A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix & HistoryFix
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On-line Publishing:

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Teacher's Guide:

Historical Journal Entries

big history from a smaller character's perspective

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by Nevada teacher Dayna Ayers 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 Pedro's Journal by Pam Conrad. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from Pedro's December 25 journal entry.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Pedro's Journal 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):  Prior to using Pedro's Journal as a class read aloud, the teacher should explain the format of this book.  It is a journal, written from a boy’s point of view.  The boy never existed.  The historical event did.  Says Dayna, "Pam Conrad invites readers to experience an important part of our history through the eyes of a young boy who journals his journey with Christopher Columbus."  The interactive button game on the Student Instruction Page is a follow up to the story, which attempts to inspire students to research and write about a time in history that they would have wanted to participate in. 

Step one (sharing the published model):  Pedro's Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus, August 3, 1492 - February 14, 1493 has a wonderful format.  It is a journal, written from a boy’s point of view.  Obviously it is a work of fiction, based on researched facts.  Rather than being in a typical non-fiction report format (essay, article, or research paper), the book conveys its history in the form of an imagined character's journal.  Isn't this an interesting way to require students to report on history?

Share several journal entries from this detailed book, perhaps as a read aloud with your class.  Throughout the reading, use good teaching strategies, such as predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing. 

Focus on the journal dated December 25. Talk about the author’s choice of words as she grabs her reader’s attention.  Discuss how sensory words assist her in painting a clearer picture for the reader.  Example:  “Last night, after midnight, all alone and with my own two hands, I sank the Santa Maria.” and “I was listening to the crash of the surf on a barrier reef. And then the sound of a coral reef punching holes in our hull.”  

Explain that your students will be writing their own journal entry.  Their journal will have them to look at a different era of history.  They will be mixing both fact and fictional sensory details to convey history.  The interactive game below will give them choices of historical events to research.  Students who like their one-entry journal should be encouraged to turn it into a longer journal, made up of multiple entries.

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, 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 voice 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 button game on the Student Instruction Page will inspire your students to create interesting characters and topics for historical events, but students can certainly find successful ideas for this writing prompt through discussion and brainstorming away from the computer.  This lesson comes with two pre-writing resources.  Use the sensory detail brainstorming sheet when having students research their historical event.  Use the plot planning sheet to encourage your students to think deeply about how witnessing a historical event can be more than a passive experience for their characters; like Pedro, encourage your students to involve their character in the history...not just observe it.

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.

Research your historical era in your library or at Yahoo for Kids.

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