My Most Visited Writing Prompt Ever: The Essence of Summer Poetry Haiku

wooded path 7.13Capture the essence of summer by writing a haiku…


Think about several of your outdoor experiences this summer. Select 3 –5 of these settings and jot them down on a piece of paper. For each, web or brainstorm:

  • How it looked—what was there? What was the light like? What colors were prominent…
  • How it sounded—What did you hear? Animals, wind, people, water…
  • How it felt—What was the temperature? Was the air moist or dry? Was there a wind or was the air still? Did you touch anything? What did it feel like?
  • How it smelled—Was it briny like the ocean, or moist like a rain forest? What were the natural smells of the environment?
  • How did it taste? I know, you probably did not go walking around tasting everything you saw, but smells have a taste element to them as well.

Look over the information you have collected and choose an image to focus on in you haiku.


The most simplistic American haiku form is the 5-7-5 pattern we were all taught in school. (5 syllables for the first line, 7 syllables for the second line, 5 syllables for the last.) However, these are only guidelines. You can choose to vary your syllables and their spread over the three lines, as long as you maintain a balanced pattern and keep the haiku under the total 17 syllables. The key is to reduce your haiku to the least number of syllables possible without losing its impact or meaning.


Read your haiku to your writing partners or post it here on the blog. Compliment one another on the spare beauty of your poems.

And please, again I encourage you to share here. Asthma, allergies, and job hunting have kept me indoors too much this summer. I would be so grateful to sample summer’s natural world through your wonderful haikus.

It’s a new summer!

The graduation ceremonies are winding down, I haven’t had to wear socks for weeks, and this next Friday will be the last day of school. Go somewhere you love, soon, and write some summer haiku’s.


Point of View-Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #80: What Would _____ say?


Write a one to three paragraph description of yourself, and then list three friends.


Choose one friend from your list and rewrite the description for yourself from this friend’s point of view. Keep in mind:

  • the things your friend knows about you (which can be included)
  • the things only you know about you (which can’t be included)
  • the things your friend may deduce or suspect about you but must in the end make a guess about if included in the description.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners. Discuss how the change in viewpoint effected the writing decisions you made from the first set of paragraphs to the second. And please, share your insights here for others to read.

Fall Football! Ya Gotta Love It, or Do You? Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #77

It’s Fall, and on Thursday and Friday nights the sounds of football echo over our little valley from the high school up on the hill. Today’s Play With Your Words Writing Prompt will have you writing about football, or some other sport if you prefer, from two different points of view.


Brainstorm a list of words you associate with football or the sport of your choice.


Write a description of football (or your other sport) from the point of view of someone who loves it.

Next, write a description of football (or your other sport) from the point of view of someone who hates it.

Revise and edit as necessary. Make certain both descriptions reflect powerful emotions.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share here as a comment. Consider the kinds of words you used to evoke the feelings you intended. What was particularly clear or expressive in your writing? What may have seemed weak compared to the rest? Compliment and encourage one another—and enjoy the process. Writing about strong feelings can be fun!

The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #25 Revisited

I’m back, renewed and refreshed. It’s been a tough year and I must admit, until this last week, I hadn’t really felt as though I’d had a summer. However, a peaceful time with my mom in Sonora, California, finally gave me that old, summer feeling. And so, on this our last Play With Your Words day of summer I wanted to revisit the Essence of Summer haiku prompt.

I found just the right words for summer at Mom’s, and even words for reentry into daily life when I got home. I’ll share them here. Then, you review the steps for the Essence of Summer haiku and write your memories or farewells to this sweet season, or perhaps your welcome to the new school year and fall.

When you are done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share here as a comment. Compliment one another on the strengths of your word  choices and turns of phrase you particularly like. Together savor these last flavors of summer.

 Mom’s Hummingbird Feeder

Wings thrum. Warriors
Battle in miniature.
Sweet nectar feeds strife.


A book, a breeze, a
Mountain lake; sunlight sparkling
Off water—Summer


Normal life. The words,
Sweet upon my tongue, speak of
Peace, beauty, and home.

Please share your summer reflections.

Expository “Play With Your Words” Writing Prompt #62: What Feeds or Destroys Your Soul?

What feeds your soul? What sets your spirit free? What fills you with joy like an overflowing glass of lemonade?

What sucks the life out of you? What destroys your soul? What leaves you feeling like shriveled piece of seaweed overbaked on a sandy beach?


Make two lists. One answering the first set of questions, and one answering the second. Look over your list and choose a topic to write about.


Write an expository essay describing one thing that feeds or destroys your soul. Is it an activity, a situation, a person? What do you feel like in the grip of it? How can you minimize or maximize your encounters with it? What would your life be like without it?


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share as a comment. Compliment one another on the strengths/likes.

Preschool Literacy:


Sit down with your preschooler and ask him and her what she likes to do. Write down her answers in the form of a list. Read the list back to her, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoke word. Ask her what she would like to “write” about.


On a fresh piece of paper write down everything the child tells you about his favorite activity. When he runs out things to say, ask questions:

  • Who do you like to  do this with?
  • How do you feel when you are doing this?
  • How often would you like to do this?
  • For how long?…


When you are done, read back what he or she has said, again pointing to the words as you say them. Using crayons, stickers, clip-art or collage decorate this piece of “writing” and post it where family members can enjoy it.

Teacher’s File Drawer: Puzzle Fun/Paul Revere’s Wild Ride

“Listen my children and you shall hear
of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”

Today is the anniversary of Paul Revere’s Ride. Celebrate it by reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem and making a puzzle together to challenge your friends.

