Welcome to our Authors and Artists blog! This is a web site for my "Budding Authors and Artists" (grades 1-3) and "Awesome Authors and Artists" (grades 3-6) to have a chance to showcase their work. Please feel free to leave any comments for these outstanding authors or their teacher!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Why" Animal Stories!

At the end of every workshop, I like to have the students work on a big project including everybody's work that all the students can take home and enjoy for years to come.  This term, my students created "Why Animal" stories.  We ignored science and got creative!  We wrote stories on why an animal is the way it is today.

First we brainstormed as a class interesting features of certain animals.  When each student claimed their animal topic, we had a lesson in story mapping.  It is important to organize your thoughts and sketch a picture of the story you have in your mind before you get started.  There are many ways to structure a story map, but ours went like this:






How We View Major Characters:

(This last one was important, as my goal was to have the students truly delve into their characters' development.  Would they change throughout the story?  Would they be likable characters?  Do we pity them?  Cheer for them?  These are all ideas I wanted my students to explore.)

As I'm sure you can guess, the stories turned out brilliantly!  It was hard to pick just a few, but here are some amazing stories on how animals became the way they are today!  Sit back, enjoy, and be entertained!

Why Bats Hang Upside-Down
By Melissa, 6th grade
      It was mid-July in the animal kingdom, but it was already swelteringly hot, not to mention humid. The animals could not help but squabble in the heat about feathered fans and welcoming water holes. Very few trees were scattered across the African Savannah, and branch space was something to fight for. The green foliage provided shade and darkness, away from the harsh light and temperatures that forced thermometers to bust their tops.
        Under the branches lurked the Earth’s first great predators: lions, sometimes cheetahs. No small creature dared venture to the shady ground for fear of being eaten. They did, however, seek the high, stable branches that were well above the big creatures’ reach. Unfortunately, there were far too many tree-dwellers and far too little space on the branches. Birds and bats rivaled each other and were in constant battle. They both wanted to secure their bony claws onto the wood and perch upright, and have room for their whole species to do so.
      Finally, one day, they were ready to decide the more powerful species for once and for all. The winner would earn ultimate glory- and a palace of trees.
      They decided to have a wrestling match atop the high branches, assuring the loser would crash land in the eager lions’ mouths and become dinner. The stakes were high, and representatives attempted confidence despite their twitchy features.  In the end, it came down to a determined bat nicknamed Batty (the frustrating weather had really affected her composure), and a nervous bird by the name of Robin. 
     The match was about to begin.
      With the all-too-tempting African sunset in the background, and the threat of mosquitoes in the shade of the trees, Robin was considering flying off and surrendering to safety. Robin scratched his beak and considered his options. If he flew off to save himself from the lions, he would be determined a sore loser and placed in the Animal Kingdom Hall of Shame. If the lions snatched him and ate him, well, he wouldn’t fare too much better. “Positive thoughts,” he said to himself under his breath. “Think positive.”
      Although the Earth was fairly new and psychic ideas weren’t heard of yet, Batty knew exactly what Robin was thinking. She saw her advantage and ran with it. Batty bared her little teeth at Robin. Smiling at her fellow bats, she flew in circles around Robin, taunting him. Robin cringed in her snarky delight, which only edged her on. She smirked--and the bats cheered.
       The King of Birds and the King of Bats agreed on a suitable branch. They instructed Batty and Robin to first wish each other good luck and shake claws.  They hovered over the branch until the King of Bats shouted, “GO!” They landed, and the fight began.
       Thoughts of panic rushed through Robin’s little brain. Finally, out of pure desperation, he unfolded his wing and struck Batty, even though she was clearly not ready yet. She fell off balance, teetering and tottering all too slowly... The animal kingdom seemed to move in slow motion as Batty descended. Cheering and booing and the faint screeches of hyenas in the distance ceased with a droning silence. With sudden emotion, Robin realized he could never live up to the guilt of killing Batty. He flew down as fast as a rocket, trying to save her.
      But he was far too late. The lions had their mouths wide open, their horrid teeth on display. Batty was falling to her fate. The King of Lions snapped his jaw at her--and missed.
       Somehow she gained rebalance. She hovered, resembling a helicopter, onto the nearest branch. She squeaked in joy, then faltered. She was so tired that she promptly fainted, and did a half-somersault so that she was hanging by her claws.
      The King of Lions again attempted in vain to seize Batty. She was just out of reach, hanging by her claws, seemingly peaceful despite the situation.
