Sunday, September 9, 2012

Common Core and Advanced Learners

Hello!  This year is off to a great start.  I am really enjoying my class, and they seem to be all getting along and really focusing on being the best Bucket Fillers they can be.  They love to notice the great things that each other are doing, which really helps build our classroom community.  As we are starting to dig deeper into academics, I realize that having advanced learners means I need to make sure I keep them very busy to constantly have them engaged and learning.  What I don't want to do is bore my learners.  I want to make sure they are constantly challenged.  I am excited to teach them the inquiry process, and have been researching curriculum compacting.  One way that I am making sure to challenge them is integrating a lot of technology into the curriculum. For example, this week I am going to be introducing Voki Classroom to my students.  We have spent the last week focusing on characters and setting, and have started delving into character traits.  I am modeling this through my first read aloud, The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron.  My students cannot wait for the read aloud time in the day, where they have been actively listening, been involved in Turn-and-Talk and participating in Stop and Jots in their Reading Response Notebooks.  The latter new to me this year, but I am enjoying having students write their quick responses, and making sure to get their response to literature time in several times a day.  As we finish the book, we will take our recorded notes, and our teaching points to make a Voki Avatar of Julian, the main character in the book.  We will create this as a class, so that I can model my thinking and process.  The next step for each student will be to create a Voki Avatar of the main character in the book they have chosen to read.  This is a great activity that they can not only do at school, but at home too.  Several of my students have interest in doing extra work at home, and this is an assignment, once we have practiced in the classroom, can be transferred to other books at home for extra credit.   I hope to keep coming up with challenging work that relates to the Common Core Standards and provides additional learning opportunities for my advanced learners!

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Week of School and Open House Activities

I love the start of the school year.  I think its so amazing to bring a group of children together and form a strong bond throughout the school year.  Spending the first two weeks focusing on routines, rules, and getting to know you activities helps all students feel like they belong.  One of the first things I make sure to put in place is a Morning Meeting where we can meet as a group and play name game activities and getting to know you games.  We make sure to play some Name Bingo over the first two weeks, with game boards filled in with all students names.  This helps children remember each others names, which is an integral part to learning more about each other.  The first day is getting to know the teacher, the classroom, the school, and routines.  Taking a tour of the classroom, and pointing out important places helps students understand where things are.  Practicing activities such as fire drill and lock down procedures help students know what is expected at all times.  By day 2 and 3, a lot of time can be spent on friendship, similarities, and differences.  The sharing of "Me Bags" gives each child an opportunity to shine, sharing special things from their life.  Read alouds focus on what it means to be a good friend, with writing activities to follow.  Each of my students write "I can be a good friend by..." activity where they share ideas of what they can do.  I also have students decorate themselves on cut-outs, and create a classroom poster to hang outside the door, "Together as friends we make one great classroom community!"  This helps to make each child feel like they belong.  I added the students friendship writing all around to be our welcome into the classroom display.

Through several other activities, such as Similarities and Differences, where students work with a partner and create a Venn Diagram of ways they are alike, and ways they are different, students continue to celebrate each other.  For the rest of the first week, we celebrate each individual student and what makes them special.  We read aloud, I Like Myself, and create self portraits. 

We learn about Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and students learn the many different ways they are smart.  This helps each child realize that they ARE smart in different ways.  We color code pie charts which shows the top four ways each child is smart.  This makes all students feel as if they belong, and set them up for a successful year in second grade.

Students have the opportunity to write about their Wish for Second Grade and we post that in the classroom as well, as the first writing activity.  These are all hanging up as classroom displays that make the classroom very inviting for both the students, and parents as they come in for Open House. 
Another activity I tried for the first time this year, was having each child create a Wordle on, a Word Cloud of words that describe themselves. They start by creating this list in their Writing Journal, and then typing it into Microsoft Word.  I made sure that each child typed his/her name 4 times so that it would come up as the biggest word in the Wordle.  My students wrote between 10 and 30 words.  One at a time I called my students up to my computer, and we worked together to copy and paste in the words, then choose the font, direction, and colors.  When each child was satisfied with the Wordle, I printed them out for their writing binder, and put a copy into Microsoft PowerPoint, which will run on a loop during open house and feature each child on a screen with Meet _______(students name), picture, and Wordle.
Here is the example of my Wordle I showed to help my students:

