One of my favorite beginning of the year projects is called our Me Museum. (Kudos & thanks to my mentor & friend, Cynthia!! Although now retired, her ideas always involved differentiation and the whole child!) It's a short-term project where students bring in artifacts about themselves, decorate a shoebox as their gallery, then write reflections and an acrostic poem. Other than decorating their box at home, all work is done in the class. Students use their artifacts as tangible objects to spark their writing; first sharing aloud, then writing. They bring in one artifact to represent their family, one artifact to represent an accomplishment, and an artifact to represent something they enjoy. It's really a wonderful project because the kids are so excited to talk about themselves (of course!) and share sides of them we may not know about in school. The acrostic poem describes the student, as well as its symbolic border as another way for the kids to add more information about themselves. My artistic kids LOVE drawing pictorial representations of themselves! I also share my own Me Museum as way of introducing myself as more than just their teacher (and as a model for the finished product).
After the museums are complete, we invite parents and families to our Me Museum exhibit and gallery showing. It's a wonderful opportunity to showcase your class and elicits wonderful discussions!
You can get your copy of the directions and rubric here. If you try this project with your class, I'd love to hear about it and see pictures!
My Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mrsyonemura/