       The animals screeched with the suspense of the recovery. They hollered, hooted, and hissed for more. In the midst of it all, Batty awoke and announced her surrender, and that Robin should begin his victory speech. With a touch of dignity, she added that hanging upside-down was quite comfortable, and that she recommended it to her fellow bats.
       “Firstly,” Robin chirped, “I would like to thank all my supporters for this win. I would also like to thank that little voice inside of me that insisted ‘think positive!’” Fellow birds chirped and cheered, but bats booed and bared their teeth.
       “Secondly, Batty has seemed to enjoy herself hanging upside-down on the branch. This is the solution on the silver platter. Bats can practice this form of rest without disturbing birds! So, for every bird that perches right-side-up on a branch, a bat will be seen hanging upside-down! That way, the trees will provide space for all animals in the Animal Kingdom!” This time, Robin had won both the birds’ and the bats’ approval. They chirped and squeaked with joy, and in general, made a lot of noise hard to decipher.
       “And thirdly, my chicks have been left untended for this whole fiasco, so I must leave to go feed them. Goodbye, and a final thank you.”
      Bats evolved to be quite a species, much rarer than birds. They never forgot Batty’s courage, and always fought to survive no matter what the costs. Bats were quite honorable and never forgot their promise to always hang upside-down, even when birds weren’t there to see them. And this is why, even today, bats hang upside-down.
Why Rabbits Have Short Tails
By Crystal, 4th grade
         In the ancient times, Swishy the Rabbit was very proud of her namesake, the long and swishy tail that she had. In fact, the other forest animals, including Mango the wild golden retriever, thought that she was too proud of it.
      Swishy had a personal grudge against Mango, and she would always show off her tail to the other animals and say, “Look at my tail. Don’t look at Mango’s ugly tail,” while Mango would bare her teeth in a soft but threatening growl. All of the animals worried about how sassy and snotty Swishy was getting to be. And one day, Mango decided that she couldn’t stand one more second of vain, proud, and elegant Swishy.
            Mango left a message for everyone that said, “Everyone meet me by the old redwood at sunset. DON’T TELL SWISHY!!!!!!” Each animal saw the message, and obediently met Mango promptly at sunset. Everyone, especially Chatterbox Squirrel, excitedly whispered and wondered why they had to come.
      They immediately quieted down when clever and sly Mango appeared at the front. “Say, Mango,” said Fox. “Why did you tell us to meet you here?”
       “You’ll find out soon enough when the sun sets.” replied Mango.
            Suddenly Mango drew herself up to her full height (which was approximately 24 inches) and barked for attention as the sun set. Then she lowered her voice down to a whisper and said, “Everyone be quiet. If Swishy hears us, she’ll get curious and come over.”
         Meanwhile, Swishy was bounding cheerfully in the forest, looking busily for an animal to boast to. She knew nothing about the secret meeting, and she was wondering where everyone had gone. Swishy was very close to the old redwood, but luckily Mango heard Swishy and sent Bear to chase her away. To Swishy, it seemed like Bear had lumbered out “just by chance” and she swiftly ran home from fear when Bear growled.
            “The reason I called this meeting,” continued Mango, “was because I feel like Swishy is so annoying! I need to think of a plan that will teach her and her tail a good lesson. Does anyone have a suggestion?”
          Fox said, “You could hang from a tree and grab Swishy’s tail when she passes underneath.” No one thought much of that idea.
        Then Deer cried out, “I’ve got it! You can chase Swishy to the old barb wired fence! We animals will block the other directions, so the only way Swishy could go is under! Her tail will get caught, so it would get “clipped” short!”
        “That’s the best idea ever!!!!!” barked Mango. “Let’s meet here tomorrow at sunrise.”  And everyone parted their own ways.
            At sunrise the next morning, Mango trotted to the old redwood, breathing in the cool, crisp, fresh autumn air. The other animals had begun to gather, and were whispering excitedly to each other.
         Deer told Mango, “Everyone’s here! Let’s go!” Mango agreed, and they led the group to Swishy’s home. Mango took a deep breath, and howled as loud as she could into the back exit. Swishy ran out the front, and the chase began! Mango’s paws were flying as she chased Swishy toward the barb wire fence. Just like they had planned, every direction was sealed, and Swishy bolted under. Her tail became hopelessly entangled.   Her only choice was to force her long tail out, which would rip it to a little fuzz ball, or DIE!
            Mango and the others helped poor Swishy rip out her namesake, while Swishy’s tears sat at the corner of her warm melted chocolate eyes. Finally, with one last rip, Swishy was free!
       Mango leaped onto a tall rock and growled for silence. She asked Swishy, “Do you know why we did this?” Swishy snuffled and nodded. “Do you promise not to act boastful and obnoxious anymore?” asked Mango. Swishy sniffed and nodded.
      Everyone cheered for Mango and Swishy. They chanted, “Mango! Swishy! We love you!”  Swishy began to perk up and smile.
       This is why the cottontail rabbit has such a short, fluffy, little tail, and why it will run away when something larger makes a loud noise. 

