A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
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Teacher's Guide:

A Character's Decalogue

embedding an original character's ten-item list in a story that shows voice

This lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Corbett Harrison. Corbett discusses this lesson during his Seven Elements of a Differentiated Writing Lesson Workshop.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the chapter book Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapter 4 of this book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Because of Winn-Dixie from Amazon.com, and help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

A note for teachers: These lessons are posted so that you may borrow ideas from them, but our intention in providing this resource is not to give teachers a word-for-word script to follow. Please, use this lesson's big ideas but adapt everything else. And adapt it recklessly; adaptation is how one becomes a truly authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Pre-Step (introducing the  word decalogue early on in the school year):  A decalogue is a list of ten statements that its writer personally believes in.  In ye olde days, decalogues were mostly about religion and morals (The Ten Commandments, for example).  Today, they can be about any topic.  In the spirit of left-brained pre-writing, we believe every writer should compose a personal DECALOGUE from time to time.  Early in the school year, ask all your students to create a decalogue in their journals or writers' notebooks.  Good topics: 10 things I know about myself as a writer; 10 things I know about myself as a student; 10 things that make me different from everyone else. I use this graphic organizer when assigning decalogues to my students; it requires them to use complete sentences that start with different words, and my example (page 2) shows what that looks like.


Step one (sharing the published model):  Get a copy of Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.  Read aloud the last few paragraphs of chapter 3, then read all of chapter 4.  Talk to your students about how the fourth chapter is a list of ten interesting facts being talked about by two characters.  Some writers might have been satisfied keeping the information as a simple list of ten things, but DiCamillo has her two characters interact as one of them shares the ten things with the other.  Ask your students to remember details on how the two characters talk.  Ask them to recall what interesting new things we learn about all the characters based on this interaction.


Step two (introducing student models of writing):  In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson.  The groups will certainly talk about the voice, because of the Post-it® Note-sized template that has been embedded on each model.  You might prompt your students to talk about each model's organization as well.

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for other grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Visit this lesson's student samples page for details.


Step three (thinking and pre-writing): The interactive choices on the student instruction page might help your students to think of many possibilities on which to base their decalogue stories, but students can certainly find successful ideas for this writing prompt through discussion and brainstorming away from the computer.  Each student's task is to imagine a character who might make an interesting decalogue, then create a story where a character reveals his/her decalogue (through dialogue and interactions) to another character.

Share Original Graphic Organizers (for Pre-Writing)
from Your Teaching Toolbox.

We share graphic organizers with our peers, we find them in books, and we think we should also be able to find tried-and-true ones online at WritingFix. This year, if you create an original graphic organizer (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • Original graphic organizers for specific lessons, like this one, can be submitted as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.

Step four (revising with specific trait language):   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.

Share Original Revision Techniques or
Adaptations from Your Toolbox.

Inspired by Barry Lane's Reviser's Toolbox, the WritingFix website encourages its teacher users to adapt our lessons, especially the tools of revision we have posted here. If you create an original revision tool (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • Original revision ideas from teacher users of WritingFix can be submitted through copy/paste or as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.

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):  The goal of most lessons posted at WritingFix is that students end up with a piece of writing they like, and that their writing was taken through all steps of the writing process. After revising, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block.  The writing started with this lesson might become even more polished for final placement in the portfolio, or the big ideas being written about here might transform into a completely different piece of writing. Most likely, your students will enjoy creating an illustration for this writing as they ready to place final drafts in their portfolios.

Interested in publishing student work on-line? You might earn a free classroom resource from the NNWP! We invite teachers to teach this lesson completely, then share up to three of their students' best revised and edited samples at our ning's Publish Student Writers group.

To submit student samples for this page's lesson, click here. You won't be able to post unless you are a verified member of this site's Writing Lesson of the Month ning.


Learn more about author Kate DiCamillo by clicking here.


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