Back to School Poem: My Official List, a writer’s guide

New faces, new names, new voices, new dreams. It’s getting-to-know-you time again, the beginning of a new school year.

Here is a little quick write pattern for creating a cheeky introduction. Fun to write, fun to share. I’m thinking upper elementary, but you be the judge. Here is my model, My Official List. Sorry that it’s on two slides, I guess I got carried away. Story of my life.


This is all about personal opinions. We all have ‘em. Comparing likes and dislikes is a little like comparing sweet fall apples to bitter orange peels, but oh what we can learn when we listen and share.

Try this:
1. Download and project My Official List
2. Read aloud.
3. Read again by dividing the class, one half can read the YES column and one the NO column.
4. Ask if there are any unfamiliar words and clarify.
5. Discuss the pattern a little.
6. Ask students to fold a piece of paper in half or create a two-column document if they are working on devices.
7. Ask writers to list a half a dozen likes and dislikes. Favorite games, colors, foods, music, hobbies, sports…and of course the not-so-favorites.
8. Ask them to add a strong conclusion. Students can borrow mine or make up their own.

*About the rhyme thing: Rhyme is fun, but sometimes it can hang kids up, driving them to focus on the rhyme scheme rather than meaningful content. On the other hand, if you tell kids they can’t rhyme after they’ve read a rhyming mentor text, some of them will start to pulsate. They just HAVE to rhyme.

Here’s a suggestion: invite writers to rhyme the last two lines if they’d like. Or, recommend to writers that they have no rhymes in the first draft (Version 1), but they can move things around and create a rhyme scheme in revision. That’s the way I do it. When it comes to rhyme, I like to leave the door open.

Ask students to read their drafts aloud, everyone at the same time. Next, have them share with a partner. Now they are ready to take turns sharing with the class. Great chance to practice listening skills! These are also fun to illustrate and post in the room, the hall, or in a blog.

Something to watch out for: Request that students do not name any names. For instance, we don’t want any YES to Ted but NO to Fred. We want to express our opinions (ketchup or mustard, strawberry or grape), we don’t want to be hurtful to anyone else.

Have fun! And if you want a back to school poem, here’s one I have posted before, from my book Zombies! Evacuate the School (Boyds Mills Press). Artwork by the talented Karen Sandstrom.


And if you want a lesson plan with suggestions on how to introduce my new novel, The Enemy, Detroit 1954, (why not?) go to the next post.

Putting a GREAT SCHOOL YEAR in the YES column for all my teaching friends.


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