I started doing this lesson after a meeting of the Daffodil Council of the Washington Organization of Reading Development at my local Borders (may it rest in peace). Our guest speaker was the amazing Nancy Johnson, a professor at Western Washington University and part of the Newbery Committee that selected Avi’s Crispin. (Side note: She hosts the annual Children’s Literature Conference in Bellingham, Washington, with diverse, high caliber authors every year. For more information, visit www.wwuclc.com). After her talk, I immediately went out and bought The Best Part of Me.
The Best Part of Me: Children Talk About Their Bodies in Pictures and Words by Wendy Ewald is a collection of black and white photographs of children juxtaposed with entries in the children’s own handwriting. Each child responded to the question “What is the best part of you?” with a paragraph or poem about a body part. It is a unique opportunity for students to reflect on their heritage, build their self-esteem, and celebrate their individuality.
In my classroom, I begin the lesson by reading the book aloud to the class. We have a discussion about poetry. They notice that some of the poems rhyme and others do not. We talk about rhythm and line breaks. I model for them:
Tinted in sparkly pink or metallic purple,
Click-clack, click-clack as I type on the keyboard,
Perfect for opening children’s bananas,
Ideal itch scratchers,
My fingernails are both useful and a thing of beauty.
With the book as a springboard, I send kids off to write their own poems. We go through the process of revising, editing, and publishing. Finally, I place the students in small groups and give each a digital camera (thank you, grant money!). They take turns photographing their featured body parts. The finished products make a beautiful classroom book or bulletin board.
I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite student samples:
My mom says that I have my dad’s eyes
They turn from blue to green
They see very well
They close at night when I’m scared
I can see my dogs with them
I love my eyes
My hair is long
but I’m a boy so don’t judge me
I want to stay warm when it’s cold
and if that is wrong tell me and my hair.