Why Jellyfish Have Tentacles
                                                                        by Nils, 4th grade

    A long time ago, in the deep blue sea Eeler lived among many eels. He was a humble fellow. With a bruise below his jaw, a stitch all across his side, and a bad scratch above his eye, it was surprising how fast he made friends.

    One day he saw a pink blob swimming across the sea. He called out a warning the other eels about this creature. The blob was a jellyfish, but not the one you know. These jelly fish didn’t have tentacles, and were much more poisonous than the ones we know today. If any animal touched it, they turned into jelly-type stuff and died.

    Eeler, like many other eels, was fed up with these jellyfish.  Unlike many others, he had a plan to stop them that just might work. The very next day, he called a meeting with the eel council in the cave of Folk, an eel god.

    After Eeler told them his plan, none but one eel thought it might work. Luckily, that was the Rees, as the eels called him. He was a cross between a king and a president. Here, he was more like a king. “It’s risky, and it will involve much sacrifice, but it might work, and we...”  he corrected himself, “I will give up anything to get rid of those jellies!”  Too much arguing with the Rees only meant bad things, so the rest of the council stayed quiet.

    On that night, all of the eels swam up to the pink blobs.  Eeler silently told which eels to attack which jellyfish.  “GO!” he said after they all knew what to do.  Eeler swam up to the biggest one.  He went faster and faster, but when he got close, he considered the real possibilities and slowed down. It felt like he was moving through jello.  Eeler told himself to go faster, but he found himself retreating.  He saw all of his fellow eels dying, none succeeding.  Everything went black.

    He slowly woke up and saw an eel.  It was his youngest kid, Bo.  Bo was a young boy that stayed behind.  “Who survived?”  Eeler groaned.

          “Us.”  Eeler looked around.  Roughly thirty were left.
    Eeler came to his senses.  “UP!  This time we bite harder, stronger and we will suck with DIGNITY!”

    The eels applauded.  (Or they would have if they could have.)

    “Out!  Out!  Out!” Eeler commanded.

