A Chapter Book-inspired Narrative & Writer's Notebook Lesson

Navigating WritingFix:

WritingFix Homepage

Chapter Book Lesson Homepage

Writer's Notebook Homepage

Idea Development Homepage


Navigating this lesson:

Lesson & 6-Trait Overview

Student Instructions

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources

Student Writing Samples from this Lesson


On-line Publishing:

Publish your students at our Ning!
(You must be a member of our "Writing Lesson of the Month" ning to post.)


Teacher's Guide:

Writing about Life's Lessons

using proverbs to inspire ideas for narrative writing

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant Sandy Madura at an AT & T-sponsored inservice class.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the chapter book A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially excerpts from the first seven chapters.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing A Single Shard 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:

Step one (setting up a writer's notebook page for collecting proverbs throughout the school year):  Amelia, in the Amelia's Notebook series by Marissa Moss, proves to us that great writer's notebook pages can be "collections" of appealing thoughts or ideas all on the same topic. In Amelia's Notebook (the first in the series), for example, Amelia creates a page that celebrates different noses. Show this (or a similar example from any of the other notebooks by Amelia) to your students, and tell them you hope their notebooks will eventually contain full-page dedications to ideas that not only appeal to them, but also ideas that they might write about in more detail during an upcoming writer's workshop block.

Today, you're going to have the students begin creating a page of personally-important proverbs for their notebooks. Today, they will be adding just one proverb idea to the page they will create; by the time you have finished reading A Single Shard, you want them to have four proverb-inspiring writing ideas. Have students partition off a page like this model:

Writer's Notebook Page Title:
Proverbs and Personal Narratives

Proverb #1

Proverb #2



Each box on this page will contain: 1) a proverb, 2) a sentence or two about a time in their own lives when the proverb proved true, and 3) an illustration that captures the one or two-sentence summary they've written.







Proverb #3:
Proverb #4:








Show them your own model of a finished notebook page and/or our webmaster's teacher model, which we have included (at left) with this lesson as our attempt to inspire you to make your own, but we will be understanding if you want to use ours as yours. If you are teaching your students to use Mr. Stick in notebooks to serve as a journal and notebook mascot, it can become fun to make a teacher model. Your kids can gain real inspiration from having proof that you had fun as you created your own notebook page; we believe kids can have fun while learning as long as the teacher is modeling what smart and fun looks like at all times. Sample notebook pages from a teacher can be inspirational!

For the illustration part of the page, you might want to tell them about one your own proverb-inspired narrative moments in life, and then sketch it on your overhead or whiteboard. We suggest you have available this handout of emotional faces for students to use in their cartoons.

The Interactive Choice Button on this lesson's Student Instructions Page will get your students thinking about which proverbs (from A Single Shard) might inspire their own writing, or you can use a generic proverb for them all as you establish this notebook page.

Step two (introducing student models of writing):  In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the proverb-inspired student models that come with this lesson.  The groups will certainly talk about the idea development, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might also have your students talk about the organization in the writing too.

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 (slowly collecting additional proverbs from the mentor text): Says Sandy, "I like to have students write about the proverbs as they occur in A Single Shard.  There are many for each chapter; you can either be selective or you can post several.  This gives students a choice about what life experiences they might have had that in some way mirror the lessons learned by Tree-ear.  The proverbs from the interactive button game on the student instructions page actually come from A Single Shard.  If you decide not to have students journal about proverbs you’ve chosen, I often post the proverb for a day’s reading section on the board for reflection before I begin reading.  This seems to give purpose to the reading/listening. Children then listen to discover the sequence of events that lead to the proverb."

In the first five pages of A Single Shard, Linda Sue Park describes an experience from which Tree-ear, the main character, learns a value lesson about surviving in the world. The sequence of events plays a particularly important role in the outcome of the experience.  The decision Tree-ear makes helps to bring not only food to his dinner table, but also feelings of well-being to the stranger he meets on the road, as well as to himself.  He has heeded the words of wisdom his guardian, Crane-man, have taught him.

As you read A Single Shard with your students, keep coming back to the proverb collection page they set-up in step number one of this lesson. Have them add a new proverb they like, summary sentences, and illustrations. By the time the novel is read, the writer's notebook page should be complete.

Keep telling students that one of their page's proverbs will become a longer piece of writing in the near future.

Step four (inspiring a longer piece of proverb-inspired writing from the completed notebook page): For this writing challenge, first you will ask your students complete a graphic organizer about an experience they've had that has shaped them as a person.  The experiences they select must have taught them a life lesson—one that they know will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  The incident need not be a grand event; in fact, it might only be a small event.  Whatever the experience, they now think twice when faced with a similar situation.  Second, your students will think about the one-line life lesson (proverb, theme statement) they learned from their experiences.  They can click on the buttons above to see if any of the proverbs express the meaning of the lessons they have learned.  If students do not find a proverb that fits their experience, ask them to create one of their own that they feel can apply not only to their lives but also to people in general. Third, they will use the proverb to help guide the writing of their experiences.

They need to be sure to consider the order of the events as they occurred.  Remind students that they are to narrow the focus of the event to the most important parts.  Stress to your students that they don’t need to tell every detail.  Instead, try to have your students narrow to the three most important details—those detail that make the proverb ring true.

Using the attached graphic organizer, have students write the proverb, theme sentence, or life lesson they feel they have learned from a particular experience or event.  As students complete their graphic organizer, you can either do one of your own as a model, or you can use chapter one of Single Shard to chart Tree-ears experience.  Next students will list the three main events that they see as being the crux of the lesson.  Finally students will tie back to the proverb, providing their own personal insights about the experience and the proverb. 

Finally, have students use the graphic organizer to begin a first draft.  The writing usually ends up being one to four paragraphs in length. I always tell my students that they need to eliminate unnecessary details if their writing goes longer that four or five paragraphs.  I really like to work for one or two really revealing paragraphs.  This way the meaning of the proverb shines.

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 Linda Sue Park by clicking here.

WritingFix Homepage Lesson & 6-Trait Overview   Student Instructions
Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources  Student Writing Samples

© WritingFix. All rights reserved.