Tag Archives: Ideas

Visiting with Ecoff Elementary

I got to visit with fourth and fifth graders at Ecoff Elementary.

It was a lot of fun to visit with the resource staff and the teachers I got to see.

The fourth and fifth graders and I talked about how to come up with ideas for our writing.

The Lesson

This is a lesson I did as a fifth grade teacher.  On one side of our paper we would list things that we loved.  On my paper I would list Star Wars, baseball, pizza, among other things.  Students would share things that they loved.  I would always get students that listed basketball, football, or a video game.

Now, we have three things on the list.  I ask the students how many things we have to write about, they invariably respond with “Three!”

But I point out there is actually more than that.  I point to Star Wars and ask “Who is your favorite character in Star Wars?  Which movie is your favorite?  What is your favorite spaceship?”  Suddenly just writing about Star Wars expands into three more items.  We take a topic and then break it up into various details and write about the details.

We then add details to the other things on our Love list.

The Loathe List

On the other side of the paper we list things that we loathe.  Yes, loathe.

For me, that includes trips to the dentist, and Brussels sprouts.

And then I ask what is it the students don’t like.  And here is an important rule on this one, the students cannot name specific people.  We can’t have students naming other students or teachers on the list.  (Yes.  I did learn this rule the hard way, thank you very much.  Now move on.)

And just as we did on the Love side of the list, we can write about specific details.  For example, on my list a Trip to the Dentist is on my loathe list.  (Now, mind you I like my dentist and hygienist, they are both wonderful and nice people.)  But I HATE!  HATE! HATE! HATE! I TELL YOU! That thing that sucks the water out of your mouth, no I am not going to look the name of that devil instrument, but I despise with every fiber of my being the sensation of it my mouth.  A machine that turns my face into sour mouth.  So…I can write about that.

Combining Ideas

At the bottom of the students paper the students leave for them to combine ideas.  This is where the ideas take off.

I tell the students, “We take on thing from our LOVE list, and one thing from our LOATHE list and combine.  Now, why use something from the loather list?  Because writing about something you don’t like I find stretches your brain a little more.”

I admit.  I’ve done this lesson before, so I use the same example a lot.  I take the word BASEBALL from my Love list, and I take the word Brussel Sprouts from my Loathe list and I combine them.

Baseball and Brussell Sprouts.

Now, what appeared in your head?

For me when I hear baseball and brussel sprouts, I think of brussel sprouts playing baseball on my dinner plate.  They are using a fork or a spoon as a bat, and mashed potatoes are the bases and the pitcher’s mound.  Maybe the Brussel Sprouts are playing against the carrots, or something like that.

So we’ve taken the idea of baseball and Brussel Sprouts put them together and quite possibly come up with the idea for a new book.

Again, thanks to Ecoff and Sarah Takacs for having me!



Visiting an elementary school as a visiting author and Idea-Mating to come up with more ideas.

I was invited to visit and share my writing at Potomac elementary in November.  Thank you to Beverly Blue for the invite.  I also got to share the day with AJ Cosmo and Verlyn Tariton.)

There I am at the top giving lessons in the gym. Thanks again to Potomac Elementary.

There I am at the top giving lessons in the gym. Thanks again to Potomac Elementary.

I met with students from Kindergarten to 6th grade.  I met with seven different groups.  If that’s sounds intimidating, just remember teachers do that everyday.


Instead of me just reading from Kevin and the Seven Lions, although I did that, I talked mostly about generating ideas for writing.

I shared a lesson that I do in my classes at the start of every year.  First, one side of the paper you write all the different things you love.  Be it football, baseball, ponies, pizza, cars, Disney, doesn’t matter just put it down.  Now you have a list of things things you can write about about.

But we’re not done yet.

On the other side of the paper write down things you hate, or don’t like.  The loathe side of the list.  Homework, brussel sprouts, tests, whatever, put it down.  Now you have more things you can write about.

This what I call my Love it-Loathe it List.  All of my students have one at the beginning of their writing journals.

Now we take it a step further.  Take one thing from the love side of the paper and one from the loathe side of the paper and combine them.  Pizza and brussel sprouts, Football and spiders, now all of a sudden you have a third or more things to write about.

Idea mating, two ideas coming together and making more ideas.

With the sixth grade group we came up with football playing turtles.  (For some reason, someone hated turtles.  Turtles.)  We discussed that with turtles you combine turtles, ninjas, mutants, and your teenage years, and suddenly you have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Idea mating at it’s finest.

I taught the kids there should never be a day when you say I have nothing to write.

Never. Ever.

I don’t allow it my class.  When it happens I refer my students back to the Love-Loathe it list.

There is always something to write about.


(For more ideas on creating ideas.  Check out Claudia Azula-Altucher’s book Becoming an Idea Machine.  See my review of that book here.)