    “That one!” Eeler gestured to a big jellyfish.  “Bite it!  Suck the venom out!  GO!” 
    Everybody went without hesitation except for Eeler.  He quickly shook it off and swam.  Everything was in slow motion.  He was about to die.  That phrase echoed in his mind.  He was coming close to the jellyfish.  Three feet away, two feet away, one foot away.  Impact.  He clenched his teeth hard and sucked hard.  He shriveled up, starting from the tip of his front tooth to his back fin.  He was dead.  Dead.  Killed.  Murdered.  He passed away.

    Legend has it, the jellyfish he harmed grew tentacles, which were comprised of all of the eels in a shriveled up form.  The eels bit so hard they stayed on the jellyfish.  The reason they sucked was so they could take all the venom out and today, the venom is a sharp sting in the tentacles, telling you to keep away.  The jellyfish they attacked was king.  He felt so embarrassed to have the weird “ropes” on his back that he ordered all jellyfish to grow them, and so they did.

           And that’s why, even today, jellyfish have tentacles.

Why Turtles Have Shells
     By Nick, 4th grade

One hot day in the Amazon Rain Forest, a fast turtle named Speedy was running from the Lion King. He jumped behind a bush that was under a tree. “I need some armor to protect me from the lion!” Speedy was lucky because his friend the Bird was listening. The Bird flew down from his perch in the tree and said, “I can help you to get some protection from the lion”. They both walked away.
While Bird was thinking, Bat wanted to join the conversation. So Speedy told Bat that he needed some protection from the lion. Bat asked Speedy and Bird to come to his cave for lunch. While they were feasting on green and purple crickets Bird said, “I can make a shell out of twigs like a nest to put on your back as armor.”
The next day Speedy placed the nest armor on his back, but when the lion came, the nest fell apart when he roared. Speedy ran back to Bat’s cave to get more ideas. When Speedy got there, Bat was already thinking of new ideas because he didn’t think the nest armor would survive a lion attack. Speedy told Bat that he needed something harder. Bat started to fly around his cave because he did his best thinking when he was flying. Suddenly when he was turning he ran into the rock wall of the cave. As he fell he thought, “I know, I can make the armor out of rocks because rocks are clearly very hard!”
When the armor was ready, the Bat put it on Speedy’s back. When the Lion King came he bit Speedy’s back and cracked his tooth on the rock armor. After the lion ran away howling in pain, Speedy tried to get up but he couldn’t move,.  His armor was too heavy. So he called to Bat and Bird to help him get the armor off. Bird and Bat got the armor off and Speedy thanked them, but left the armor at Bat’s cave because it was too heavy.
On the way home he passed Monkey cleaning his house. Just as Speedy walked past Monkey, he saw that Monkey was removing his roof to put a new one on. Monkey replaced his roof every other month because it turned green, and Monkey liked it to be golden. As Monkey threw off the roof, it landed on Speedy’s back. It fit perfectly. It was strong enough to protect him from the Lion’s teeth, but light enough to be able to move and swim. Speedy asked if he could keep his new shell, and Monkey graciously let him.
One day when Speedy was taking a bath he went to take his shell off and found that he couldn’t. After so many years of wearing his shell, it had become a part of him.  So now all of Speedy’s babies are also born with shells.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fun With Poetry!

I remember hating poetry as a student.  It took one really special teacher to make it fun, and show me that, in poetry, nothing can truly be "wrong."  I try to be that one teacher to my students, if they haven't already yet had that experience!

We started off our two-day lesson with a lesson in rhyme scheme.  Riddle Poems are a great way to do this.  The object of a riddle poem is to create a four-line poem in AABB format, each line giving a little clue to what the answer is.  The students did a fabulous job with these poems!  Here are some for your entertainment!

This sport is quite a graceful sight.
When you perform it, be real light.
Leotards, tights, and shoes you wear,
But remember to wear a bun in your hair.
What is it?

(Answer: Ballet)
by Grace, 3rd grade

This fruit is always red.
In a jam it can be spread.
It is very yummy.
It can fill your tummy.
 What is it?

