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A Kindergarten Writers Workshop Unit from WritingFix
sharing ideas & adaptations that help make Kindergarten Writers Workshop a reality

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About the Author:

Jodie Black is a full-time kindergartner teacher in Northern Nevada. She became a Teacher Consultant for the Northern Nevada Writing Project in 1990, served as its Co-director between 2001-2006, and has been involved with dozens of the NNWP's professional development projects focused on writing instruction. One of Jodie's favorite NNWP projects was when she served as coordinator of the Six by Six Guide: Trait Writing with Primary Writers.

Unit Eight:

How to Make
Adding up to poetry with details,
similes and metaphors.

This unit was created by Jodie Black, who uses it during March with her kindergartners.

I found Volume 7 from Lucy Calkins “Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum” to be invaluable in helping me organize my lessons. Some of the lessons were just too hard for kindergartners, but modifying them or skipping them entirely did not make the unit suffer. I was able to create several organizers to assist kindergartners to keep their ideas together and accessible.


Welcome to the eighth on-line unit for my Kindergarten Writers Workshop.

Unit Eight. A poetry unit seems like a lot to swallow even in the spring of the year. I had to think long and hard about how to bring concepts such as simile and metaphor within reach of kindergartners. Here’s how I did it. To help the children grasp the concept of seeing details, I gathered collections of marbles, shells, feathers and polished rocks. I gave each child a little plastic tray and allowed them to choose from each of these collections. This encouraged us to work together on the sharing of details and similes, gathering many more ideas than we could have if working independently. As soon as they were ready, students branched out to other objects and topics.

I need to say here, that at no time did I make the children write in any genre. I had several kids who never made an “All About Poster.” Don’t get me wrong, I encouraged the heck out of them while we were working in a genre, but still, some kids resisted certain formats and I didn’t feel comfortable making them do anything within the workshop structure. My feeling would be that assignments that all are required to do should be assigned outside of the workshop time.

These seven lessons are intended to be taught in April, after you have completed the first seven units Jodie has posted; however, we know (and welcome) other teachers' adaptations of Jodie's ideas in any order that works for them.

  • Lesson 1: The “Details of Objects” graphic organizer can be used in a variety of ways. I allowed my students to just list words and phrases that occurred to them in reference to their objects. They shared ideas around their tables as they worked.

  • Lesson 2: During this entire unit, I read many, many poems to the children at all times of the day. I picked three very simple poems to work with the idea of line breaks. Any you enjoy will work, but it’s best not to use rhyming poems because they have only one right answer. Put the words of a poem on individual words cards and put them into a pocket chart. Have the children arrange the words onto lines with the breaks in different spots. You need to read the poem for them in order to put the appropriate emphasis on the line breaks.
  • Lesson 3: I used the simile organizer to help the children generate and keep track of their similes. Using one page at a time, students generated similes about one of the items from their collections. Most kids finished similes about all four objects, a few didn’t, but I didn’t make a big deal about it.

  • Lesson 4: During our lesson the children and I brainstormed many metaphors using the graphic organizer I created. Metaphors seemed like such a lofty concept for kindergartners, I didn’t want to leave them floundering. Our brainstorming went very well and provided many ideas for children who felt less confident with the idea.

  • Lesson 5: The concept of patterning a poem helps the children understand that in poetry an author often uses repeating language. The patterning organizer helped the children to work within the patterning concept while limiting the choices. When transitioning to writing their own poems, the children were able to branch out from these ideas to use their own quite readily. As with similes and metaphors, a blank graphic allows any children who are ready to move along on their own.

  • Lesson 6, 7 and 8: As with each genre, I wrote a poem in front of the children. Thinking aloud, I recalled the work I had done with simile and metaphor and patterning and line breaks. I choose a topic and wrote the poem on the overhead projector. I did this for three successive days to illustrate and reiterate that poems can be about anything. Remember, up until now, I had not required the children to work within a genre. But Spring Open House was on the calendar—so I insisted.
  • Lesson 9: For the first time in the year, I had the children choose their favorite poem, we made sure it was perfectly edited and they copied it over.
  • Lesson 10: To prepare for Open House, and as a special practice in anticipation of it, we had a “Poetry Reading” in our classroom. Dimmed lights and a French beret helped set the tone for the readers.


Two Published Student Samples
from Jodie's Classroom

Unit 8

by Sierra

Dogs are cute because they whimper
because they are
sad and you don’t
know why they are
sad. because they miss
you. are you missing your pet.
and you know they
are missing you.

by Caulin

Candy gives you
for you.
But Kids sill like

From Jodie: "I can’t get over how precious these poems are. I love the evidence of experiments with line breaks and repeating language. I love the topics. I love the little voices singing right out from these words."


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