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

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Teacher's Guide:

Leads for a Most
Moment Narrative

exploring leads in your writers notebook before writing a draft

This lesson was created by Northern Nevada teacher Barbara Cuitino during an AT & T-sponsored inservice class for teachers.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the chapter book The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially chapter 1
of the book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 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 (sharing the published model):  Read chapter one of The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, and thoroughly enjoy Byron’s embarrassing moment about his lips sticking to the frozen mirror. Have the students discuss how Byron must have felt and how they would feel if they were in the same predicament.

Tell students they will be doing two things today: 1) exploring seven techniques they might consider using when writing their own narratives about an embarrassing momentt, after 2) applying those seven techniques to Byron's embarrassing story from chapter one.

Share this seven leads handout, which showcases seven ways to start a story. Each method is followed by a question about what form this technique would take if it was the lead to Byron's embarrassing story. Have students--in groups or pairs--create seven leads for Byron's story. Have them share their lead ideas with other groups or whole class.

Step two (setting up a writer's notebook page):  Have students write this title on one of the blank pages in their writers notebooks: "Embarrassing Moment Leads." Have them partition off their page to look like this one:

Writer's Notebook Page Title:
Embarrassing Moment Leads

Summarize your Embarrassing Moment in 4 sentences or less:

Draw an illustration of your Embarrassing Moment:








5 Possible Leads for my Embarrassing Moment:

The interactive choice button on the Student Instructions Page might help them think of an embarrassing moment, if they have trouble coming up with one. We find that students having an opportunity to tall in small groups open up the possibilities for stories.

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! 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. On the model at left, by the way, the fifth possible lead has been left blank on purpose; when our webmaster teaches this lesson and shows his model page, he has students help him brainstorm his fifth possible lead.

For the illustration part of the page, you might want to tell them about one your own embarrassing moments, 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.

For today, let your students work on just this page. Eventually, they will be writing an entire narrative about their chosen embarrassing moment, but for today they will just be thinking about leads and designing the notebook page.

Step two (introducing student models of writing):  Once all students have a notebook page created, inform them they will be writing a longer narrative using this prompt:

Narrative Prompt: Everyone has been embarrassed in life. Write about a time you were really embarrassed about something that really happened to you. Use specific details as you draft and revise, and help your reader understand how you really felt throughout the piece of writing, not just when you were embarrassed. Start your writing with the best lead you can!

Before they write, share your own teacher model of a time you were embarrassed. Or, in small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson; these models are whole stories inspired by students' writer's notebook pages.  The groups will certainly talk about the the lead (organization) , since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might also have your students talk about the idea development 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, talking, and pre-writing): Have students talk with neighbors about the incident of embarrassment they recorded in their notebooks. The interactive choice button on the Student Instructions Page might help them start talking, if they get off to a slow start.

Have them make a cartoon scene from the story they choose in their writers notebooks.

Then...have them revisit the seven leads handout and carefully create a possible lead for their story that uses all seven techniques. Before they surround their cartoon with their seven possible leads, make sure they have a partner look them over, checking for spelling and punctuation.

Once their notebook page is done, have them show it to fellow students. Have them ask, "Which lead do you think would work best for my story?"

Eventually, you want to have your students write out their stories, using their favorite lead, for a piece of writing they will take through the whole writing process.

Barbara Cuitino--this lesson's author--provides you with this great story-planning sheet (print it on legal-sized paper) to help students plan for a detail-filled story that plans to use a variety of transitions.

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.

When students are ready to create an actual rough draft, you might have them use this rough drafting worksheet, which comes with a checklist to remind them to be organized in ways that go beyond just having a good lead.

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 Christopher Paul Curtis by clicking here.

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