The Best Part of Me...Poetry Project by Jan Tappan

This past weekend, Jan Tappan, a teacher friend of mine shared about a class poetry project that she did recently with her 4th graders. 

From Jan...

I got the idea for the "Best Part of Me" poems from Carol Raby, an Elementary Librarian & a source of a great number of really terrific ideas. Hope Anita Smith visited Carol's school to conduct poetry workshops with the students there. The poetry project I was interested in was the one where the students used paint colors as metaphors for aspects of themselves (physical characteristics, emotions: "When I'm mad, I'm Maine Lobster," for example) and then illustrated the poems with torn white core scrapbook paper collage.

When Readers (a monthly book group comprised of teachers and librarians) visited her school, Carol showed me her photo album of the paint color poems, and I had great success with those last year. As I looked through her scrapbook, I found the photos (see example above) with poems displayed in a very unusual way. The sign on that bulletin board said that the poems had been inspired by Hope Anita Smith, but I later learned about the Wendy Ewald book, The Best Part of Me: Children Talk About Their Bodies in Pictures and Words and Literacy and Justice Through Photography: A Classroom Guide, the source for the original idea. Carol told me that the poems celebrated the "best part" of each student and that they used one metaphor, one simile, and one other kind of figurative language. The poems started and ended with "The best part of me is.."

I asked my students to write poems about what they felt was their best visible feature. The kids had a great time thinking up similes and metaphors to go with the body part that they had chosen, a process they found not as easy as they first thought! They shared their poems with each other for help with editing, revising, and ideas for metaphors and the "other figurative language" line. We took closeup photos of the kids' faces and of the body parts they wrote about. The kids used our word processors to type their poems, we formatted them so they looked the same and mounted them so the photos stood out from the board. It was a great success at our open house!

Mounting directions: Fold the 8 1/2" ends of letter size paper to the center line, creating two side flaps. Glue the student's face picture to the outside of the right flap, and the student's body part photo on the side facing the center line so the two photos are glued back to back with the body part photo facing the poem. Mount the poem's final copy in the center between the two flaps. I laminated the poem/photo display to make the photos stand out and to protect the display which is in a crowded hallway. When I put the bulletin board up, I backed each of the poems with a contrasting paper and re-folded the flaps on the poetry frame.

Additional Resources:

Check out this "Best Part of Me..." Resource on Scholastic.

Click here for an article about Wendy Ewald's work.

Thanks Jan for sharing about this great project...I can't wait to try it with students. - Alyson