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

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About this lesson's author:

Shannon Allan is a first grade teacher at Alyce Taylor Elementary. She is currently working with a team teacher and enjoys sharing writing ideas with her partner. Shannon loves to incorporate art with her writing lessons.

Shannon credits this lesson's original idea to her mentor, Sandy Madura of the Northern Nevada Writing Project.

This Lesson:

Focus Trait:
Idea Development

Lesson's Mentor Text:

The Squiggle
by Carole Lexa Schafer

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primary writers in:

The lesson on this page is featured in the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Six by Six Guide. Click here to see how to order your own copy, which contains thirty-five other trait lessons besides the one on this page.

Big Ideas behind this Lesson:

Trait Focus: Ideas – The concept focus is Ideas as a squiggle. Ideas can come from anywhere and you can, in turn, write about anything. The squiggle allows us to challenge our minds for ideas.

Standards Addressed:

  • With assistance, use prewriting strategies to plan written work;
  • With assistance, draw or write sentences that address a single topic.

Connecting to a Mentor Text:

Reading : The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schafer

Talking: I read this story aloud to my students. Together we discussed what creative things the little girl made her string into. The students also offered up what they would have made the girl’s string into. This opened up the topic of how we all see something different in the same line, squiggle, or picture.


Students used their own creative vision and talent to turn a squiggle into a masterpiece. They used crayons to color background and details, anything that helped make their squiggle into a picture. Using the lines underneath their picture, students wrote a story or explanation to go with the squiggle. I used this as a center activity. Students can use this writing center throughout the year. At the beginning of the year I usually see a lot of roller coasters, snakes and worms. The writing at the beginning is also very basic, “rollercoaster” or “I like roller coasters.” Little writers tend to use words they know and remember from kindergarten. By the middle of the year I start to see more stories being created. “This is my rollercoaster,” or even “Once upon a time I went on a scary rollercoaster and…” This all depends on the creativity and expressiveness of your students and when in the year you start this project with them.

Tools Needed:

Piece of paper for each student with a squiggle drawn on top and lines for writing on the bottom. I pre-made and had bound books for each student that had a variety of different squiggles already done for them to choose from. They used these books throughout the year.


I used this as a center during our literacy block time. The students would choose any squiggle from their Squiggle Books to make into beautiful pictures and then write an outstanding story to go with their illustrations. Students could choose to share their ‘squiggle stories’ with the class at the end of the day.

(Click on the student sample above to view it in a larger format.)

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