(Answer: a strawberry)
by Sophia, 3rd grade 

When you score, you hear a sound
In this sport you skate around
To hit the puck, you use a stick
You play in the cold, so don't be sick!
What sport is this?

(Answer: hockey)
by Cody, 5th grade

This  little device puts music in my ears
My favorite tunes I now can hear
I'm glad that in my pocket it'll fit
So I can listen while in the car I sit.
What is it?

(Answer: iPod)
by Kelly, 5th grade

It's red, white and blue
It has stars and stripes, too
It's the symbol of our land
It has the royal band
 What is it?

(Answer: The American flag)
By Brandon, 4th grade

This item varies in subject, color, and size,
Information inside of it is often wise.
To use this item, at it you will stare,
As you turn its pages, handle it with care!
What is it?

(Answer: a book)
by Arushi, 5th grade 

Next we got more serious and moved on to haikus, a non-rhymed genre that focuses on a syllable pattern of 5-7-5 while creating beautiful nature imagery.  Getting an exact syllable count proved difficult for some, but we worked it out together.  Here are a couple of particularly lovely haikus:
Standing on the beach
Feeling the sand between my toes
I move with the waves
 by Annika, 4th grade

Flows then crashes down
An angry beast never calm
Then becomes peaceful
by Alex, 5th grade 

The last poetry style of the day was a "Bio Poem."  This is a wonderful fill-in-the-blank activity that allows the writer to forget about proper form and just focus on feelings and memories.   For the most reluctant poetry writer, the Bio Poem is a big hit, because everybody is a poet with this format!  Here is one of my favorites. (Note: To protect the identity of my students, I have changed last names and cities.)
Kind, funny, friendly, exciting
Relative of Jack, Rachel, and Ariana
Lover of her mom, her dad, and her brother
Who feels happy when Buster curls up around her feet
Who feels sad when Jack is sick
Who feels mad when she gets into fights with my brother 
Who needs her dog, her family, and her brother
Who fears spiders, heights, and snakes
Who gives love, hugs when necessary, and happiness
Who would like to see Taylor Swift live
Resident of Anytown
  by Katy, 4th grade

Funny, kind, understanding, and stylish
Daughter of Nazila and Kamyar
 Lover of friends, family, brownies, and her lap top
Who feels happy when she is around friends  
Who feels sad when she has a lot of homework
Who feels mad when people annoy her
 Who needs love, support, friends  
Who fears spiders, tickling, and loneliness  
Who gives kindness, love, and laughter
Who would like to see her family in Italy more often
Resident of AnyCity
by Vionna, 4th grade
Then with my older groups, I did a lesson focusing on five poetic tools: 
end line rhyme- rhyme at the end of a line
internal line rhyme- rhyme in the middle of a line
repetition- words repeated (3-4 times is best)
alliteration- two or more words close together that start with the same sound
onomatopoeia- words that sound like their meaning
The goal I put forth for my students was to use at least 2 tools in an 8+ line poem of their own.  A few students were able to use all five!  Arushi (5th grade) was one of them: (See if you can find them!)
Three little bundles of fur
Frisking around, they go "Grrr!"
Splish!  Splash! In the river they go!
Others join in, their owners in tow.
These puppies are having fun
Play play play!  After dark they'll be done.
In the water, they spot a fish
Hoping to make it into a lovely dish.
They leap into the deep
And land in a small heap
They get up and lie down, their snores like purrs,
These three playful little bundles of fur. 
I love it!  Sometimes when students attempt to use all five tools, the poem sounds forced.  Arushi's was natural, had a good flow, and included such sweet imagery.

Backwards Animals! Turning an Outline into a Research Paper

Wonderful paragraphs connect to form informative and interesting research papers!  This next lesson took three class meetings to accomplish.

What would make for an exciting Writers' Workshop research paper topic?  Animals, of course!  But not just any animal..... animals that were created in our minds by spelling REAL animals, insects, reptiles, birds-- you name it!-- backwards!  I shared my "Ognimalf" sample with the class.  The Ognimalf is of course a bird related to the flamingo, but with some very interesting eating habits, colors and body features, and a unique living style.

