White Wonderful Winter: Using Strong Verbs to Create an Image

March 26th, 2013

We continue our early National Poetry Month celebration with another Your Turn Lesson from Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, the authors of Poetry Mentor Texts on using strong verbs to create an image. Leave your short poem in the comments section for a chance to get a free copy of Poetry Mentor Texts!

White Wonderful Winter

Word choice is an important part of any kind of writing. Poets, especially, need to be conscious of the words they use as they create images with only a few words. In this lesson, writers are reminded of the power of strong verbs in writing. The scaffold provides a framework that ensures the success of all writers.

Hook: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner is a wonderful source of verbs for this particular scaffolded poem. In the book, a young girl is cross-country skiing through the woods with her father, while under the snow is a secret world where animals eat, sleep, and hide. Students are fascinated by the activities of the animals, so it is a good idea to introduce this book as a read-aloud first before using it as a mentor text. Return to the book and ask students to listen for the verbs the author uses to describe the actions of the animals and the people. They can record them in their notebooks or on individual whiteboards.

Purpose: Writers, today I will show you how you can use strong verbs to create clear images for your reader. We will use this scaffold to create poems about winter:



White wonderful winter!

Kids _________________________

Grown-ups ___________________

White wonderful winter!

Brainstorm: Together with the class, create a t-chart of verbs. On one side, list the verbs from the book that describe the actions of the animals and people. Students can brainstorm additional verbs for winter activities. For the other side, ask the class for verbs that could be used with snow. Your chart may look something like this:

        Animals and People                                    Snow               

disappear     glide         scratch                           glistens

doze             climb        swoosh                           whispers

dodges         snooze     snore                              swirls

huddle          snuggle    scurry                             blows

cuddle          listen        build                               piles

ski                leap          cheer                              blankets

complain      toboggan    skate                            sparkles

Model: Use the scaffold to create a poem. Think aloud about the words you choose to use for the images you want to create. You can add other words, such as conjunctions or transition words, to help shape your poem. Here is an example from Rose’s notebook:


Snow blankets the earth while
Animals snooze peacefully underground
White wonderful winter!
Kids cheer joyfully and
Grown-ups cuddle by a cackling fire
White wonderful winter!

Shared/Guided Writing: Together with your students, create one or two poems. Discuss how the use of strong verbs helps create a more precise image. Students can also work in pairs or triads and share their thinking.

Independent Writing: Ask students to create their own winter poems using the scaffold. Some students may use the scaffold as a guide or adjust it slightly to meet their needs. Here is an example from a second grader:


A Winter Wonderland

by Josh

Snow falls on the earth.
Animals dream
Of a warm spring!
White wonderful winter!
Kids ice-skate in an ice rink as
Grown-ups slurp hot cocoa.
White wonderful winter!

 Reflection: Ask your students to reflect on how the writing worked for them:

Was creating the poem easy or hard? Why?

Did you revise your poem to use a stronger verb?

How did using a strong verb help you to create a clearer image in your writing?

Options: You can try this scaffold with other seasons or holidays, adjusting the phrases as needed—perhaps “Sizzling Sunny Summer” or “Thankfully Thankful Thanksgiving” or “Fabulous Festive Fall.” The book Outside, Inside by Carolyn Crimi compares and contrasts a thunderstorm brewing outside with what is happening inside a young girl’s house. It is also a good mentor text for strong verbs.

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized,Writing

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Amber Garbe (@readattheEDGE)  |  March 28th, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Mentor texts
    Create context
    For writers
    To discuss craft,
    Hypothesize authors’ intent,
    Envision possibilities

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