Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Figurative Langauge, The "Author's Tool Belt" & 5th Grade Writers by Kathy Halsey

I have been co-teaching/volunteering as a "Writer-in Residence" with Lydia Tokarz, 5th grade gifted E/LA teacher and her class for 3 months now. Lydia and I hope to turn this experience into a professional book for educators and writers alike. We work together in a language arts block Mondays and Fridays. Today is a sneak peek into the fun 5th graders have writing picture book biographies. Yes, they study mentor texts like us in our project #Write4Real, crafting their own PB bios. 

We have dumped our info into rough drafts and are letting our writing "rise" by revising. Two weeks ago we focused on Figurative Language, a CC standard. ( We ARE fitting Common Core into this project. Our advice: teach from your passion and work the standards around it.) Lydia is so creative, and she made up this chant for her kiddos about Figurative Language. They've recited it for me, acted it out, can identify it in others' work. NOW they are making it real in their OWN writing.

Figurative Langauge Chant

by Lydia Tokarz
An author wears a tool belt of figurative language. 
Figurative language helps a reader visualize.
I say simile, you say..."like or as" 
(right hand, left hand)
I say metaphor, you say..."is" 
(hands on hips)
I say personification, you say..."person"
(motion head to toes-Vanna White style)
I say hyperbole, you say "exaggeration" 
(spirit fingers)
I say idiom, you say "funny expression"
(thumb on nose waving fingers)
I say onomatopoeia, you say "pow, pow!!" 
(Comic character double punch) 

Together in our Readers' Circle we read Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle (Pura Belpre Award, Illustrator) twice and discussed its evocative use of language. 

We always read aloud, and strive to use diverse, recent mentor texts. Next, students paired up, we divvied out books, and dove into language, recording our results on a class poster which delineated poetic devices. Each pair shared their findings, and finally we gathered into critique groups to discover/add these elements to  our manuscripts.

Here are a few of our texts and findings:

Firebird  is filled with great text: exaggeration - "The space  between you and me is longer than forever;" simile - "like the dying sun over the horizon;" metaphor - "You are the sky and clouds and air."

In Shooting for the Moon: The Amazing Life and Times of Annie Oakley they discovered onomatopoeia - "BANG!" and consonance - "the fierce wind whipped."


And suddenly, after another group noted that Balloons Over Broadway's title was itself figurative language, kids began pointing to titles that flanked the room shooting out, "Mrs. Halsey, Mrs. Tokarz, look, Star Stuff, Earmuffs for Everyone! Figurative language is everywhere." What a great "aha" moment for us all. 

Two fun craft books for student writers we'd also like to recommend that our kids enjoy were If You Were Alliteration by Trisha Speed Shakan and her companion book, If You Were Onomatopoeia. 

#Write4Real continues until spring break. We'll keep you informed of our progress. Other amazing moments on our journey thus far include:
  •  a Skype visit with author friend Miranda Paul, One Plastic Bag
  •  student writers receiving email from Walter O'Brien, founder of Scorpion Computer Services and executive producer of the TV series Scorpion. Two fifth grade boys emailed questions to fill in their research holes. 
  • sharing our impressions of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast with author Josh Funk. We may Skype with him this coming Friday. 
My "aha" moment so far: Make writing real, share your passion and your work with students. You teach them and they teach you. It's a win-win for all even if you are still not published.You have so much to share about the TRUE process of writing.


  1. This looks Awesome! You are amazing & inspiring.

  2. I love this! My "regular" part time job is working with GT language arts kids once a week. In the summer, I always teach creative writing in a partner setting. Keeps me sane! Glad you are having fun! Those kiddos are lucky to have you!

    1. Ellen, I am glad you are enjoying your teaching gigs, too. Write on!

  3. Energy and inspiration-that is you in action, Kathy! Thank you for sharing :)

  4. You two should be so proud of yourselves. I know that I am. Good work.

    1. Thank you, Pam. As a teacher, I know you know that feeling when "your kids" do great work.

  5. Love what you're doing in the classroom, Kathy! It is so thrilling to work with kids. I love volunteering during library classes at my son's school. It's energizing and exhausting, LOL.

    1. Jilanne, it is fun to keep in touch w/kids, isn't it? It keeps us in the know w/our writing audiences.

  6. This looks amazing, Kathy. It sounds like everybody is learning and having fun! Thanks for the sneak preview.

  7. What a great program you guys are doing! Do you have a video of the chant? That would be fun to post!

  8. Kathy!
    This makes me want to be a #Write4Real kiddo!
    I especially like the new resource titles (new to me) by Trisha Shakan.

  9. Terrific stuff, Kathy! I love that chant -- I agree with Tina -- put it on YouTube!