Empowering Writers

September 2010 Lesson of the Month

As exciting as a new school year can be, it is often also surrounded by a wide range of feelings and emotions. Often students (and teachers!) feel a mix of emotions at the prospect of beginning a new year. Of course, the best way to explore feelings is to write about them! This lesson inspires conversation around the range of feelings students have about returning to school, and introduces (or reinforces) techniques to “show” rather than simply “tell” about these feelings.


1) Explore the range of feelings related to “back to school”.

2) Have students recognize the difference between “showing” and “telling” feelings (elaboration).

3) Create “feelings” posters for reference throughout the school year.


1) Explain to the class that you’ll be exploring feelings and how authors write about feelings.

2) Tell them that as you went through school as a child you had lots of different feelings about each new school year. Have a little fun explaining and pantomiming the following:

Tell them: “When I was in kindergarten I didn’t want to leave my mom to spend the day at school. When the school bus came, here’s how I felt…” (Pantomime SAD in an exaggerated way.) Ask the class how you felt – see if they can guess. Then, chart the evidence of what SAD looks like. (See p. 200-202 in the Comprehensive Narrative Writing Guide and p. 92-102 in Getting Ready to Write” for more guidance.)

Then go on: “Once I got to school and met my teacher, and saw my friends, I felt differently.” (Pantomime HAPPY and repeat the guessing/charting procedure.)

3) Continue the process through as many feelings as you like, displaying FEELINGS charts as you and the class create them.

4) Depending on the age of your students, you can take this a step further, within the same timeframe, or continue on another day. The next step involves writing a description of how a student might feel coming back to school. Ask them to create a fictional character and describe how she/he is feeling – this way they can freely express emotions they might secretly have, or they can just enjoy the make believe!

5) Provide an optional sentence to start them off: When __________ got off the bus on the first day of school, it was easy to see how he/she was feeling! Then, let them describe the feeling without naming it! When finished, the class can try to guess the feeling. You can model an example to get them started.

Ex. When Clara got off the bus on the first day of school, it was easy to see how she was feeling! She bounded into line. A wide smile spread across her face. Her eyes were wide open and curious – they seemed to twinkle. When she saw her friends she clasped her hands together and jumped up and down.

6) As the year progresses you can add to your class “Feelings” charts, adding physical feelings or other emotions for children to refer to as they write. Be sure to remind them that as they begin to write narrative stories you’ll be looking for them to “show” rather than “tell” how their story characters are feeling.