A 6-Trait Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: VOICE Support Trait: WORD CHOICE

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Inventing Stories for your Favorite Clothes

voice techniques borrowed from a very unique clothing catalogue

This original lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Dena Harrison. You can access all of Dena's on-line lessons by visiting her teacher website.

The intended "mentor text" to use when teaching this on-line lesson is the J. Peterman Clothing Catalogue. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this unique catalogue.

Click here to visit J. Peterman on-line, and to be able to print catalogue entries to share with your students. If you visit the "Classics" page, you'll find some particularly great entries that can be printed and analyzed by students.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :

Step one (sharing the published model):  Go to the J. Peterman website and print out several of the catalogue entries to share with your students.   Their Classics Page always has some excellent samples. 

Discuss moments of great description and voice in the writing.  Be sure to point out the great word choice that catalogue authors always use.  Ask your students, "What other techniques do the writers use that might make a buyer really want to buy this expensive clothing?"  Hopefully, someone will point out that often the writers incorporate story-telling elements into the descriptions.

Ask your students to think of stories they associate with their favorite items of clothing.  They may want to jot some of these ideas for using in their catalogue write-ups today.

Let your students know they will be applying for a job today with the J. Peterman Catalogue for an exorbitant salary!  To get the job, they must write a very J. Peterman Catalogue-like entry for a piece of clothing or an accessory they think the catalogue should sell.

Challenge students to think of an original item to sell.  The interactive word game on the student instructions page will give them ideas, in case they need to spark their brains.

Step two (introducing models of writing):    In small groups, have students now look over student models of J. Peterman catalogue write-ups.  Have your students talk about what the student writers did that made their writing really sound like the actual catalogue.  Ask, "Where did these student writers succeed in capturing the voice of the J. Peterman Catalogue, and what did they do to achieve this?"

Step three (thinking and pre-writing):  Time to make your students do some drafting!

Hand out the graphic organizer.  Remind students to be descriptive.  Keep sharing catalogue excerpts aloud as students work on their own ones.  Encourage voice (through story-telling and style) and word choice that would make J. Peterman himself proud.

If your students are struggling to hatch an idea for their description, the interactive button game on the student instruction page might help.


Step four (revising with specific trait language):   Two tools for revision are provided below.  You can use one or both, depending on how much time you have to spend on this assignment.

We also have a Idea Development Post-It you can use.  To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach WritingFix's Revision and Response Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts.  Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-it® Note-sized templates, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5."   Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings.  For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-it® Note-sized templates, click here.

Step five (editing for conventions):  After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor.   If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers.  With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post-it.  The "Community of Editors" idea is just one of dozens and dozens of inspiring ideas that is talked about in detail in the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Workbook for Teachers.


Step six (publishing for the portfolio):   When they are finished revising and have second drafts, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block.  Their stories might become a longer story, a more detailed piece, or the beginning of a series of pieces about the story they started here.  Students will probably enjoy creating an illustration for this story as they get ready to publish it for their portfolios.

Publishing on-line?  WritingFix is always looking for new student samples to publish and share on-line.  Have you used the prompt on this page to write something you're proud of?  If you are willing to share your photo, grade level, first name, and last initial only, write to us at publish@writingfix.com, and we'll send you a permission slip for you and your parents to sign and return to us.  You might become a published author who inspires other student writers!

Find catalogue entries at J. Peterman's on-line catalogue by clicking here!

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