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

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This Lesson's Title:

Your Own
Faraway Place

driving into an emotion-evoking, imaginary land

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by Nevada teacher Robbie Gilmartin 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 Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from the chapter called The Doldrums.

Check out The Phantom Tollbooth 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 :

Step one (sharing the published model):  irst, summarize The Phantom Tollbooth for your students.  Discuss how the author's careful word choice helps to establish voice in writing by creating mood.  Second, read to students pages 22-31, The Doldrums.  Have students identify and write down words they hear while you are reading that they think help explain the tone of the excerpt.  Have students share their list with a team or partner and then select one person from each group or partnership to share some of their words.  Next, direct students to the Writing Fix website to make their word selections.  They then make a list of associated mood words to describe the inhabitants and setting of their scene.  Finally they will write their story combining the words with imaginative characters and surroundings, emphasizing a particular mood for their piece.

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 word choice, 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 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 and pre-writing): Brainstorm ideas for moods that a setting can have with your students. The Interactive Button Game on the Student Instructions Page might get your students thinking about a variety of emotions they might choose to base their writings on, or you can create a class brainstorm on the board or overhead.  You might also pass out this sheet of emotional faces and have students choose their emotion from it.

Ask students to think of names that would be appropriate for places with these moods; remind your students how the melancholic place in The Phantom Tollbooth was called "The Doldrums," which is an appropriate name.  Tell students to select a mood they want to establish in a setting.

Then...pass out the graphic organizer, which will allow students to brainstorm good word choices and images for their setting descriptions.  Students may work on their graphic organizers alone or in partnerships.  Walk around as students fill out their organizers, and make good, suggestive ideas.  When students are ready to draft, you might provide for them the "word choice drafting sheet," which contains an embedded Post-it® Note-sized template that requires students to revisit word choice concepts as they write.

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 Norton Juster and
The Phantom Tollboot
by clicking here.

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