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A lesson inspired by the NNWP's
Six by Six
Print Guide: Traits Writing for Little Writers

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About this lesson's author:


Dena DeGolyer teaches first grade in Sparks, Nevada. She created this lesson while attending the Northern Nevada Writing Project's "Traits in the Primary Classroom" inservice class.

This Lesson:
Horrible Days

Focus Trait:

Lesson's Mentor Text:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Viorst

Thirty-six trait-based lessons for
primary writers can be found in:

The lesson on this page was inspired by the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Six by Six Guide. Click here to see how to order your own copy, which contains thirty-six trait lessons like the one found on this page.

Big Ideas behind this Lesson:

Trait Focus: Voice —The concept focus is Voice as a way to express dialogue with speech bubbles.

Standards Addressed:

  • Use of prewriting strategies
  • Revise drafts for voice
  • Identify main idea
  • Make self-text connections


This lesson is to give students the chance to express the way they feel when they have a bad day. They will make personal connections as well as develop empathy for characters in stories. Students will use oral discussion with groups of 4 or 5 students to help expand their ideas and details to enrich their writing.


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. This wonderful picture book follows the bad day of its protagonist, sharing charming and specific details about all the wrong that has happened to him.

The book uses a repetitive line that helps keep the story organized.


  • Day 1: Pass a post-it out to each child. Write on the board, “Have you ever had a bad day?” The students will respond on their post-it “yes” or “no” and give a reason why. After all the students are finished and they have posted their note on the board gather the students around and read some of the responses. Then read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

At right is my students' Post-it® Note-sized template chart answering the question, “Have you ever had a bad day?” Click on the image to see it in larger form.


  • Day 2: Review and discuss Alexander. Tell students they are going to write about their own bad day. Allow students to discuss and look through books to help them think of something they have experienced. In the meantime, write each student’s name on the chart paper. Then have students tell you what they want to write about when they come up with an idea and record it on the chart paper. This will help the students stay on topic as well as help you remember what they are writing about just in case they need help with ideas.

    A list of the ideas my students generated after thinking and talking about bad days is at right. Click on the image to see it in larger form.

Pass out scratch paper and have students write about their bad day on one side and what they would say the moment their incident happened on the other side – using quotations marks. While they are working walk around and take their picture. Have them impersonate the look on their face when they had their particular bad day. When finished, have students turn in their scratch paper as a rough draft and edit.


  • Day 3: Pass out edited work to the students. Have them reread what they wrote and then give them the final product paper (with their pictures on it) to finish. They need to complete the sentence, speech bubble, and illustrate their body.

Tools Needed:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Post-it® Note-sized templates, chart paper, markers, writing template, camera, glue stick, and construction paper.


This book, with the emotional facial expression photos, became one of our favorite class books. We read and reread it as a class, with the author always reading their own speech bubble to reinforce quotation marks. It became part of our classroom library. At the end of the year, I dismantle the book, so each child can save their own page.

Ashden had a horrible, terrible, no good very bad day when…my fingers almost fell off. They were bleeding because the pit bull bit me so hard. “Ouch, that hurt. I’m bleeding!”


Michael had a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day when…My dog ate my chickens when I was asleep. “WHAT the heck. My dogs ate my chickens.”


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