 I am looking forward to the second week of school where we continue to build a classroom community, and build up each childs' self-esteem.  I plan on reading The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown tomorrow, and having each child use the familiar pattern in the book to write a poem for their parents to have on the desk during Open House.  For example, "The important thing about my mom is she loves me...." where the whole poem reflects a page in the book.  The parents love to see what their child wrote about them on Open House night, and I even leave a blank copy of the poem for the parents to fill in about their child, so the children have a surprise to come back to the next morning.   As a final little present for the parents, I created a Star Magnet that can be hung on the refrigerator to display their children's work during the school year.  It's an added little gift that parents appreciate, and students love. 

Remember the key to a great school year is helping each child feel comfortable in the classroom, aware of routines, a lot of time to practice, and build a positive rapport between you, the students, and the parents.  A successful year comes from a blending of a positive classroom community, highly engaging academic activities, and an understanding of each child for the unique person that they are, in order to differentiate instruction appropriately throughout the school year!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

First Day of School!

I cannot believe tomorrow starts another school year.  I am looking forward to what this year has in store for me and my new group of students.  I was fortunate to have spent the morning at school yesterday during Campus Visitation and had the opportunity to meet almost all of my students and their families.  What is it they say about the first day of school?  Get students here, get them fed, and get them home safely.  Those are the 3 key things for the first day of school.  I hope to begin to build a positive classroom culture and community.  I hope for all my new students to feel welcomed, happy, and looking forward to the next 179 days together.  I hope to know all of my students names and faces by the end of the day.  I cannot wait to start read alouds again and find out interesting facts about each child.  We will work on routines and creation of classroom rules together.  As this year is ready start, I know I need to get a good night sleep tonight, as I am hoping that each of my children gets as well, and I ask myself the pressing question, what am I going to wear tomorrow?  For everyone else that is about to start school too, have a wonderful start of a new school year!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wordle for the Classroom

As I was preparing a training last night working on a Mission Statement for my Writing Project group, I came across a wonderful website called Wordle (  It let's you create a Word Cloud from text that you provide.  The clouds give greater prominence to the words that appear more frequently in a text.  You can even change your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.  I tried the website with this blog to see what it would look like.  Here is my Wordle I created:

I was very interested in how this came out, and started thinking how I could use this program in the classroom.  I think it would be a great project at the beginning of the year with my students.  While we work on creating Classroom Rules, creating a Mission Statement, going over Your Job/My Job activities, why not take all our words that are important to the class and create a Wordle to display in the classroom.  This can remind us of things that are important to us.  Possibly, later in the year students can take some of their work and create individual Wordles, sharing words that are important to them.  This would work well in addition to their autobiography and Remember When poems.  Has anyone used Wordle for projects in your classroom?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer of Travel

Wow, first I have to say that I was fortunate enough to have another INCREDIBLE summer of travel!  I have been on the road for a month, which is why I haven't been posting. But, I am excited to be home and getting back to the world of teaching.  And boy am I thrown in quickly...I finally got home on Sunday and I headed into school on Monday.  This weekend I am excited to head to the Leadership Retreat for the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project, an organization I truly believe has transformed me as a teacher of Writing.  I will be spending my last two weeks of summer vacation in trainings.  Next week I am on the District Committee for the new Reading Adoption.  The week after I will be providing training to all new 2nd grade teachers in the county in the area of Reading and Writing.  So I'm currently in planning mode and working on ideas for the first two weeks of school.  Anyone have amazing ideas to share with new teachers?  I plan on sharing the many activities I complete with my students.  Well, while I get back into school mode, I thought I would share a few pictures from my summer of travel around Europe and out west.  Since travel is classroom theme, the more I see of the world, the more I have to share with my students!