We brainstormed imaginative information about our pretend animal:
~ appearance
~ diet
~ habitat
~ living style/personality
And anything else we could think of!

Then, we learned how to outline: a skill that is not taught often enough, in my opinion.  We took our notes from the previous class meeting and created an outline that included an introductory paragraph that touched on the upcoming topics, a body that explained every aspect of the animal in detail, and a great conclusion.

From there, the research papers were written in an organized fashion.  Here are just a couple of my favorites!

                    The Arbez, by Haley (3rd grade)

     The Arbez is a very small and delicate creature.  It is in the cat family, but looks very different.  The Arbez has a strange way of getting food.  It has a nice habitat and a fantastic personality.

     The Arbez has an oddly large head and a pretty small body.  It is covered with purple polka-dots, has no tail, one wing, and can fly.  It also has one ring on its left ear, a red collar, and a gold tag.

     The Arbez loves many foods, but two are his favorite.  It likes pizza and pineapple, but the pineapple must be sliced and the pizza must be pepperoni.  The Arbez orders pizza on the phone, and it also steals pizza from people!

     The Arbez likes to live in warm places.  It has traveled to every place in the world.  It lives now in Hawaii.  It usually lives with people or at a zoo.  When it is mad or excited, it barks at people.  When it is quiet, that means it is lonely or sad.  It is very playful when it is happy.

     The Arbez's personality is always fun.  It is really playful and likes to play with yarn.  It is also extremely fashionable, always wearing shirts everywhere.  It likes to wear shiny things like diamonds as buttons or sequins all over.  Girls always wear colorful tutus in all colors, especially pink and purple.

     In conclusion, the Arbez is a pretty, little, and unique creature.  From its fascinating personality to its awesome appearance, it is nothing like its cat cousin.  Too bad it lives in Hawaii.

 The Effarig, by Jeffrey (4th grade)

 One day, on the way home from school my mom exclaimed, ”Guess what kids, we got a new pet today!”
We bounced up and down in our seats asking, “What is it?”
“An effarig,” she replied calmly.
“What in the world is an effarig?” we demanded.
That was how this fascinating creature entered my life. It has a cute face, a strange diet, a unique habitat and is also extremely short. It’s an easy pet to take care of because of its ability to communicate with humans.
The effarig is a relative of the giraffe, but there are some unexpected differences. Although their body shapes are similar, the effarig is only two feet tall, not including its long neck. This extremely long neck is only seen when reaching for its favorite food: spinach. It has long, shaggy fur that’s black with brown spots.
The diet of the effarig is quite limited.  It likes to eat nuts, especially walnuts and acorns.  Spinach is its favorite food, which it only eats in spinach salad.  It cannot serve itself because it is too short to reach into the refrigerator.
The effarig will do anything to get a warm blanket. In fact, it cannot stand temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit! When an effarig is happy, it will sing loudly and beautifully. These animals talk to ask if they need a drink or if they want food. The only public tamed effarigs live at the San Francisco Zoo and the San Diego Zoo. There are only 200 in the wild, which live on the coast of California, so if you want one you’d better be quick! These wild effarigs have evolved to living in the colder winter temperatures, although they do prefer to be warm.
 The friendly effarig would make an outstanding pet. It greets people and asks for all it wants. If you want an effarig, you need three supplies ready to go: blankets, spinach, and nuts. On the other hand, its singing could get loud and it could make neighbors unhappy, or it could go chase after a blanket and abandon you.
The effarig is an uncommon creature that has become our favorite animal!

The Niugnep, by Katherine (5th grade)

    The niugnep is a very unique animal. It  has four flippers and has a head and body of a cloud. This appearance helps it survive in its fur habitats. In each habitat, the niugnep has to have some food. The food in each habitat ensures a variety in its diet. It has a fascinating personality that people love. Everybody wants it as a pet!