After you have enjoyed Longfellow’s narrative poem, brainstorm words you associate with Paul Revere and his mission that April night. Here’s a few that can give you a start: silversmith, British, lantern… Now think of and list some more.

When you have completed your list, ten to twenty words at least, get out some graph paper and try laying out and connecting your words, scrabble style, so they have points of intersection with one another. After you have placed all the words you want to include, starting at the top left corner and moving across row by row, number the boxes containing the first letters of your words.

Next, trace your word-grid onto another piece of graph paper, or photocopy it—white out the words—and photocopy it again so you have an empty grid your friends can fill out.

On a separate piece of paper, write the number for each word and a clue to describe it. For example, for the word “silversmith” your clue might read, “What did Paul Revere do for a living?” Make separate lists for the words that go crossways and the words that go down.

Have fun building your puzzle, and when you are done, find a friend or family member and challenge them to complete it. If they need a little help, read them Longfellow’s poem. Celebrate Paul Revere’s fateful ride.

Descriptive Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #56: Three Wishes


  • List three wishes you would like to make.
  • Get out a piece of paper and divide it into three sections.
  • At the top of each section, write one of the wishes.
  • Within each section doodle, list words, make outlines or timelines, even stick figure comics that will help you to imagine what it would be like if that wish were to come true.


  • Pick just one of the wishes.
  • Circle or highlight ideas you want to use.
  • Describe in detail what it would be like if that wish were to come true.
  • Practice being descriptive—using specific nouns and verbs, using precise adjectives when needed
  • Craft a setting and mood in which your description will take shape.
  • Proofread.

When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share as a comment:

  • Consider how easy or difficult it is to envision your partners descriptions.
  • Note the use of sensory detail: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch.
  • Compliment one another on the vividness of your descriptions.

Preschool Literacy:

Get out writing materials.

Ask your preschooler what she would wish for if she could wish for three things.

Divide a piece of paper into thirds and list one of each thing in each section.

Ask the child to tell you a bit about each thing. Allow him the opportunity to draw a picture of each.

Ask: If you could only choose one wish, which one would you want to come true?

Get a new piece of paper and write this wish across the top.

Ask your preschooler to describe what it would be like if this wish were to be granted.

Write down what she says. Ask further questions like:

  • What will you do with it?
  • What does it look like, sound like, et cetera?
  • What happens next?

When you are done, read back what he or she has said, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoken word.

Details and the Writing Life

Details, observing and recording specific details adds richness to our writing and our lives.

For example, you can describe the skin of an old woman in many ways. However, of the following two, which is more resonant with meaning?

She was wrinkly.


She had skin that looked like crepe paper, ridged, crinkled and brittle, but to the touch it was like the petal of a newly opened rose.

Details give life and breath and physicality to your written world, and they don’t have to be exotic to add layers of associations and depth.

Natalie Goldberg discusses details in Writing Down the Bones. Her words give hope to any novice writer who thinks she had to undertake a grand adventure or experience some hideous trial in order to have something interesting to say.

Original details are very ordinary, except to the mind that sees their extraordinariness. It’s not that we need to go to the Hopi mesas to see greatness, we need to view what we already have in a different way….If we see their lives and festivals as fantastic and our lives as ordinary, we come to writing with a sense of poverty. We must remember that everything is ordinary and extraordinary. It is our minds that either open or close          ~Natalie Goldberg, p. 75

Open your mind to some details today. See if they explode the mundane to superlative.

What Could You do with a Butter Knife? Expository Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #49

Today’s expository writing prompt calls for you to use your imagination and your logical, concrete/linear thinking skills as well. Ready to stretch your brain?

What else could you do with a butter knife other than prepare food?

Could a butter knife be a tool that could help you with yard work? Housecleaning? At your desk? In building and construction work? With your car?

Suspend the scoffing voice that’s saying, “Don’t be silly.” A mark of creative people is their ability to use old things in new ways. So brainstorm—truly brainstorm. Don’t throw out any idea as too wacky. Then write a how-to article that details the many incredible uses for a butter knife.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the breadth of ideas, clarity of expression, and the organization of your writing. Share your article as comment. I know I’m not the only one who would love to discover some innovative uses for the common butter knife.

Inner Landscape Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #16

For this month’s poetry prompt, you are to write a poem that describes the landscape inside you—in your mind, your heart, your spirit.

With summer passing and autumn turning us back indoors, it seems appropriate to consider the landscapes within us. To begin, brainstorm possible realistic landscapes that you would consider characteristic of you. Pick out a few and brainstorm some details, some connections to who you are and what’s important to you. Consider your options and select the landscape that seems best suited to you and your inner life.

Now write your poem. It can be rhymed and metered, free verse, or patterned. Describe this landscape. Be sure to use sensory details. Show how this landscape relates to who you are, the you inside, that only the people who know you best are familiar with.

When done, revise and edit. Read your poem out loud and listen for the sound patterns. Consider changing words that sound awkward or discordant to ones that better suit what you are trying to say. If you are writing free verse, examine your line breaks and indentations. Do they direct the reader through the poem, setting apart for emphasis the lines and phrases you consider key? Think about using repetition for emphasis and a lyrical rounding of the poem. Consider using assonance and consonance, playing with the repetitions of letter sounds to underscore the mood of your poem. Finally, correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar errors. Make sure your poem is clean and easy to read.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on how vividly each of you evokes a sense of place.

Please share your poems as comment. We can all enjoy the trip through the  landscapes you describe, especially as the weather begins to curtail our outdoor exploration.