This is probably my students' favorite writing assignment. They obviously tell their friends about it, because every year my new students ask, "Are we going to do that candle thing?"
NOTE: Be sure to get permission from your principal before using fire in the classroom. I have never had any accidents other than candle wax dripping onto the desks! I warn my students that ANY horseplay with the candles will result in an immediate office referral.
1. Divide students into groups of three.
2. Give each group a candle (already firmly mounted in holder)
3. 10 minutes: Light the candles and tell the students to write everything they observe in concrete detail. (i.e., My candle is red; The flame is yellow with a tiny speck of blue in the center; the wick curls as the flame burns, etc.)
4. 15 minutes: Now turn the lights off! Point out the new ambiance of the room. Notice the shadows on the wall, the glow, the mood, etc. Now tell the students to give their candles human characteristics and vividly describe what it is doing. Remind them to use similes, metaphors, adjectives and adverbs (Some of my students have written the flickering flame is a ballerina dancing gracefully; she bows to the audience; she is crying tears of melted wax, etc. One group compared the candle to a volcano erupting and lava running down the side of the mountain as it devoured everything in its path.).
5. 10 minutes: Have your students write a brief paragraph describing the newly personified candle. Tell them to let their imaginations run wild. Remind them to edit and explain why the candle is crying, or what the ballerina feels emotionally as she dances.
6. 10 minutes: Allow each group to share paragraphs aloud, and be sure to praise each effort. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much effort the kids will put into this fun little project.
HINT: Keep the lights off during the writing and sharing times. I have found that the students stay focused on the assignment better in the candlelight.