The Best Part of Me
Kick off the school year by asking students to identify their favorite parts of themselves through descriptive poetry and a visual display.
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will think about themselves in a positive light, boosting self-concepts, as they follow an author's model to improve their writing skills. My friend and fellow teacher, Karla Hebert, originally created this lesson. The final display is so powerful that I would not think of starting my year without it.
I start this lesson with poems from The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald. This book combines black-and-white illustrations with real children's words describing what they love most about their bodies. It makes for a fun, insightful read and never fails to get kids talking and writing about the best part of themselves.
- Identify a positive physical feature of themselves
- Work in pairs to take part in an online writer's workshop
- Create a descriptive poem about their favorite feature
- The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald
- Digital camera with printer or regular camera with film
- One piece each of black and white roll paper, approximately two feet long to be used for picture background
- Computers with web access
- Loose-leaf paper
- Blank paper for publishing poems
- 12- by 18-inch construction paper in black and two to three accent colors
- Line Guide (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Gather materials and cut paper if necessary.
- Read through the book The Best Part of Me to determine if you will read all poems or pick those most appropriate for your class.
- Preview the Writer's Workshop that your students will do.
- Make sure digital camera is ready with charged batteries or regular camera has film.
- Make copies of the Line Guide for students if you plan to use it.
Step 1: Gain your class' undivided attention, then roll up your sleeve, hold your elbow out toward them, and look at it like it is the most amazing thing you have ever seen. Say, "So tell me, what do you think of my elbow? Because I absolutely love it! I think it IS the best part of me." They will look at you strangely, but no one is likely to say a disparaging remark because you have just declared your affection for this bony joint. Begin a list on the board of what you love about your elbows. After you have written two or so positive attributes, the rest of the class will start contributing. (Examples: Couldn't eat soup without them, perfect tool for nudging a friend when I think something is funny, etc.)
Step 2: Ask students if there is anything about themselves that they love and why. Initially, most children will hesitate to answer for fear of "bragging," but will share when they realize the classroom environment is friendly and tolerant.
Step 3: Bring students close together. I still have them sit on the carpet in front of me, which they seem to enjoy regardless of their age. Tell them you are going to share a book of poetry compiled by a photographer who visited third, fourth and fifth grade students at their schools, asking them the question, "What is the best part of you?" Share some/all of the poems from The Best Part of Me and discuss favorites. Showcase the photographs and highlight how simplistic and focused they are.
Step 4: Following the reading, tell students they need to decide on what they think is the very best part of them by the next class session.
Step 5: In your school's computer lab, or with students working in groups of two or three at a computer center, direct students to the Writing with Writers: Poetry website. Model how the workshop is used and allow students to complete it.
Step 6: Students write their own descriptive poem about the best part of them following the advice given during the writer's workshop. Poems can then be revised and edited.
Step 7: Students can publish their poems by neatly printing them on blank paper in the style of those in Wendy Ewald's book, The Best Part of Me. Tip: To help students print neatly on blank paper, provide them with a Line Guide (PDF) they can slip underneath. Trim the paper to fit the size of the poem.
Step 8: Take a close-up photograph of each child's self-described, "best part." It works well to put the students against a contrasting background like black or white for these pictures. Print or develop the pictures.
To put together your display, mount the photos and the poems against a frame of black. I usually let the students do this after I model how, to help foster student ownership, but if you are particular about straight, even edges, you might want to frame them yourself. Arrange poems and photos on a bright 12- by 18-inch sheet of construction paper. Display on a black background and a title. Tip: Whenever I allow students to choose colored paper for a display, I always offer the exact amount of pieces as I have students, with the number of colors divided equally. For example, if I have 24 students, I will offer eight sheets of red, eight teal, and eight orange. Students can still choose and it is much easier to create a symmetric or well-balanced board.
- Complete an online Writer's Workshop.
- Write a descriptive poem about a physical attribute.
- Did the students have enough knowledge to navigate the Internet independently?
- Was peer editing effective for the poems?
- Was anyone hesitant to discuss a positive attribute? Did you consider why and how you might have helped that child feel comfortable?
- What were your successes here and what would you do differently next time?
- Did you observe students staying focused in order to complete the entire online workshop? Did you hear more positive comments being mentioned about physical attributes?
- Evaluate each student's poem. Did it follow the model established by the online writer, or by the book, The Best Part of Me?