Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Area of Pho-cus

Photography and Descriptive Poetry

Jane Baber | Published: January 8th, 2024 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 5th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course Composition, Creative Writing
  • Time Frame Time Frame 1-2 class period(s)
  • Duration More 100 minutes


Using Wendy Ewald's book of children's photography and poetry as a mentor text, students will compose descriptive poems based on photographs that they take of their favorite personal feature.

Essential Question(s)

What is the best part of me?



Students engage in a discussion and quick-write about the best features of others and themselves.


Students experience the book "The Best Part of Me" by Wendy Ewald.


Using the book and their quick-writes as inspiration, students take a picture of their favorite feature, called their Area of Pho-cus.


Inspired by their photos, students compose a poem using "The Best Part of Me" as a mentor text.


Students share their photographs and poems and engage in a final discussion about the best features of their class community.


  • "The Best Part of Me" by Wendy Ewald (picture book or YouTube read-aloud)

  • Lesson Slides—Area of Pho-cus

  • Digital camera (or smartphone, tablet, computer with webcam, or other device with a camera)

  • Writing materials

  • Cardstock or other decorative paper

  • Photo printer

  • Scissors

  • Glue sticks


Display slide 5 from the attached Lesson Slides with the photo of a cat looking in the mirror. Let students wonder out loud what the cat sees in the mirror when it looks at its reflection. What does the cat like the best? What is its favorite feature? What would the cat say its best asset is?

Display slide 6 and ask students to write a response to the prompt "The best part of me is ____________ because __________." After enough time has passed, let students share their responses out loud with the class. Display slide 7 to give students sentence stems that will push their thinking further.

Next, point to your elbow and explain why that part of you is your absolute favorite feature. You can really ham it up and explain that this is your favorite part because it allows you to lean on tables or offer an alternative way to wave.

Ask students what their favorite features are and use the Think-Pair-Share strategy to have them choose a feature, explain why it is their favorite, share with a partner, and then share with the whole class. While students are sharing, display slide 8 to show the essential question, "What is the best part of me?"


This lesson is based on Wendy Ewald's book "The Best Part of Me." If a hard copy of the book is not available, consider watching and listening to a read-aloud of the book here (and linked on slide 9).

Ask students what they notice about the photographs that accompany each poem. What color are they? What is the effect of having the photographs in black and white? What impact does it make on the reader to have the photographs focus closely on a single feature? How would the effect be different if the photographs showed the whole person?

Next, as you read or listen to each poem, ask students what they notice about the poem's rhyme scheme and format. Students will likely point out that many of the poems are free verse, while others end in rhyming words. Some of the poems have repetition and similes while others do not.


Explain that students will be composing their own compositions inspired by their favorite features. While there is room for flexibility with the compositions, it might be simplest to have students model their poems after those in “The Best Part of Me.” Ask students to do the following:

  1. Show students examples of a cropped and mounted photo on slide 10.

  2. Using a digital camera, computer or tablet camera application, or a phone camera, have students take a picture of their favorite feature. Again, you might consider limiting which features can be chosen. Tell students that these photos are going to be called an "Area of Pho-cus."

  3. Once the photos are taken, have students crop them to showcase each Area of Pho-cus in detail.

  4. Have students mount their printed and cropped photo on a piece of cardstock, leaving room for a poem to follow.


To compose a poem to accompany their Area of Pho-cus photograph, have students:

  1. Describe what their best part looks like—its size, color, shape, texture, etc.

  2. Tell what their best part allows them to do that they enjoy.

  3. Use the phrase "the best part of me" somewhere in their poem.

To help students with ideas, display slide 11 and allow them to read or listen to the poems in the book again.

  • What are the physical characteristics of ______________? Use precise words and comparisons to help others visualize details: Size, shape, form, close-up details, colors, reflectivity, textures, etc.

  • How does ______________ resemble an inanimate object (a plant, toy, etc.) ? In what ways does _____________ help you have fun?

  • In what ways does _____________ help you accomplish important things?

  • When you think about your ______________ what emotions do you feel?

  • If you want to mention one thing about ____________ that you don’t like, what is it?

  • In what ways does your ____________ trigger POSITIVE associations (pleasantly reminding you of people, animals, objects, places, or events)?

You might choose to set a number of lines or rhyme scheme for students' poems, but consider letting them be free-verse to celebrate students' unique expression of their Area of Pho-cus.

Once poems are completed, have students neatly transfer them to the paper on which their photograph is mounted. Optionally, allow students to decorate their poems using colored paper or other coloring materials.


Students can share their completed poems either in small groups or with the whole class. To display the beautiful work created by students, make a space either in your classroom or in the hallway.

For a class evaluation, consider using the Chalk Talk strategy. For this activity, write on a white board the phrase "The best part of our class is..." and let students brainstorm ideas of what makes their class or hour a strong community.

Once the board is filled with student responses, consider taking a class photo in front of the board to display along with the collection of Area of Pho-cus products.