    The niugnep has four flippers to help it. Two flippers are for swimming and the other two are wings for flying. The cloud head and body help the niugnep float in the air when it wants. In the air, the niugnep will curl up and sleep, looking just like a cloud. The last part of its body is its feet. The feet look like a bird’s because it is orange and has three claws.

    The niugnep has the strangest habitats. Because they are part penguin, niugneps sometimes live in water. Its two flippers help it survive in the water because the top two are for swimming. Another unique habitat this creature lives in is the air. Curled up in a ball, the niugnep will look just like a floating, round cloud. Along with the other clouds, niugneps float across. When a niugnep wakes from sleep in the air, it is in a completely different place. Niugneps also like the jungle. The jungle is a great place to play because there are a lot of trees. Sometimes though, people find niugneps wandering through their town.

    The many habitats niugneps live in make its diet very unusual. For instance, when the niugnep is in the air, the niugnep will eat clouds. Apparently, niugneps think that clouds taste good. Now, you are probably wondering what it eats in its other habitats. In the water, niugneps eat fish, just like their cousin the penguin. Inside the jungle, niugneps eat any type of fruit.  Fruit is very sweet and tasty to niugneps, and they like sweet things. In town, niugneps eat nutella. Niugneps just adore nutella. It is their number one favorite food. This is what makes the niugnep’s diet so strange.

      People may think that the niugnep is very rough because they always fight each other for territory. Actually, the niugnep is very sweet and helpful. The niugnep is a very good searcher and finds many lost things. The niugnep’s personality is not as strange as its diet. The niugnep is actually very timid and playful. Niugneps play with kids all the time but sometimes they are never seen because they are thinking about something. This is why they can make a great pet. Many people have niugneps as a pet.

      The niugnep is a very exclusive animal. It has a very cute appearance, unusual habitats, very strange diets, a fascinating personality, and most of all, it makes a great pet. If you ever see a niugnep, make sure you take it in as a pet!

The Nihplod
By Kelly (6th grade)

Don’t find yourself underestimating a nihplod, for it may be the last thing you do. It has an excellent disguise, and lives in a place that you’ve visited a hundred times. Its peculiar diet will make you try to avoid this creature at all times!
    A nihplod looks almost exactly like a banana, except for the pearly white hue. It can’t walk, fly, or move in any way. It just sits there like a banana, which is exactly what it wants. The nihplod has one, microscopic eye, however, it still has excellent vision.
    All shoppers better be cautious because the nihplod makes its home in a grocery store. Hiding deep in the banana section, this clever beast waits until bought by an unsuspecting customer to unleash its true terror.  Store stockers simply mistake nihplods for mutant bananas, and place them in the banana boxes. If a human buys one of these rare monsters, something disastrous will happen.
    Nihplods satisfy their growling belly by devouring humans who buy it from the store.  The majority of nihplod buyers are so fascinated with these “mutant bananas” that, the moment they arrive home from the store, they insist on studying the nihplod. In that moment, this white demon swallows the human whole. What is amazing, however, is that no matter how large the human, the nihplod will stay the same size. It is unclear how exactly the digestive system of a nihplod works, because no one has been close to a nihplod and lived the tell the tale.  Another strange feature about these creatures is that although humans are plentiful, nihplods are extremely rare.
    Understandably, the nihplod is a terrifying creature. Mother Nature has combined excellent camouflage, a near-by habitat, and a horrifying diet to create one of the world’s most feared creatures: the nihplod. Hope to never see one of these clever beasts!

Creative Paragraph Writing

After delving into the art of writing descriptive sentences and passages, we focused on writing paragraphs on various topics.  Since this assignment hit right around Valentine's Day, the theme was "Something We Love."  People, places, or things; it didn't matter as long as the students felt enough emotion about their subject to last them five sentences.  Our lesson focused on varying our sentence patterns (no two should start the same) and ending with a great conclusion.

