We Planted a Tree

Rose Cappelli and Lynne Dorfman introduced me to the idea of  taffy sentences at the Write to Learn Conference several weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been pondering how to use that idea in my writing. In researching, I discovered a definition by Katie Wood Ray in Wondrous Words (p.176-177):

“These sentences begin with a central idea and then pull that idea out a little bit, and then a little bit more, and maybe even a little bit more. Each time the sentence is stretched, a little more detail is added and the original detail is repeated.”

I played with this idea in today’s poem.tree

We planted a tree.
We planted a river birch tree.
We planted a  river birch tree, with tattered bark, at the corner of our house.
This  river birch tree, with tattered bark, planted at the corner of our house, grew so tall branches scraped the rooftop.
This river birch  tree, with tattered bark, planted at the corner of our house, unfurled its hidden roots, clawing through our lawn.
Our river birch tree, with tattered bark, was removed to prevent damage from the branches scraping and roots clawing at the corner of our house.
Our river birch tree, a stump at the corner of our house.
Our river birch tree stump ground into mulch.
We do not have a tree planted at the corner of our house, yet.





34 thoughts on “We Planted a Tree

  1. Wow, whole story in a page. My son’s river birch did not get that big and finally just died? You must have super soil! Glad you’re planting trees. Happy Spring!

  2. What a great writing exercise and with wonderful results! We also have a river birch planted just a few feet from the front corner of our house. When I saw how close it was after they planted it and that it was angled toward our house I was quite concerned. One day we may have to do the same with ours. 😉

  3. This is great! I have a friend who teaches a poetry unit to her class and she is always looking for new formats. I will definitely have to share this idea with her. Does it help to chew some taffy while writing this kind of poem?

  4. I ditto Fran. I LOVE this! I loved it so much, I shared it with some third-grade teachers I was working with in their writing year today. I read them your description and then your tree writing. They were amazed and couldn’t wait to have a go! It was a hit! Yay! (Thanks for helping plan my day!) 🙂

  5. rosecappelli says:

    Wonderful example – look at the way you made it your own stretching it out then bringing it back. and thanks again for the shout out!!

  6. Judy C. says:

    You are once again the creative one. I love how it started out so simple and grew to something great only to be reduced to nothing.

  7. Wow! I have never heard of “taffy sentences” and I absolutely LOVE the idea. Can’t wait to try it myself.
    I love how your poem grows as the problems from the tree grow and of course the red “yet” is perfect.

  8. beachhousefarmhouse says:

    This is so good Elsie. I would like to try it too, about a mango tree we planted when my mum died. It is sad when a tree has to be taken down. That tree would have seen so much of your family as it grew with it. Such a beautiful tribute to a gorgeous tree. Loved it 🙂

  9. Loved this Elsie! Hadn’t heard it called that but I did something similar with my students. Gave them a short sentence (eg. The cat ran) and then had to expand using adjectives and adverbs. We all had fun with it

  10. You’re playing with words. And now I must put this in my “to try someday” file, especially since my OLW for this year is STRETCH. Can’t wait to play.

  11. I love this idea too. How great would this be for repeated reading in the lower primary!!! Here’s to getting that new perfect tree for the corner of the house. To me it is heartbreaking when a tree has to come down…Dave seems to roll with it better, as you can imagine. xo

  12. You told the story. You told the story of your birch tree. You told the story of your birch tree with a promising beginning. You told the story of your birch tree with a promising beginning and a choppy end.

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