A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

The Skin
You're In

diary entries from historical characters that parallel life

This lesson was developed after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant Denise Boswell during an AT&T-sponsored in-service class for teachers. Denise is WritingFix's HistoryFix Coordinator.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the chapter book The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially the diary entries that start in chapter 5 of the book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing The Skin I'm In 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 (sharing the published model):   In the book The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake, the main character, Maleeka, finds herself a seventh grader in an inner city Junior High School.  She is very intelligent; math and numbers are her strength.  She has an opportunity to attend an accelerated school with her best friend, Sweets, but Maleeka freezes during the interview.  Throughout the year, she is bullied by Charlese, and she succumbs to peer pressure and starts a fire.  Maleeka tries to make sense of the events in her life by writing diary entries about Alkeema’s (the character Maleeka creates) experiences on the slave ship.  Author Sharon Flake creates precise pictures in each reader’s heads by using descriptive words, appealing to the senses, and by connecting Maleeka’s experiences with Alkeema’s.

Introduce The Skin I’m In to your students with this explanation:  “This story is about a 7th grade girl who attends an inner city Junior High School.  Maleeka is pretty, smart, and she's the target of the school bully.  Maleeka tries to process the events in her life through her diary writing from an invented character's point-of-view.  Sharon Flake uses descriptions that focus on the senses.  Why would she do that?"  After hearing your students' opinions and thoughts, share with them excerpts from the book.  The diary entries begin in Chapter 5, but continue throughout the novel.

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 idea development, because of the embedded discussion tool that comes with each set.  You might also have your students talk about the word choice 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 help make your students' work safely visible to the thousands of teachers who use WritingFix!  Visit this lesson's student samples page for details.

Step three (thinking and pre-writing): Next, explain to your students that they will be writing about an event in their lives as if they were a diary-keeping character from history.  They will be using their senses to create "showing, not telling" descriptions.  The interactive button on the Student Instructions Page will give them some good ideas of characters from history, but they can use a character they generated themselves. 

Use the printable worksheet below to help students organize their ideas before writing.  You might want to have an overhead version of the graphic organizer below as well as individual student copies.  You might want to use the overhead to create a class model of this writing before asking students to write independently.

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 Sharon G. Flake by clicking here.

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