A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

A Magical Animal Encounter

writing a three-part story about meeting an animal with special powers

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by Nevada teacher Tracy Soules 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 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapter one of this book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 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; that's how you become an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :

Pre-step…before sharing the published model: Ask students, “Has there ever been a time in your life when you met an animal that was talented in a way that surprised you? Brainstorm interesting animal talents as a whole class. Choose one talent and ask, "What animal might have this talent?" As a class, brainstorm what an encounter with the magical might be like. What would it sound like? Look like? Feel like?

Out loud, invent a simple three-part story in front of your students. Using spontaneous interesting details, act out 1) where you are when you see the animal, 2) what the animal is specifically doing when it performs its "magical" behavior, and 3) how the animal reacts when it sees you are watching it.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Share from chapter two of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Vanishing Glass, specifically pages 26-30, where Harry encounters the boa constrictor.

Since the focus of this writing exercise is idea development, focus on the details while the snake is magically communicating with Harry. When done, write the best descriptions--like "glistening brown coils”--where everyone can see them. Talk how Rowling's chapter tries to paint a picture in readers' minds as they read, and your students will be writing a three-part description that does the same.

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

  • No student samples yet? This is a great lesson!  Be the first to share and we'll send you TWO complimentary resources from the NNWP. Visit the student samples page for details.

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, talking, and pre-writing): Students first need to choose an animal and a special skill for their animal. The Interactive Button Game on the Student Instructions Page might get your students thinking about the types of "magical" animals they might encounter in their stories, but they could certainly think up animal ideas on their own. Just don't let them choose to write about a snake, since that was used within the mentor text.

Tell students their stories will have three parts: 1) a detailed description of where they (the narrator) are when they encounter the animal; 2) a detailed description of the animal performing its special skill and; 3) a description of how the animal reacts when it sees it is being watched by the narrator.

You might want to spontaneous act out another example, or revive your example from the pre-step above, so your students can hear all three parts aloud.

Have students talk about what details they might share if their stories had three parts. As they talk, encourage them to share an equal amount of details in each of their stories' three parts.

Then pass out this story-planning graphic organizer, which will help them plan and compose a rough draft.

When graphic organizers are completed, have students create an official rough draft on lined paper, encouraging them to add/edit even better words as they transfer the ideas from their organizer to lined paper. If you use this Drafting Sheet, students will be reminded to think further about idea development while they are composing. Have students highlight words and phrases they changed or added as they transferred their stories to lined paper.

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 J. K. Rowling by clicking here.

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