaffold or craft move to make the writing our own.

By Lynne Dorfman

            Grandmas turn everything to fun:
fun card games, fun stories, fun day trips.
Fun rides on the big Ferris wheel
at Dorney Park in the middle of July
are fun days of summer with Grandma.

Music makes every day a celebration:
soft blues, country ballads, hard rock.
People start toe-tapping their feet and
clap, clap, clapping their hands and
dancing to the beat – fast or slow.

Grade 5 (Shared writing experience)

Popcorn makes everyday a movie:
happy endings, oh-so-sad endings,
getting-ready-for-the-sequel endings.
One hand reaches for the bowl and
the other wipes away the tears,
then give up a round of applause.

                    Grade 5, Sarah

My process in writing an acrostic poem

Daring to imagine the possibilities and
Everything to follow
A path not chosen by
Many, but nonetheless, chosen;
Even if it takes a lifetime to
Reach your destination,
Staying true to follow their heart’s desire.

Delighting in the imagination to
Realize her full potential,
Each vision, unique and fulfilling.
Amazing notions shaped into
Masterpieces that defy ordinary
Explanations. Charting unknown territories,
Reaching for the stars.

My prewriting experience included brainstorming a list of topics I could write about. Writers need to take the time to create a list of five to eight items or more so they have choices and a go-to list if they have to abandon their original idea. To do this, I revisited pages from my writer’s notebook. Writers write about what they know. The exception is doing extensive research to write about something that interests you but you are not a mini-expert in that subject/field. Here is what I came up with:

Finding a topic to write about – a list from skimming my writer’s notebook.

Horses                                                   Autumn Leaves

Narrative                                                      Imagination #2

Dreamers                                                     Webb Lake 

Grandfather  #3                                            Flower Garden

Dandelions                                                  Longwood Gardens

Next, I brainstormed possible words for each letter of my acrostic poems. You can highlight the words as you use them. I started o do this:

D – doing, dancing, daring, dipping, delighting, denizen, delivering, deciding, dauntless, deep, during, deeming, dozing, double, dabble, dapples, delicious

R – realize, rare, risk, reach, render, roll, real, rebirth, resonate, roses, rocking, rope, rule, roving, robbing, rose of sharon, racing, raining, reasons, reading, raking

E – even, easy, everything, each, entering, exiting, examples, extra, ears, easygoing, ease, explanation, elite, eating, exhibit, event, eventful, elite, earn

A – a, an, always, awful, adorable, altering, allowing, about, anew, a lot, America, ascertain, anticipate, abandon, absorb, accept, align, amuse, adapt, adopt, agree

M – make, manner, mansion, marvelous, magnificent, magnanimous, many, mean, massive, masterpieces, master, masterful, mourn, maintain, march, mend

E – earn, educate, embarrass, employ, empty, encourage, end, everlasting, enjoy

R – realty, reality, real, revealing, revolution, revolt, rhyme, riveting, right, righteous, rumple, ripple, rouse, raise, rudder, rate, rare, rectify, roof, rob, roast

S – silent, seeking, solution, stop, soar, sending, superstitious, super, superb, strong, strength, slick, sleek, sad, simple, select, seal, soap, sauna, savor, savvy

Here are some other strategies to help plan the acrostic:

Make a word web to explore the topic/word through the senses or through emotions.

Create a list of ideas/description you have for the topic.

Think about the idea/word and make comparisons – similes and metaphors.


Dancing out of green space,

A sun, then more and more.

New for a day, and soon

Dreamy husks with wispy puffballs,

Each one – perfect to make a wish on.

Like all good wishes, they float away

In the warm/cool breezes of spring,

Out into the world like a silent prayer.

Nature’s masters of survival,

Seeding our landscapes with starry wonder.

Here is a great book by Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer to teach students how to write acrostic poetry.

This book is a great resource to read about different kinds of poems.

Performing Poetry in Different Voices

Performance Prompts for Response to Poetry:

Promoting Fluent Readers

Highlight poems by placing them on anchor charts and rereading them during workshop time and/or across the day. One way to improve fluency and have some fun is to read a poem chorally, sometimes as an echo read and sometimes as a cloze read. Students can work with a partner or small group to practice reading the poem aloud in different voices and perform for the entire class. Here are some choices below. Invite your students to add to this list. To model, I performed “Apple” by Nan Fry in the voice I imagined for the Grand High Witch in Roald Dahl’s The Witches. I chose “Being the Youngest” by Ralph Fletcher to perform as Fudge in Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Just as my students, I needed to practice several times in order to perform for them. See below for ways to perform poetry in different voices:

Perform your poem….                                             

as if you are very sad.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are telling a secret.

Perform this poem…

                 as if you are very wise and intellectual.

Perform your poem …

                 as if you are very giddy.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are a news reporter.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you have a mouth full of food.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are embarrassed by it.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are making an important announcement.

Perform you poem…

                 as if you are teaching us the words.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are a sports announcer at a baseball or football game.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are afraid of being overheard.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are having difficulty remembering the words.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are talking on the phone with your best friend.

Perform your poem…

                 as if you are talking on the phone with the President of the United States.

Perform this poem…                                                     

                 as if you are terrified.

Perform this poem…

                 as if you are trying to amuse your one-year old baby brother or sister.

I am participating in #SOL Tuesdays.

Perform this poem…                                        

                 as if you are very shy.

Perform this poem…

                 as if you have the hiccups.

Perform this poem…

                 as if you are a familiar cartoon character.