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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:

Danielle McIntosh teaches second grade in Reno, Nevada. She created this lesson while attending the Northern Nevada Writing Project's "Traits in the Primary Classroom" inservice class.

This Lesson:
If You Give a Student an Animal

Focus Trait:
Word Choice

Lesson's Mentor Text:

If You Give a Moose a Muffin
by Laura Numeroff

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: Word Choice —The concept focus is Word Choice as a way to take ownership of scientific words and descriptive words.

Standards Addressed:

  • Students know plants or animals can be sorted by observable characteristics and behaviors (i.e., mammals, reptiles, etc.)
  • Draft sentences about a single topic that address, audience purpose supporting details.
  • With assistance, revise drafts for organization, focused ideas, voice, audience, purpose, relevant details, word choice, sentence fluency.
  • Prepare a legible final draft to display or share.

Reading & Talking:

Any of all from Laura Numeroff's If You Give... Series will work to inspire your students with this lesson. Here are three others that may work for you!

This writing lesson pulls from a science animal unit we go through. Our animal unit is based on animal characteristics and comparing across different animal groups (i.e., mammals, amphibians, birds).

  • Day 1: After reading “If You Give a Moose a Muffin,” “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake,” and “If You Give a Pig a Pancake,” I discussed the repetition in each book and introduced the writing frame we would be using that came from the beginning of each book.

Frame : If you give _______________________ a _______________________,
___________________ (student name) __________________(animal)

then he/she will remember ___________________________________.
_________________________________ (characteristic)


  • Day 2: On chart paper, I made 3 columns. I wrote each student’s name in the first column. I reminded students about the writing frame I had shown them previously and told them we would be deciding what animal and characteristic they would be using for their book page. I asked students to tell a student sitting close to them what animal they would like to choose. I asked each student to give me their idea. The students chose generic animals (i.e. frog instead of Poison Dart Frog) and we began discussing more “scientific” options and wrote those down in the second column, in place of the generic animals.


  • Day 1: I wrote the frame on the whiteboard and had students copy it on to lined paper and fill it in with their information. This is their rough copy.

  • Day 2: I looked over students rough copies and handed them back with conventions changes to be made. They edited and brought them back for me to check and I gave them their lined picture paper for their final draft. They copied their sentence from the lined paper on to the “Final Draft” paper.

  • Day 3: I spoke very briefly about doing your best work. Students illustrated their book page.

Tools Needed:

Chart paper for organizing information, copy of the writing frame, lined rough-draft paper, lined picture paper for final draft, books for illustration ideas.


Each student page was mounted on construction paper, laminated, and then bound into a class book for our class library. Students can reread the book and it can be shared with the class to help them recall all the things we know about animals.

If you give Carlos a spotted salamander, then he’ll remember they are oviparous.

If you give Paulina a Panda Bear, then she will remember that they are warm-blooded.



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