Grades 3-5

What Is That?

There are many interesting creatures on our planet. Can you write a description for each of these not-yet-discovered insects? What do you think they look like, sound like, or smell like? Where do you think they are from? Write two or three sentences about each one.

Three-Horned Goat Beetle

Stinky Dinky Worm

Slingshot Moth

Now that you have your descriptions, go back and look at your describing words. Can you think of other, more interesting choices? For example, if you used “big,” or “small,” can you think of more unusual words to put in their place?

Words that describe nouns are adjectives. Words that describe verbs are adverbs. These ‘describers’ paint a clearer picture and add interesting details to your writing. But, which is which?

This sentence has an adjective and an adverb:  “John largely eats large candy bars.” Large and largely seem the same, but one is an adjective and one is an adverb. To tell which is which, I’ll ask you about my sandwich.

 If you plug the word you’re wondering about into this sentence, you will be able to hear whether it is an adjective or adverb. Let’s start with “large.”

“Have you seen my LARGE sandwich?”

That works, right? Because large is describing a noun—sandwich—and that makes it an adjective.

Now let’s use the word ‘largely’: “Have you seen my LARGELY sandwich?” Uhhh… what? That word doesn’t work because it’s an adverb. In our original sentence, “largely” helps the verb “eat” be more interesting and descriptive.

BONUS:  Can you think of a sentence with an adjective and an adverb from one word, like ‘large’ and ‘largely’? 

Creating Characters

Who Is That?

Characters are the people or animals in our story. Without characters there is no story to tell. For example, one of my favorite characters is the Pidgeon from “Don’t Let the Pidgeon Drive the Bus,” and many other books by Mo Willems (BTW, if you look through any of the author’s books, you will find Pidgeon hiding somewhere.) Imagine that book without Pidgeon. It would just be a bus sitting there. Not much of a story, huh?

A story might have many characters, or just one character. Either way, the character is the most important part of any story, because without them, well, there is no story at all.

How to create a character:

Answer these questions:

What does the character look like?

What does the character sound like?

What does the character like?

What does the character not like?

Where does the character live?

Where has the character been?

What does the character want most of all in the whole world?

Now write a paragraph or more about your character’s first day of school!

Good News/Bad News

Below is a news story about a boy with a special dog. Change the story to fiction, by writing what happens next. Tell us what happens after an owner needs help, as if you were either the person or the dog.

After you read this article, write about what you would do if you were approached by a dog from the Fido project.


Shades and Shadows

Before you begin, you will first need to visit a website for a store that sells paint, and look at all the colors.

AFTER everyone chooses a color, look at the name of that paint sample. That is now the title of your poem.

Think about the color you chose. Why did you pick it? What else is that color? Use your five senses to write five sentences about an object (The ocean? A painting? A shirt? An animal?) that could be that color:

Describe what your object looks like.

Describe the smell of the object you chose that is this color.

Describe what you would hear if you were looking at the object.

Describe what the object feels like.

Describe what the object might taste like.

Finish your poem with a sentence that includes the words in your title that came from the name of the paint.


There are no real rules in poetry, but Haiku traditionally have three lines. The first line has 5 syllables, the second has seven, and the last has five. It can be funny to try to speak in Haiku about everything for an hour or over a dinner. But, generally Haiku describe nature, and focus on particular seasons.

I recommend you go outside or look out the window before you write your Haiku. What do you see? Now think about what you only notice about that natural object during this season. Take that, and narrow it down to it’s very smallest element. So, if I choose my lemon tree, I will look at it and see exactly what it does at only this time of year. My lemon tree is pretty bare in spring. There are a few blossoms starting to appear… I will write three lines. The tree. The blossoms. And lastly, a surprise line telling how I feel in that moment of nature. Remember, show, don’t tell.

Write the three lines without counting syllables, then go back and choose your words more carefully, until you can count out five, seven, and five. Clap out the syllables as you read the poem to check whether or not you have the right number.

Branches are lighter

Tart lemons have come and gone

Bitterness lingers

Don’t write Haiku when you’re in a hurry. This is a meditative exercise, and can give you joy from something very small that you might not have noticed or appreciated before. Take your time, and think about your five senses to come up with descriptive words

Two Sides to Every Story

Teachers should be replaced by computers.

That statement is most likely something you agree with or disagree with. If stated as a question, you would probably have an answer pop into your head right away:

Should teachers be replaced by computers?

This is certainly something we all either say “yes” or “no” to without too much thought. What if you say yes, and your friend says no? Well, then you have a great topic for a debate!

But… What if you had to argue both “yes” and “no”? That’s what debaters have to be ready to do.

For this writing experience, you will need to write why “yes,” we should replace teachers with computers, AND why “no,” we should not replace teachers with computers. You can do research, or you can just imagine what it would feel like if you were on the other side of the issue. Sometimes, when we look at something from the other side, we even change our minds!

A Writer’s Voice

Something that writers talk about a lot is “voice.” Seems funny to think of people who don’t speak while they’re working being worried about their voice, but they do. Because a writer’s voice is what makes them special.

Every one of us has our own story to tell. No one ever has or ever will see the world exactly as you do. For a writer, ‘voice’ is about putting that very special view of life that is not like anyone else’s into words that no one else would use.

I will be teaching a class about finding your writer’s voice over the summer. I hope you can join me!

Please fill out the ‘contact’ page if you’d like to be notified when new lessons are added, or if/when classes will be back in session!

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