A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
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Teacher's Guide:

What's your Fifth Element?

creating an organized and convincing argument about an item's importance

This R.A.F.T. writing assignment was developed for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant Carol Lubet during 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 Snow Walker by Farley Mowat. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapter 1 of the book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing The Snow Walker 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):  Farley Mowat is a Canadian born writer and naturalist.  He describes the land, people and the animals of the Far North with unparalleled understanding, empathy, and clarity.  His book, The Snow Walker, begins with a ten-page chapter called  “Snow.” 

Mr. Mowat introduces us to the topic of snow and its significance to the people of the Arctic by telling a story of how the Greek world in 330 B.C.  was “rocked” when Pytheaus returned to Greece from a voyage to Iceland.  Pytheaus described a white, cold and frozen substance the Greeks had never before imagined.  The Paradigm of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water now shifted to conceive of the possibility of a fifth element of tremendous significance: snow.

Share the first chapter aloud.  Certainly celebrate the language, but ultimately come back to the big and interesting idea here: snow was something incredibly important to some (the ancient people of the Arctic) and was completely not understood by others (the ancient Greeks).  In our modern world, your students will have lots of items that are incredibly important to them but are not understood by others.  The Greeks somehow became convinced that snow might be an all-important fifth element. 

This assignment will have students plan and write a persuasive essay about something they would have trouble living without; their goal is to convince an audience who does not understand the item of its fifth-element-like importance.


A modern day young person


A modern day older person


A four- or five-paragraph essay


Any modern day item of your choosing

Strong Verb:

Convince your audience that the item is a "fifth element."

Step two (introducing student models of writing):  Before students plan to write, have them discuss any or all of the provided student samples with partners or with small groups.  The embedded discussion tools with these student samples will focus their discussions on organization and word choice. Specifically discuss these two traits aloud with the class.

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): Use WritingFix's Persuasive Essay Graphic Organizer to have students map out their arguments and reasoning before writing.  This graphic organizer doesn't include space for planning the essay's conclusion, but a conclusion with this assignment might be better planned only after the essay's body has been planned and written. 

The Rough Drafting Tool we've attached to this writing assignment has a word choice tool embedded in it; this will assist students in building a voice foundation that will be discussed more thoroughly in the revision stage.

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 Farley Mowat by clicking here.

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