Pet dogs were a popular topic with my third graders!  Here is a great one by Ryan (3rd grade).

     My dog Lucky is very nice and cute.  She is always either licking or playing, and is very adventurous.  Her favorite thing to do is to play in the field by the barn.  When she is in the barn, she plays, chases, and doggie talks with other dogs that are walking by.  However, the thing that really stands out about Lucky is her sense of adventure for being a troublemaker.  I really enjoy being around my playful dog.

Here is another well-written paragraph by Noah (3rd grade).

     My new puppy Lulu is fun.  She is very adorable.  Her toys are all ripped up from her sharp teeth.  Whenever she's near me, she jumps up on my lap.  Don't you wish you had a puppy like this? 

We wrote these on Valentine's Day, so a few students chose the holiday as their topic.  Here is a great paragraph by Sarah (3rd grade) that recaps her day:

     Valentine's Day is exciting, especially when it is at school.  At the end of school, we get to have a really fun party with some of our classroom parents.  This year in 2012, we had three parents there.  Every year we have a treat, and this year we had cookies and some cheese puffs.  Valentine's Day was really fun this year!

My older classes participated in a more complicated game assignment.  "The Paragraph Game" was one the students showed a lot of enthusiasm for!  Our classroom was abuzz with partners working together and drawing numbers out of a bag, either excited about their draw or challenged by what the number on their card meant for them!  Each number, 1-10, corresponded to a sentence type or pattern.  Here are a few samples:

1. Write a sentence with at least two strong adjectives.
2. Write a sentence with an adverb.
3. Start a sentence with an adverb.  (This one was a challenge!)
4. Vary your punctuation- use " ", ?, or !
5. Start a sentence with "Because."
6. Include a phrase that tells "when" in your sentence.

And more!

The students picked a topic they both agreed upon from a long list of choices, such as "A Yucky Food," "A Favorite Class," "Animals," "A Famous Person," "A Favorite Sport," etc.  They then took turns drawing a number from the bag, and the object of the game was to think creatively to write a sentence following the corresponding number pattern.  If it felt too forced or was just too difficult, they were allowed one "pass" per game.  (Most students didn't take any!)  They would know when to conclude their paragraph when, as a partnership or group, they both felt that their most recent draw was a nice conclusion sentence.  (For example, "Start a sentence with an adverb" and "Vary your punctuation" worked well with this.)  Paragraphs could be between four and eight sentences long.

This game led to some very creative, humorous, and entertaining paragraphs with such a wonderful variety of sentence patterns that it was impossible to become bored reading them!

(*Note to other teachers: This is NOT a good technique to use for beginners.  I did this with my more advanced group who had already been exposed to the concept of varying sentence patterns.  I created this game in order to challenge them to think outside the box while coming up with sentences that connected and stayed on topic.  It was definitely a fun challenge!)

Sulwen, Crystal, and Claire (all 4th graders) worked together on the topic of "A Yucky Food."  I love what they came up with.  I can tell which sentence pattern number they drew because each sentence is unique and different!
Brussel Sprouts
     Truly, brussel sprouts are so disgusting that they make me sick.  "Blech!" I say as I spit out my brussel sprouts.  They're green and gross.  Whenever I have brussel sprouts for dinner, I angrily push them off my plate.  Because they are repulsive, I always stay away from them.  They are so appalling that I have nightmares about them.

Cody and Henry (both 5th grade) took the game a little different route.  They decided on the topic of "A Favorite Game," but instead of writing an informative paragraph, they wrote a mini-story about a tough recess.  It turned out great! 
     Surprisingly, I survived Bob's deadly pass and got him out in four-square.  "Whoa!" I shouted, as I realized that I got him out.  Because I got him out, Bob started crying.  A yard duty quickly came running to us to see what happened to Bob.  When she came to us, Bob lied and told her that I was being mean to him.  That wasn't very fair!  I was the one playing fair!

I continue to be impressed by what these students come up with in my workshops!