Hands-On Writing Workshops

These fun, hands-on writing workshops have been kid-tested and teacher-approved.  They take 45-60 minutes to teach, with a few lessons (as noted) that take 20 minutes to teach.  Darleen supplies the fun, the props and/or costumes and you supply the kids, paper, and pencils! Some lessons require food, as noted, which you will be expected to supply.

2 The Gingerbread Man Goes to School—Based on the old familiar fairy tale, students write their own fairy tale, telling what happens when they open their lunch box to find a gingerbread man who comes to life.  Focus on sequential writing and repetition.  For students in 3rd through 5th grades.  For students in 6th – 8th grades, focus can also be on dialogue, accumulation techniques, and the basics of fairy tale writing.
2Cute—Students write a fun story about an animal who wants to change his image. Emphasis will be on writing in sequence, using dialogue, and creating a twist or surprise ending. Based on the picture book, Cute. For students in 4-8th grades. Might work for older students, too, just haven't tried it out on high school students yet.

2Hello 5 Senses—Using all five senses and repetition, students write a descriptive essay describing their very favorite place. Based on a picture book, Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan. Darleen stresses using the "5 Senses" in all of her workshops but this workshop is specifically designed to saturate students with this important writing technique. A fun lesson that can be used over and over using the five senses to describe just about anything--from something in the classroom to holidays to seasons to nature, etc. For students in 3rd - 12 grades.

2Color Poems--based on the classic poetry book on color, Hailstones and Halibut Bones.by Mary O'Neill. Darleen leads students through a fun poetry workshop, using colors, the 5-Senses, and metaphors. Perfect for most grade levels and a great tie-in for art and/or art appreciation. For students in 2-12 grades.

2 Almost Forgotten--In this workshop, based on the historical picture book, Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, students in 4th through 12th grades remember a special toy/stuffed animal/action figure that they used to love but no longer play with and write a narrative essay about that toy. Focus on sequential and descriptive writing techniques. NOTE: This workshop requires at least 50 minutes and preferably 60 minutes to teach. A long lesson BUT well worth it. Perfect for units on the Underground Railroad, too.

2  Mr. Pusskins—Based on the picture book, Mr. Pusskins by Sam Lloyd, students in 2nd through 6th grades write a persuasive letter.  A fun workshop students will enjoy which combines their love of animals (even animals who run away from home!) with a spoonful of tasty, essential writing skills. Younger students will also have the fun of drawing a “WANTED” poster to go with their letters.


Music Montage -- This is Darleen’s MOST REQUESTED workshop. Students in 2nd through 12th grades explore the five senses in this music-filled workshop where they interpret music in poetic montages.  A feel-good, easy workshop that can be adjusted from 40 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on how many montages are written. A sure hit with students and teachers, alike.  

http://www.darleenbaileybeard.com/assets/images/autogen/a_clipart3.gifHow to Eat an Oreo Cookie -- Students in 2nd through 6th grades write an expository essay on how to eat an Oreo. You supply the Oreos and Darleen will supply the Oreo costume. A fun and tasty workshop which enforces skills in sequential and expository writing, as well as five-paragraph essays.  Another MOST REQUESTED workshop. 


Ready? Set? Write!—A Whole Slew of Essential Writing Skills Thrown into Four-Minute Timed Writings  --  By bringing up surprise objects from a ‘grab bag’, students in 3rd through 8th grades will have the opportunity to write in four different formats: Personal Narrative; Poetry; Character Sketches; & Personification. Mix in the five senses, similes, metaphors, dialogue, & characterization techniques and you have the recipe for creative writing success.  This workshop can be adapted to fit the age level of the students. The older the students, the more skills introduced.  VERY POPULAR WITH 5th GRADE UP!


1Mean, Screaming Machine -- Based on the roller coaster picture book, The Mean, Screaming Machine, by Joy Cowley, students in 3rd through 12th grades use the 5 Ws & H and the “Inverted Triangle” style of writing to write a newspaper article about a new amusement park in their town.  Students will create and name their amusement parks, rides, daily entertainment, and delicious foods.  You can provide cotton candy (Most Wal-Marts have large inexpensive bags!) which makes the lesson even sweeter. Especially appropriate for older elementary and middle school students. High school students have also enjoyed this lesson. Perfect for MOST GRADE LEVELS!

Animal Poems -- Students in 2nd through 6th grades write several quick and quirky animal poems based on the fun and unusual animal poetry of Douglas Florian.  Emphasis is on using adjectives, similes, and creative language. Another MOST REQUESTED workshop which and be adjusted to fit 30 to 45 minutes. For 60 minutes, this can also be combined with an In-depth Q&A session.


When I was Young in (name of your town) – Based on the award-winning picture book, When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, students in 3rd through 8th grades write a five-paragraph autobiography. Not for the older students but for younger students, Darleen wears an old-fashioned dress & bonnet costume. A TEACHER’S FAVORITE.  Many teachers combine this workshop with an “All About Me” poster or sack.

