A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
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This lesson's author:

Jamie Priddy has been a Northern Nevada Writing Project Teacher Consultant since 2007. She teaches high school in Reno, Nevada.

Jamie keeps a personal portfolio of work here at WritingFix.

Teacher's Guide:

Point Poems

telling a story of a lesson
learned through someone
else's perspective

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Consultant Jamie Priddy at during our Chapter Books as Mentor Texts Workshop for Teachers.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the chapter book Crank by Ellen Hopkins. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapter 1 of the book.

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Check out Crank at Amazon.com.

If you are a Washoe County teacher, click here to search for this book at the county library.

Important Note: The novel that inspired this writing lesson contains mature subject matter that is NOT appropriate for younger students. You will definitely need to read the novel before deciding to use it with your students. The excerpts for this lesson have been chosen with care to avoid harsh language or inappropriate situations; however, please preview the excerpts before using them with your students.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :

Pre-step…before sharing the published model:   Have students take out a sheet of paper and give them this writing prompt: Think about a time when you faced a choice. Write about the choice you faced and how you made your final decision. Describe the process you went through to come to your decision. What were some of the thoughts and emotions you felt as you came to a decision? What outside influences may have helped you make the decision? Did you think about the consequences, or did you focus more on what felt right at the moment? Did you learn any lessons from the choice you made?

Before beginning the lesson, explain to students that Crank is a novel that is loosely based on a true story about Ellen Hopkins’ daughter and her choice to try meth for the first time. Ellen Hopkins writes the novel from her daughter’s point of view in order to better understand her daughter’s choices and her role as a mother in those choices. The novel deals with Kristina’s decision to walk with the “monster”, crank, and her struggle to deal with the intense addiction she experiences after her very first experience with it.

Also explain to students that this story is not written in a typical format. The author has creatively told Kristina’s story through short episodic poems. At this point, it is beneficial to discuss this format with students and decide what the pros and cons of telling a story in this way might be. Brainstorm a list together as a class of what those pros and cons of poetic story telling might be in order to prepare students for what they will be reading.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Explain to students that Kristina experiences a few turning points in the novel in which it seems as though she could try to leave some of her bad choices behind her and start over. In the excerpts students will read, they will be looking for those turning points and how Kristina’s thoughts and actions keep her on the path of addiction.

Read the following excerpts from Crank with the students: (Again, you will want to preview the material before sharing it with your students to be sure it is age appropriate.)

  • “The Phone, Still in My Hand, Rang”
  • “At Least I Had the House to Myself”
  • “Suddenly, However”
  • “My Luck Ran Out”
  • “It Got Worse”
  • “All Thoughts of Bad Habits”
  • “Mom Knocked on My Door”

After reading these excerpts, have students fill in the “Turning Points” graphic organizer. You may want to have students share their ideas from their graphic organizer as a class and discuss the ideas they come up with from the reading.

Now tell students that they will be writing their own story about a character facing a decision by using the same writing style as Ellen Hopkins. Students will write a series of six poems that tell the story of a character’s choice. As a class, have students share what they really liked about how this story is told through poetry and discuss any ideas they may want to borrow from Hopkins’ writing when telling their own story.

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 idea development, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might also have your students talk about the voice in the writing too.

  • We're looking for student samples for most secondary levels for this prompt!  Help us get some, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Contact us at publish@writingfix.com for details.

Step three (thinking and pre-writing): Remind students that they will be writing a series of six poems in order to tell a story through someone else’s point of view about a choice. They should try to fit a turning point for the character into their story, just as Ellen Hopkins has done with Kristina.

The Interactive Buttons on the Student Instructions Page may help your students generate some ideas for their writing. Some students may be inspired to write about an important choice someone they know personally has faced. Remind your students that if they choose to do this, they should be careful about protecting the privacy of the person in which they are writing about.

Once students have chosen a character and a topic for a choice that character will face, have them fill in this graphic organizer for creating their own poetic story. This organizer will get your students ready to begin the first draft of their poems.

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.

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.  Students will probably enjoy creating an illustration or a cover page for this collection of poems as they get ready to publish them for their portfolios.

Interested in publishing student work on-line?  We invite student writers to post final drafts of their original at WritingFix's Community of Student Writers.  This is a safe-to-use blog for students and teachers. No writing is posted until it is approved by the moderator. Contact us at publish@writingfix.com if you have questions about getting your students published.


Learn more about author Ellen Hopkins and "Crank" by clicking here.

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