A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: VOICE Support Trait: IDEA DEVELOPMENT

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Students: Publish your writing to this prompt on-line

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This Lesson's Title:

The Sum of
its Parts

writing a "memory snapshot" that evokes emotions or feelings

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant
Torrey Palmer during an
AT&T-sponsored in-service class
for teachers.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the chapter book Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from the chapter entitled "The Sycamore Tree."

Check out Flipped at Amazon.com.

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

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :

Pre-step…before sharing the published model: It is worth familiarizing yourself with the set-up of the book, Flipped. Each chapter alternates first-person writing from the perspective of the two main characters, Bryce and Julianna.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Begin by reading aloud Julianna’s chapter, titled “The Sycamore Tree” (on page 32 of my copies.) Read about halfway through the chapter, until Julianna describes the feeling “So alive” in the Sycamore tree (page 38 of my copies). This chapter, along with the rest of the book, exemplifies the trait of voice. Talk with your students about how they can actually feel Julianna talking to them. Julianna expresses her passions, fears and everyday experiences with believable zest.

After you’ve finished the selection, go back and reread the paragraphs describing the sycamore tree and the paragraphs about what the character was able to see. Julianna concludes those with the statement, “It was magic.” Talk with your students about what they are feeling as Julie describes herself in the tree. They will hopefully respond with “exhilaration” or “optimism” or “excitement.”

Tell students they will be preparing to write about a memory of them being in a place, and they will try to make their reader feel the same way they felt when they were actually there.

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

  • We're looking for student samples for all grade 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, talking, and pre-writing): The Interactive Button Game on the Student Instructions Page is designed to get your students thinking about both a memorable place and an emotion that they associate with this place. Even though this lesson's graphic organizer has students look at emotion and place separately, it might work better for your students to clearly have both chosen before they start brainstorming ideas.

Talk with students about selecting an emotion they remember feeling strongly. The emotions they select can be either positive or negative. Once students have an emotion, fold the graphic organizer in half, and have them complete the side of the graphic organizer that just focuses on the emotion.

After they have completely brainstormed for the emotion, have them brainstorm about their memorable on the opposite side of the graphic organizer.

It might be a good idea to have students share out loud what they're thinking about with fellow students as the graphic organizer gets completed. You could do this when the graphic organizer is halfway completed, or when it's completely filled out. Students do benefit from hearing how other students are thinking before they do some drafting.

Next, have students carefully re-read their own graphic organizer and begin to write about their experience. They should create a written snapshot of a time they felt that certain emotion or sensation. Their goal is to use words and details that attempt to evoke the same emotion from their reader. You might have students write their rough drafts on this Drafting Sheet with a Voice checklist to remind them of the focus trait before, during, and after writing.

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.  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.

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 Wendelin Van Draanen by clicking here.

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