Trip #1:  Zurich, Switzerland; Vaduz, Lichtenstein; Munich, Germany; Salzburg and Vienna, Austria; Prague, Czech Republic; and Amsterdam, Netherlands

Heidiland, Switzerland at the Heidi House
with a copy of the Heidi book for my classroom!

"I Have Confidence" the road Maria sings
 and dances in the Sound of Music

Bus Trip from Salzburg, Austria

Mozart Dinner Theater

My favorite city of the trip: Salzburg

Eagle's Nest

Vienna Opera House

Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

Trip #2: Exploring the West: Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas

Verde Canyon Railroad

Out of Africa Wildlife Park

Bell Rock in Sedona

Yoga on the Rock

Chapel on the Hill

The Grand Canyon

 After such an amazing summer of travel, I cannot wait to get back in the classroom and start working with a new group of second graders!

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Center Time

I have heard a lot of different feelings about "center time" and what that means in the classroom.  Some people will argue there should not be centers, and others feel confident that it should be a part of everyday in the classroom.  I have adapted my ideas of centers and have found them to be extremely useful when done appropriately.  At the beginning of the year, each student is assigned to one of the five centers in my classroom each day of the week. 

For Example, Student A's Schedule:
Monday: Book Shopping and Word Work Center
Tuesday: Science/Social Studies Center
Wednesday: Math Center
Thursday: Writing Center
Friday: Computer Center Time

Each child has a similar schedule and 3-4 students have the same schedule in the classroom. This way, no center is too busy.  The great thing about centers in my room is that students are able to go to their center when finished with their work during designated time during the day.  This provides each of my students motivation to complete their work. They are able to go to their center when finished with morning work, math or social studies/science work.  They do not get the opportunity during reading because they are Independently Reading, which every child is responsible to do.  At each center there are activities they can complete, which are changed every few weeks throughout the year.  For example, on Monday Student A finishes his/her morning work and gets to Book Shop for five new books for the week.  He/she may choose 3 on-level books and 2 "desert" books which might be above or below level.  Once book shopping is completed, this student can choose to read quietly or go to the Word Work Center and complete an activity such as a Synonym/Antonym Find.  On Tuesday Student A can visit the table with Science and Social Studies activities, which match the units we complete in daily lessons.  They may be playing a map game or sorting rocks into different characteristics.  On Wednesday, this student would work individually or with a partner to play math games on the red rug, enhancing the math lessons we are focusing on like money, flash cards, or clock practice.  On Thursday students have several options at the Writing Center to complete different activities with language, letter writing, or choose a specialty paper and gel pen to complete a final draft of a previously written story.  On Friday this student has the opportunity to complete an activity on the computer in previously chosen programs such as Destination Reading/Math, Reading Counts Quizzes, Voki Classroom, Starfall, or type a story in Microsoft Word.  Once I ring a bell, students know they have to clean up whichever activity they are doing and go to the next activity.  It works very well, as I can modify the amount of time spent at centers.  If a child would rather read a book independently at their seat rather than go to their center, that is always an option.  I believe my students motivation to complete work has increased drastically as I implemented Center Time in my classroom.

                                      Social Studies/Science Center Table

Writing Center with Activities

Word Work Center in Reading Area

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Grant Writing and Student Rubrics

This week I have been working diligently on a Teach for Excellence Grant offered by the Pinellas Education Foundation in my district.  As I go through the process, I find myself very dependent on the rubric they provided to help me write the best proposal I can.  As I sit and look at the rubric for tidbits of inspiration, I think to my classroom and my students use of rubrics.  This year, I created rubrics for most writing assignments the students did.  They really appreciated the rubrics, and would look for them as we started new projects.  As my students were coming up to the end of the year Writing Common Assessment, I explained to them how they would not have a rubric to use, but felt confident that they knew the strategies to include.  I was proven correct as all of my general ed students passed the assessment and produced high-quality writing.  But I also sit here and wonder, why shouldn't students have a rubric as they complete their story?  I am so dependent on my grant rubric and feel that I can produce a lot higher quality piece of writing with this support, and I am sure that my students feel the same way.  And the second question I wonder is, why can students only have 45 minutes to complete their best piece of writing?  That is too much pressure.  As I am completing my "grown-up" writing, I need frequent breaks, a lot of time, and a relaxed environment.  Since I cannot offer my students the true gift of time, or a rubric with expectations, at least I know that I can provide a calm environment with peaceful and inspiring music to help motivate them during assessments.  I also can spend the whole year teaching them to "think like writers," help them gain their personal voice, and confidence to know that their writing matters and is important to share with the world!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Choosing a Classroom Theme

