Imagery – Movement with Verbs


As my students continue to write poetry, I continue to look for strategies that can help get them going. In Writing Poetry by Shelly Tucker, there’s a great strategy that always works with middle school students, especially those for whom writing can be challenging. The strategy involves leading lines of a poem with verbs. Begin by reading a poem such as this one by Lisa Stuebing.

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Students will notice how each line begins with an action. Tucker explains, “ Verbs that start lines provide direction and momentum. Each one gives a snapshot of the action named” (p. 57). This is the perfect opportunity to discuss the role of imagery in poetry. I ask my students to make a list of their favorite activities and places. Selecting one of the ideas on their list, they brainstorm a list of actions that capture the activity or place in a way that sets it apart from any other. Then, it’s time to write! Here’s some of their great work.

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Whenever my students are stuck, I find them returning to this strategy again and again. And each time, they experience success!


Sonja Cherry-Paul has been an educator for the past 17 years. She is a middle school English teacher and co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning. Sonja is a Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards committee member and a part-time instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University where she is also a doctoral student.


Word Work Wednesday- Increase Student Engagement with Grammar! March forth!

Happy National Grammar Day! It’s the only calendar date that is a command- March forth! I will be wearing my favorite Grammar Day shirt to work today! Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 5.32.22 AM

Teaching grammar with a sense of humor is important. Let’s face it, grammar is important. Where the comma goes can make all the difference in a sentence. Where the apostrophe goes can alter the entire meaning of a word or sentence. Grammar matters. Teaching grammar, however, can sometimes be arduous and tedious. Teaching grammar with humor can liven up any lesson and help students understand why grammar is important.

Student engagement is key! Here are some tips for teaching grammar with humor.

1) Get this book: Biggest Riddle Book in the World by Joseph Rosenbloom. Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 5.42.09 AM

Begin your week, your day, or your lesson with a riddle from this book. Students love trying to figure out the answers to the riddles. Wordplay is essential for understanding grammar. Understanding the correct usage and multiple usages of words is important and fun!

2) Photos of Grammar Missteps- Whenever I am outside of school and I see a grammar misstep,  I snap a picture of it to share with my students. I ask them if they can spot the error. These are enjoyable for my students because they recognize familiar locations in my photos, and they enjoy doing some detective work to spot the error. If you google grammar and BuzzFeed, you’ll get many links for grammar missteps.

3) Get this book too: Jokelopedia: The Biggest, Best, Silliest, Dumbest Joke Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 5.57.57 AMBook Ever! by Eva Blank, et al. Students love jokes. And the best part about using jokes to teach grammar is that they are filled with puns, wordplay, and word usage. “Why was the rabbit unhappy?” She was having a bad hare day.


4) Mad Libs- These never get old for students. They love them!Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 6.02.14 AM There are even Mad Libs apps and websites now, but I prefer holding the Mad Libs pad and writing them down with my whole class. Not only do they review the parts of speech, but they also review vocabulary. Next time, you do Mad Libs with your students, have them use ONLY words from the word wall or vocabulary list. They will surely get creative.

5) Comics! My students love comics, and I love teaching with them. I could write an entire blog post on the joy of teaching with comics. Comics can help our students learn so many important language arts skills– inferencing, interpretation, character traits, symbolism, themes, compare/contrast, cause/effect… the list goes on and on. I try to show my students one comic a day. Not only does it engage them–because comics can be hilarious!– it also helps them learn grammar. The use of punctuation and wordplay is fantastic. I ask my students two questions with each comic I give them “What is happening?” and “What do you notice?” These questions can lead to very interesting conversations about grammar and punctuation.

I’m sure there are many more engaging ways to teach grammar, and we would love to hear them! Please leave a comment below about fun ways to teach grammar.




Word Work Wednesday- Noun or Verb?

If you’re like me and only have 5-7 mins a day for word work, then you’re constantly looking for lessons that pack the most powerful punches. This lesson does just that! It doubles vocabulary instruction with grammar. Pow!

The English language is fickle. We have so many meanings for words. Table can be a noun (as in the piece of furniture) or it can be a verb (as in saving something for a later time.) Most students are familiar with the noun, but are they familiar with the verb? Studying words that can be both nouns and verbs can be fun!

Nouns & Verbs:

ski                              bargain                         hunt

chair                          shop                               bump

ruin                           fly                                   grimace

cloud                         joke                                milk

One of the hardest components of teaching vocabulary is helping students learn the many meanings of words. I like to begin here- with nouns and verbs. These words allow for great entry-point conversations about words because students are usually familiar with at least one meaning. Students have a lot of fun creating sentences that include both forms of the word.

“We tabled the discussion about the new dining room table for the night.”

As the year goes on, I add more layers. We look at words that are nouns, verbs, and adjectives (such as the word light.)

For extra fun, ask your students to get really creative and make a case for sentences or word combinations where “table” acts as an adjective? (table-top counter, table lamp, table hockey?) Where it can get really interesting is when students try adding suffixes to table to make it into an adjective (tablific? or tablesque?) You may be surprised by what they create. Here is Shelby’s sentence:

“She looked at the towering building with its black table roof.”

You can see here that Shelby used the word “table” creatively to  create an interesting image in her reader’s mind. This quick and fun word work activity can pack a powerful punch in less than 5-7 minutes. Enjoy!