Where’s My Pet? – Based on the easy-reader, Mystery of the Missing Dog by Gwendolyn Hudson Hooks (a dear friend of mine), students in 2nd through 5th grades write an essay about a time they lost something. Emphasis is on writing in sequence and using details. For older students, the technique of “foreshadowing” will be introduced. Perfect for the easy-reader crowd.


http://www.darleenbaileybeard.com/assets/images/autogen/a_clipart4.gifYummy to my Tummy – Another MOST REQUESTED workshop that is perfectly suited for students in Kindergarten to 5th grades.  Students celebrate the color of their skin, eyes, and hair by writing yummy poems where they turn themselves into food from their head to their toes.  Darleen supplies the Mr. Goodbar costume and you supply a bite-sized candy bar for each student.  Fun, yummy, creative—you can’t go wrong with this student favorite.  A special easy format provided just for K & 1st.  Another easy format provided just for 2 & 3.


2Toad-ally Amazing Places -- This workshop covers MANY writing techniques--based on the nostalgic picture book, In My Mama's Kitchen, by Jirdine Nolen, students write an essay about a special place in their lives such as a secret hide-out, a vacation spot, a garden, etc. An all-inclusive workshop which covers nonfiction writing with narrative and descriptive techniques, the five-senses, and expository techniques.  This workshop is perfect for ALL ages of students.  Darleen has a special form for Pre-K & K students and another form for 1st & 2nd graders which will help them write their essays.  45-50 minutes required. One of Darleen’s favorite workshops.


Scared to Death – Based on Darleen’s picture book, Twister, students in 3rd through 12th grades write a first-person narrative story telling of a time they were ‘scared to death.’  Emphasis will be on students writing their own personal, true story written in sequence.  This workshop generates LOTS of interesting stories and is the writing equivalent to sitting around the campfire sharing spooky tales.  (Could be combined with making S’mores!)  Perfect for ALMOST ALL GRADE LEVELS!


What If? – Based on the funny picture book, Imogene's  Antlers by  David Small, students in 3rd through 8th grades write a story about waking up to find they have grown an animal part during the night, such as a tail, wings, scales, etc.  For younger students, Darleen wear’s rabbit ears. Emphasis is on sequential writing and having fun with language.  A STUDENTS’ & TEACHERS’ FAVORITE.  

http://www.darleenbaileybeard.com/assets/images/autogen/a_clipart6.gifRecipe for a Successful Story -- For students in 5th through 12th grades, Darleen compares writing stories to cooking. Just like a recipe with specific ingredients, a story also has ingredients and if students follow the writing recipe they’re sure to have success.  By the end of this workshop, students will have completed a story outline and will be ready to write a story.  By taking students, step-by-step, through this recipe, they are more able to approach writing as a process rather than one large, scary task. This workshop is especially appropriate for older students in middle school through high school, and/or gifted & talented students at the upper elementary level. A TEACHERS’ FAVORITE.  Darleen’s most in-depth workshop—requires a full 60 minutes.


http://www.darleenbaileybeard.com/assets/images/autogen/a_clipart7.gifMonster Menu—This workshop is especially fun to do at Halloween time but is a TOTAL STUDENTS’ FAVORITE year round. Appropriate for 2nd through 6th grades, students use a creepy monster menu (provided by Darleen) to create their own menus for monsters. Students will feel like they’re getting away with something ‘naughty’ when creating such yucky foods as “Spaghetti and Eyeballs”, “Chocolate-covered Spiders”, and “Bloody Toenails” that they won’t realize they’re actually writing. A fun workshop that wins hands-down for creativity and ability to excite students—especially reluctant boy writers. You provide the gummy worms and Darleen provides a waitress costume. This workshop should win the ‘Slightly Gross Stamp of Approval’ Award.


If I Were Green—Based on the picture book, Green as a Bean by Karla Kuskin, students write a poem about all the things they could be if they were something else.  Emphasis is on creativity and imagination. For older students, the technique of using adjectives and the five senses will be introduced. A fun lesson, appropriate for all ages from Kindergarten through 5th grades, with a special easy format just for K-2nd grades.


Something Beautiful -- Based on the poignant picture book, Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, students in 3rd through 12th grades write a narrative essay describing the ‘something beautiful’ in their lives.  Darleen brings show-and-tell items to generate a discussion how everyone has something beautiful in their life.  A gentle and touching lesson that reinforces the value of family relationships while giving students a healthy dose of narrative writing skills.  Darleen’s favorite workshop. A teachers' favorite workshop--hands down!