My first three years of teaching were theme free.  I was just beginning my teaching career, and wanted to focus on the curriculum and my instruction.  After I got a good grasp of teaching, I started thinking about my classroom environment.  I knew I wanted to have a classroom theme.  Something that distinguished my room from other classrooms.  The summer I was moving from 1st to 2nd grade, I started searching for the perfect classroom theme.  A lot of this research was done online, visiting education boards, like a wonderful website full of ideas for teachers.  There is actually a board for bulletin boards and themes on this website.  So many teachers offer great ideas, and you can ask questions and teachers from around the country and world will help you.  One teachers website that I spent A LOT of time visiting was Beth Newingham.  She is a 3rd grade teacher in Michigan, and is truly inspirational.  You can visit her website at: it is full of ideas for any elementary teacher! 

As I started thinking about themes, I really wanted to have an educationally based theme.  Even though ideas such as racing, Hollywood, frogs, or ladybugs are really cute, I don't think they have a lot of educational value.  I began by thinking about the units we teach in the classroom, and things that I have a true passion for.  After a lot of thought, I decided since travel is my true passion, I wanted to find a way to have a Social Studies theme that involved maps and the world.  I continued searching for ideas and eventually found ways to include license plate name tags, continents as table groups, and street names for the different areas of the classroom.  I have also expanded my classroom jobs to include "airline jobs" since I chose my tag line for my classroom.  LAK Airways: Where Learning Takes Flight!  seemed to be a clear and concise way to share my passion for travel and adventure and my feelings about how wonderful learning can be.  I call my students "Globetrotters."  Instead of a Star Student, we have a First Class Globetrotter in our classroom.  Above all, students are interacting with maps and learning about the world around them daily through this interactive theme.  As a word of advice, I suggest you find a theme you really enjoy and can keep for a long time.  It can be a challenge, can cost some money (although, if you go to tag sales, flea markets, and dollar stores you can be very creative and not spend a lot of money!), and involves some extra work.  I have had LAK Airways for four years with no plans of changing it.  If you find something you love, that is academically based, where students can feel safe and secure and free to explore their learning, it can be a place where students achieve great success!  While I do not believe you have to have a theme to be a great teacher (as there are many great teachers who do not), I think it can be a fun way to enhance your classroom environment!  Here are a few examples that specifically show how I have incorporated my theme into my classroom.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The End of Another Year

As I sit here in my classroom, which is now completely cleaned up and everything is stowed away, I think back to everything I accomplished this year.  I also start looking forward to what I can do next year.  One thing I learned during my National Board Certification, is to constantly reflect on what I did well this year and what can I change and do better.  I am very happy with the progress I made with my students this year.  I sent a group of children to 3rd grade who I feel are ready to attack any task at hand.  What I hope most is that I instilled in my students a love of learning that will continue.  Even though they may struggle at times, they will continue to face each challenge and use the skills needed to succeed.  So now begins my thoughts towards next year.  I will make my lists of the activities that worked well, which I know I want to do again, and the activities which need tweaking or should not be done.  I will spend a lot of time online, searching for great activities to match the curriculum, and find ways to infuse the Common Core into all activities I complete.  I just received in my school year this morning two new books to read over the summer.  Even though they did not come with a note (rather odd if you ask me!) I am assuming they are to prepare me for my upcoming role as 2nd grade mentor teacher to all new teachers in Pinellas County.  My district just asked if I would like to provide Professional Development, work as a mentor teacher, and provide support to all the newbies to 2nd grade.  And considering our district, being the 24th largest in the US, has over 80 elementary schools, I think that this will be a full-time challenge.  So as I read Pathways to the Common Core, Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman; and Opening Minds, Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston, I can only hope to be fully prepared to help these teachers achieve success in their classroom as well. 

