Grades 6-8

What is that?

Three new insects have recently been discovered. Write a description for each one. (Don’t bother with Google—these won’t be there.)

Three Horned Goat Beetle

Slingshot Moth

Simon Says Fly

Choose the definition you like best. Modify and improve it by finding/adding more interesting adverbs and adjectives. For example, if you described the insect as ‘small,’ change that to a less-common, more visual adjective, like ‘microscopic.’ If you wrote the insect ‘eats,’ find a word to modify and add interest to the verb, like ‘eats ferociously.’

You should now have an amazing definition for your newspaper article. Write about this new discovery, including who found it and where.

Creating Characters

Creating characters is challenging for every writer. First, there are the obvious questions:

What does the character look like?

What does the character sound like?

Where does the character live?

Add the less obvious questions:

What does the character like?

What does the character not like?

Where has the character been?

Finally, the most important questions:

What does your character want? What is your character willing to do to get it?

When you have written out the answers, write three journal entries as if you were the character. They can be funny, sad, serious, pathetic—anything. Try to use words you think your character would use.

Good News Bad News

Before you begin, find a news story that interests you. (Try Newsy if you can.) What made the story newsworthy? Write what transpired before the event described happened, creating as many characters and locations as you wish.

Shades and Shadows—Poetry

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. 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.

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. But in debate, you have to be prepared to argue both sides.

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

“An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.” —Francois-Rene’ de Chateaubriand

Authors are obsessed with the concept of “voice.” Some are born with it, but most are not. Regardless, 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 distance-teaching a class on finding voice over the summer. I hope you will 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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