8If I Had a Dragon – Based on the picture book by Tom & Amanda Ellery, students in Kindergarten through 6th grades write an essay of what would happen if they had an unusual pet.   Since most students love animals, this is the perfect lesson to capture their attention, spark their creativity, and show them that writing can be as fun as a barrel of monkeys—or any other animal they chose to write about!  A special easy-to-write format provided just for K-2nd grades.


So Long Summer – Students in 2nd through 12th grades welcome the arrival of autumn with a goodbye poem to dear, old summer using the five senses. Based on the poetry book, Summersaults, by Douglas Florian and other summertime poetry collections, students focus on the five senses AND creating rhyme.  This workshop can be adjusted to fit the passing of other seasons and makes a great tie-in for seasonal units.

So Long Autumn –see above.

So Long Winter—see above.


http://www.darleenbaileybeard.com/assets/images/autogen/a_clipart8.gifMy Crazy Christmas –Students in 2nd through 6th grades write an extremely SILLY story about the customs surrounding Christmas, based on the popular picture book, The Dumb Bunnies Christmas by Dav Pilkey.  This lesson can also be adjusted to fit almost any holiday.  Students LOVE feeling like they’re ‘getting away with being super silly’ when teachers know what they’re really getting away with is essential writing skills. A definite crowd-pleaser, especially with younger boys who appreciate Dav Pilkey humor.

My Crazy Thanksgivingsee above

My Crazy Halloweensee above

My Crazy New Year’s Evesee above

My Crazy Eastersee above


Extra! Extra! Read All About It! --  Students in 2nd through 8th grades write about a time they got into trouble, using newspaper techniques of the 5Ws & H and the ‘Inverted Triangle’ to make it look like a newspaper article.  They’ll create such headlines as: DYLAN  DIDN’T DO DISHES!   SARA SENT TO ROOM!  GREYSON GOES BANANAS!


Gizmos & Gadgets -- students in 3rd through 12th grades become inventors and write a five-paragraph expository advertisement about a weird & wacky invention they would like to make, explaining how they would make it, how it would work, and why a perspective customer would want to purchase this invention. Based on the nonfiction book, Mistakes that Worked, by Charlotte Foltz Jones, students are introduced to nonfiction writing skills with an ‘advertising’ twist!  Fun for even the older students!


Quick Classifieds—Students in 3rd through 6th grades are introduced to the classified section of newspapers, reading aloud sample classified ads. They then write their own classified ads using descriptive details and persuasive techniques to sell unusual items which Darleen pulls out of a bag, including silly things like an old boot, a holey sock, an apple with a bite taken out of it, etc. A fun newspaper format provided.

I Refuse -- This workshop is based on a silly poem written by Shel Silverstein about a child who refuses to do his chores.  Students in 3rd through 8th grades write a similar rhyming poem about a chore they particularly hate doing, such as dishes, taking out the trash, mowing the yard, etc.  While students air their dislike for chores, they’re learning to use strong verbs and adjectives to create a silly poem that's extremely fun to read aloud. 


Recipe for an Unusual Sandwich – Students in 1st through 6th grades write a wacky recipe based on a silly poem in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.  This is one of Darleen’s shortest workshops—can be taught in 20 minutes. It can be combined with an in-depth Q&A session or the Animal Poems workshop above.


Click, Clack, Moo – Based on the Caldecott Honor Book, Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, students write a story in sequence, showing what happens when their own pets go on strike.  A fun lesson your students in 3rd through 6th grades will enjoy.




Divorce: It's Not so Bad – Sadly, statistics say that 52% of all marriages end in divorce.  (Dr. Phil says it’s even higher than that!) So Darleen created this special hands-on writing workshop just for students who have gone through this experience.  (Darleen divorced in 1999, and knows how difficult of an adjustment this is for both parents and students.) Based on the warm and touching picture book, Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie, which explores the delicate subject of divorce in a fictionalized story of a cat with two homes, students in 3rd through 6th grades write a five-paragraph essay about the positive aspects of divorce. See counselor comment below.

My students absolutely loved your writing session! . . . I am always encouraging my students to write about their feelings.  There are so many things in life of which a child has no control.  Divorce is one of these things . . .  Your discussion really helped get their minds going . . . Your writing lesson was appropriate for upper-grade students . . . Your encouragement helped the children see that writing is therapeutic, and that they can use writing their entire lives to help them work through whatever problems they experience. Thank you for a wonderful experience!
--Sue Gill, Counselor,
Central Elementary, Moore, OK







Copyright © 2007 Darleen Bailey Beard. May not be used without specific permission from the author.



"Your presentations were absolutely the best I've ever seen! I was amazed at how you could engage 1st-6th graders (over 500 students) in one room. Each child was captivated, and we have such a renewed enthusiasm for writing in our school. We especially appreciated the selection of individual writing workshops. It was easy to find something that fit our students' needs! It's obvious that you work hard at reaching students!!" --Amara Willis, Kingfisher, OK, Gilmour Elementary School

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