As you begin cleaning your classroom and getting it ready for next year, my biggest advice is to STAY ORGANIZED!  Don't just throw things anywhere, thinking you are exhausted from this school year.  Use a little extra time and make sure everything has a place and a purpose.  Also, you don't need to keep everything.  We, as teachers, tend to keep everything thinking we might need it in the future.  My motto is: if you haven't used it in 2 school years, you don't need it!  Keep organizing, and going through all your stuff, and enjoy your summer break!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

TeachHUB Teacher Spotlight

This week I was selected as the Teacher Spotlight at!  It was an exciting week as I was also announced the first place winner in their Battle of the Boards competition.  Thank you to everyone who voted and gave me support.  What a wonderful way to end another year of teaching!

Ms. Suzanne Lak | TeachHUB

Congrats to Suzanne for being the first place winner of the Battle of the Boards Photo Contest! Her "Poet Tree" classroom display took home the most votes, winning her a $250 gift card to

John M. Sexton Elementary School Saint Petersburg, Florida

Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
My favorite teacher in my life is my mom. She is the person that inspired me to be the teacher I am today. Spending time in her classroom, I learned how to be a great teacher.

If you could have any person (living, dead or fictional) as a principal, who would it be?
Walt Disney. He has amazing ideas to make the world a better and happier place. I think he would share positive ideas and be a great principal!

What profession other than your own would you most like to attempt?
I would love to work at a non-profit such as Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or Special Olympics. I enjoy donating my time to these organizations and feel it must be very rewarding to work for them.

Describe your all-time favorite lesson/unit activity
I LOVE teaching writing. I love sharing my passion for writing with my students, and enjoy the days that I can sit for a moment and watch my entire class engrossed in their writing, pencils moving continuously across the page...with groans when the bell rings to signify the end of writing for the day.

What is the greatest misconception about teachers?
Our job is easy. 8:00-3:00 and done. I spend my nights, summers, and weekends devoting time to creating lessons and activities! I go to bed thinking about my classroom and wake up thinking about what more I can do.

What stereotype about teachers is true?
I think there is definitely a "teacher look." I can't pinpoint exactly what it is, but anywhere I go I can see a group of people and say, "They must be teachers!" Most of the time, I am right!

How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
When I was 4 years old I came home from pre-school and announced that I was going to be a teacher. I never changed my mind. My devotion to teaching showed when I was 11 and wanted to take Red Cross babysitting course to be a certified babysitter. I was too young, so I wrote a persuasive letter explaining why I should be allowed to take the class. They let me in, and I babysat up a storm for the next several years.

Friday, June 8, 2012

School's Out for Summer

Yesterday was the last day of school.  It was a very emotional day.  Yes, I always get excited for summer break.  An opportunity to travel and see more of the world.  This summer I am heading over to Europe (Zurich, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague), and out west to Sedona, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon.  It sure will be an exciting summer full of adventures.  I have a passion for travel and I share that passion with my students in the classroom.  As excited as I am for summer, I really do miss the children.  I love teaching, and I especially love the spring when I get to complete many projects with my students who have gained in independence.  Over the last month of school my students were able to create PowerPoint Presentations, investigate and discover new things in science, write persuasive reviews on a variety of subjects, and spend a lot of time integrating technology into everyday lessons.  But alas, as summer is officially here, I will now spend my time researching ideas for next years class and feel confident that I fully prepared a classroom of 2nd graders to head to 3rd grade!


