A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: VOICE Support Trait: WORD CHOICE

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This Lesson's Title:

"Voicing" a Believable Account

How would it feel to really wear someone else's skin?

This lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Denylle McDowell and then presented at 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 The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapter 1 of the book.

Check out The Glory Field 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 (using a picture book to start a discussion before sharing from the young adult novel):  Share the story “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss to the students. Click here to see how to order this book from Amazon, if you don't have access to one through your library.  This story is about a set of beings called Sneetches. Within their culture, there exists a small class system between the star-bellied Sneetches and the bare-bellied Sneetches. One group of Sneetches is perceived as better than the other.  As you are sharing the story, students should listen for the voices of the three major sets of characters: the star-bellied Sneetches, the bare bellied Sneetches, & the salesman. The students should look for evidence from the story to support how they would describe each set's voices. To direct students thinking during the reading, have the students fill out the “Sneetches” reading guide Denylle has provided here.

Have students discuss the responses they wrote on their reading guides. These discussions can be in the form of small group discussions or whole class discussions.  As a class, discuss different tactics Dr. Seuss uses to tell his story (i.e. the rhyming scheme Seuss is notorious for, dialogue of the characters, events in the story).  Talk about different ways writers make written descriptions more vibrant  (i.e. using the thesaurus to use synonyms for dead words, or using metaphors, similes and other figurative language to enhance descriptions).

Step one (sharing the published model):  Read the first chapter of The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers.  This novel follows the history of a black American family. The story is told from the points-of-view of several different members of this family.  These characters’ different stories are told as they happened in history. One major character lives in modern times. Another lives during the Civil Rights movement. Another lives on a Southern plantation during slavery. And the character who is featured in the first chapter is an African forced onto a slave ship.

Denylle suggests, "For the reading of the first chapter to be effective, it is important that students actually see the words as you read them. So, you may want to make copies or overheads of the chapter OR use class sets of the novel, so that students may follow along."

After you’ve read the chapter, have students locate words and phrases in the chapter that use descriptive voice-laden language...language that makes the experience on the ship come alive for the reader.  Use this Glory Field Reading Guide for students to record their examples.  In small group discussions have students share the phrases they chose and talk about the images they see because of those phrases.

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 word choice in the writing too.

Step three (thinking and pre-writing): Have students prepare to write their own believable account by using the WritingFix interactive activity above.  Before they start writing, remind the students that they are aiming for accomplishing two objectives with their one-page rough drafts: 1) capturing a real voice for a fictional narrator and 2) using imagery-filled language to help the reader "see" what is going on.  You might have them revisit their Glory Field Reading Guide ideas once more before drafting.

To encourage more voice in students' rough drafts, you might have them compose their rough drafts on the attached drafting sheet, which has an embedded Voice Post-it® Note-sized template to remind them to think of the focus trait during and after composing.

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 Walter Dean Myers by clicking here.

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