A Chapter Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Show What Your Mind Sees

using showing and telling together to organize a paragraph

This lesson was created for WritingFix based on an idea from former NNWP Co-Directors
Kay Henjum and Liesel O'Hagan.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the chapter book The Twits by Roald Dahl. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapter 16 of the book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing The Twits 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 one becomes an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Step one (reviewing showing versus telling by creating a writer's notebook page):  Remind your students of the difference between showing and telling. Here is an example of each to review with your writers:

  • The wind was cold. (telling sentences have linking verbs followed by an adjective)
  • The icy wind whipped across my skin, making goose bumps appear. (showing sentences use action verbs to demonstrate the adjectives from the telling sentence)

Send students home with this writer's notebook task: "At your home tonight, wander around and find three telling sentences that you can bring back to class tomorrow; one sentence needs to have a person as its subject, one sentence needs to have a place or location as it subject, and the final sentence needs to have a thing as its subject. Tomorrow you will be transforming those telling sentences into showing descriptions for your notebook."

When I created a writer's notebook page for this task, I looked around my home. On TV, I saw a singer who was really sweaty, so he became my person subject: The singer was sweaty. Out back, I entered my toolshed and came up with my second telling sentence, the one with a place as its subject: The shed was dusty. As I headed back inside, I watched my desert tortoise move across his pen, and I came up with my third sentence, with a thing as the subject: The tortoise was slow.

When my students came back to class with their three sentences, I showed them the completed page in my writer's notebook. In a nutshell, students will divide their notebook page into three sections. In the bottom of each section, they will record their telling sentence. Above each telling sentence, they will create three showing sentences that help demonstrate the telling sentences adjective, leaving room for an illustration.

Here is our webmaster's teacher model, which we have included (at left) with this lesson as our attempt to inspire you to make your own writer's notebook page, but we will be understanding if you want to use ours as yours this first time out. If you are teaching your students to use Mr. Stick (like our webmaster does) in notebooks to serve as a journal and notebook mascot, it can actually be quite fun to make a teacher model to show students. Your writers 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, and sample notebook pages from a teacher can be inspirational! Click here for a really large version of our webmaster's notebook page, which allows you to really zoom in on details or print on a poster, if you have that ability.

When your students' writer's notebook pages are completed, ask them to always look over this page in the future whenever a teacher talks to them about showing versus telling in writing.

Step two (interacting with a mentor text):  Explain to students that you will be reading a fun chapter from a chapter book that shows how a real author uses showing skills more than telling skills. You hope that by sharing this chapter your students are inspired to check out author Roald Dahl's books during library time or over the summer. Tell them, "Mr. Dahl is an author who can teach you lots about the trait of idea development."

Write the sentence "His beard was dirty" on the board.  Have the students talk about what details they might add to this telling sentence in order to make all readers see the exact same dirty beard in their minds.  Have students talk about how they all see slightly different dirty beards in their heads, because the telling sentence you shared didn't go to the trouble of making sure everyone saw the same details.

Read the chapter from The Twits entitled "Dirty Beards."  After hearing Dahl's remarkable showing language, have students draw Mr. Twit, using details they remember from the chapter.  Talk about the purpose of showing in writing: to make sure all the readers get the same picture in their minds.  Dahl knew what details he wanted to show so the reader would see the same beard that he intended. If you have time, do an art project (like the one above) around Mr. Dahl's description of Mr. Twit's disgusting beard.

Tell students they will be writing descriptive paragraphs today that attempt to show readers the exact same details the writer sees in his/her mind before writing.

Step three (introducing student models of writing, if you have them):  In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that you may have saved or that come with this lesson.  The groups should certainly talk about the organization, since that's this lesson's focus trait, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's sentence fluency 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 four (pre-writing and composing a structured paragraph that balances showing and telling skills): For this lesson, each student will independently create an organized paragraph that balances showing and telling skills. Students may borrow ideas from their writer's notebook pages, or they may start fresh by selecting a telling sentence from the sentence generator on this lesson's Student Instruction Page, or they may come with a new telling sentence from scratch inspired by Roald Dahl's writing sample. Students will be creating a well-written paragraph that shows an idea, but also makes use of a telling sentence as its opening or final sentence. A short, to-the-point telling sentence can serve as a strong introduction or conclusion, and it's less predictable than those "Would you like to hear about a dirty bird?" kind of introductions that show very little thought at all.

Have an overhead version of the pre-writing worksheet below as well as copies for the individual student writers.  Use the overhead to do a class model of this writing.  Write "The student was angry" in the correct space on the overhead graphic organizer.  Invite several students to come up to the front and to act--without using any words--like an angry student.  Encourage each student to do different things; there are many ways to show one is angry.  After each performance, ask the other students to shout out action verbs, nouns, and adjectives inspired by each student's performances.  Record the very best ideas on the class graphic organizer, explaining why you're choosing the better words over the not-so-good words.

Using the words as a class, compose four or five showing sentences based on the cluster.  Model revising the paragraph as you create an organized paragraph; negotiate with them on whether the original telling sentence would make a better first or last sentence of the paragraph. Try it in both places; have students vote.

Tell students that when they write their own showing sentences, trying to mimic the showing skills of Roald Dahl for this assignment, they will be required to use their original telling sentence as their paragraphs first or last sentence.

Have students choose their own telling sentences (either from the interactive button game on the Student Instruction Page, from a list you have made for them, from something inspired by Roald Dahl, or from an idea they got from looking through writer's notebooks) to work on independently for this task.

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 this lesson, have all your writers use the organization Post-it to help them come up with a revision plan; have your stronger writers also use the sentence fluency post-it to give them more options for revisions.

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 Roald Dahl by clicking here.

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