Saturday, June 2, 2012

In the News Again

From the Pinellas County Schools Newsroom:

Cast your vote to vault Sexton teacher and her students to victory in contest

June 1, 2012

Suzanne Lak’s bulletin board in her second grade classroom at Sexton Elementary School has been chosen as a finalist in a national bulletin board contest sponsored by, an online resource center for educators provided by the K-12 Teachers Alliance.
Lak’s “Poetree” display contains original poems created by her students.
The board was chosen “based on overall look, creativity and the educational value of the classroom/bulletin board display,” according to the TeachHUB website. The winner of the Battle of the Boards will receive a $250 cash prize and will be determined by votes by visitors to the site. Voting ends at noon Monday, June 4.
Click to cast your vote in support of Lak, her students and Sexton Elementary!

Tagged as: competitions, elementary schools, poetry

Friday, June 1, 2012

PowerPoint Presentations

Today was a big day in LAK Airways!  We celebrated our completed PowerPoint presentations on habitats in the morning, and the children had Water Day with the PE coaches in the afternoon.  For the last two weeks my students have been working in groups of two or three to create a ten slide Habitat presentation.  I have already taught my 2nd grades how to use Microsoft Word with success, so guiding them through Microsoft PowerPoint was a logical succession.  It is amazing how much the students will pick up, with little instruction!  I did a few whole class lessons to teach the basics of PowerPoint.  They also had a rubric with expectations, along with a detailed description of what to include on each slide (example: animals in habitat with pictures and words or where to find this habitat with map).  This project was an integration of technology, reading, writing, and science.  The students loved this time of day.  They couldn't wait to research facts in books, work on the computer and write facts.  During this time, I was available to help all groups with what they needed.  Sure they had questions, but they also were able to figure out lots of things on their own.  Today, as a culminating activity, we presented our PowerPoints to our class, and welcomed another 2nd grade class to join us.  The students shared their presentation, a Voki animal, a poem they created, and their persuasive review of what people can do to help their habitat.  I am including one great example.
View more presentations from Suzie Lak

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Student Behavior Choices

I cannot believe that there are only five days of school left!  As excited as I am for summer, I get sad to see my students go every June.  I feel like we have turned into a family...with shared beliefs, understandings, and mutual respect.  For the last two weeks, I have been letting my students "take control" of their behavior.  They can move up to blue when making great choices, or back to green, or down to yellow when making mistakes.  Their honesty is what truly amazes me.  When I ask my student what color they should be on, thinking they should be on blue, they remind me, "Remember Miss Lak when you had to talk to me once to stay focused on my work?" Or, "You had to remind me it was quiet work time, and I was talking to a friend."  Really minor things, and its amazing that they have that honesty as a seven or eight year old.  I usually commend them on their honesty and then say they should still move up to blue.  I believe that when there is a classroom culture based on mutual respect, and they truly want to make the correct choices, and be the best students they can be.  There are so many positive character traits that I hope have been instilled not only for a short time, but for their future as well.  I really hope the honesty stays with them, and they know appropriate ways to handle themselves both in the classroom and out in the world.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TeachHUB Contest!

Today was a great day!  I came home to an e-mail sharing that I was one of the top ten finalists chosen in the national bulletin board finalists.  And this all came the day after I blogged about my experience with Poetry Cafe!  If you have a chance, please head to and vote for our POETREE display.  You can vote 1 time a day until June 4th.  I am so excited that a special activity in my classroom has been shared in a special way.  You can find examples in my post below.  My students amaze me with their poetic words!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Poetry Cafe

One of my absolute favorite days from this school year was our Poetry Cafe.  We completed a poetry unit in March this year.  Yes, I know it's a month early, but it is what worked out best for our schedule!  We spent the first week studying poetry and learning literary elements.  My students were introduced to a lot of new vocabulary including: rhythmic pattern, rhyme, personification, alliteration, imagery, and many more poetic words.  We spent each day during reading studying a certain element, and then in writing, trying it out.  We kept all of our poems in a Poetry Folder.  During reading I would present a type of poem, or poetic element during a mini-lesson.  Students would then "search for" this element in poems that I gave them, highlighting examples.  In the afternoons, my students would attempt each strategy.  There results were amazing!  The poet language was incredible.  Even my struggling writers enjoyed the process.  They loved trying different styles of poetry.  My students created Alliteration Poems, Repetition Poems, Personification, Similes, Imagery, and Onomatopoeia.  After practicing each strategy in isolation, they also attempted poems that included many strategies.  One of my favorite lessons was on Color Poems.  We used Hailstones and Halibut Bones as our mentor text.  We attempted a shared class poem, and then students went off and attempted on their own. The results were amazing.  Students descriptive language was incredible.  One student poetically writes, "Yellow tastes like a cinnamon roll dancing on my taste buds."  Another child says, "Red feels like a soft beautiful blanket that keeps me toasty warm."  Yet another student shares, "Blue is the blueberries that cool my lungs. Blue sounds like peaceful music.  Blue feels like the wind on my face.  Blue is a magical thing!"  Each student was able to  beautifully describe a color using imagery and descriptive language.  This was then translated into their other types of writing.  After completing our study, my students turned blank books into a Poetry Anthology consisting of ten original poems, and two of their "favorite poems" by famous poets.  As a culminating activity, we had a Poetry Cafe in our classroom.  All family was invited into the classroom on a Friday morning. Students were asked to dress in black, and could bring in sunglasses.  I (with the help of my mother, thank you mom!!) created berets for each child out of black fabric and pipe cleaners.  Our Poetry Cafe was presented in true Beatnick Style. "During the 1950's and 1960's a style from the "Beat Generation" where poetry readings at small coffee shops were popular.  People often dressed in black, wore sunglasses and berets, and recited poetry into microphones.  Jazz music was also popular to play during the readings.  Audience members would listen and snap to show appreciation of the poets." I transformed my classroom into this style with black tablecloths on the tables, a black backdrop, and silver and gold decorations with battery operated candles for ambiance.  The day of the big show was incredible.  We had over forty family and friends come to watch our Author's Celebration.  Each child read an original poem from their completed poetry book.  A PowerPoint Presentation accompanied the event.  Students then read a shared class poem that I created from their definition of "What is Poetry?"  It was a truly magical event, and the parents and children absolutely loved it.  I believe it will be an event remembered by my students for a long time!

A Class Poem created by the students in my class, describing what poetry is, using one line from each child. I was amazed by the insight from these seven year old writers.

Poetry Is…
Poetry is like a song that has no music.
Poetry is words that you can sing.
Poetry is as gentle as a flower.
Poetry is not in paragraphs, it is in lines.
One or more words can be on a line of a poem.
Poetry is to me, learning about writing.
Poetry is something I enjoy.
You can write about your life or everybody in your family.
Poems have imagery, personification, 

 rhythmic patterns, and word choice.
Poetry is joyful to my ears.  Poetry is just a soft sound.
Poetry is like rhyming sounds just calling your name.
It is your own story that you make and
can keep it as a treasure forever.
Poetry is action, poetry is description, poetry is me, poetry is love,
 poetry is inspiring, poetry is music to my ears.
Poetry is my soul, my dreams, my love, and makes me control my heart.  I love poetry and poetry loves me. Poetry makes me sing and dance.
 Oh wonderful poetry.

Check out the pictures of Poetry Is...Definitions, Literary Elements, our Poetree (of blooming poems), and completed Poetry Anthologies for students to read.

An article posted about Poetry Cafe in our Pinellas County Schools Newsroom:

Young poets shine in the spotlight

April 2, 2012

First, the second-graders studied various poets and their works.

The second-grade students learned about imagery, alliteration, personification and other poetic elements before creating books of their own poetry.
Then, they used some of the writing techniques and strategies they’d learned about to create a full anthology of their own poetry.
And on the Friday before spring break, students in Suzie Lak’s second-grade classroom at John M. Sexton Elementary School in St. Petersburg took center stage and read their original works to a classroom full of visitors.
Lak’s classroom was set up like a mid-20th century poetry cafe. The kids wore black clothing and berets made out of felt.
They started with a shared, class reading, went through their original pieces of poetry and ended with a poem that the students created together.
More than 40 family members came out to celebrate the students’ writing.