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

Launch your own Murder Mystery

an organized discovery of an original crime scene

This lesson was developed for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant Erica Pienkowski at 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 Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapters 3 and 4 of the book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing The Westing Game 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):  Show off your classroom copy of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.  Give students a little background information about the novel:  Sixteen interesting and bizarre characters, who live in a mysterious apartment building, compete to become heir to the Westing millions.  Inspired by the intrigue surrounding Howard Hughes's will and by the celebration of the bicentennial of the United States, the novel combines a tricky mystery with a tribute to American opportunity.

Read aloud chapters 3 and 4 from the novel, which reveals that when smoke was seen in the Westing Mansion, Sam Westing was found dead.  The search for the murderer begins and continues for the rest of the novel! 

Discuss how mystery novel readers expect to have all of the clues to the murder (once the novel is finished).  Discuss what it would take to write a story similar to this, where you have all clues that need to be presented them to their readers.  In order to do this interestingly, you have to have memorable, colorful, interesting and descriptive words to help paint the picture of the murder in the reader’s mind.

Tell your students that they will be writing a scene from a murder mystery, where someone discovers who has died, and are beginning to guess how the victim died and perhaps who killed him/her.  With good details, your reader will know who died, perhaps how they died, and they might have a guess about who did the victim in!  Have your students use the interactive choice game on the Student Instructions Page to decide who died, how they died and who might have killed them. 


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 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 (thinking and pre-writing): The interactive buttons on the Student Instruction Page will help inspire your students to begin their magical adventure

After the discussion and review of student models, students should use the interactive buttons to help them create their own magic object.  Next, they should use the graphic organizer to help them plan their scene.  It requires them to brainstorm interesting and unusual words as well as their “How to” letter.  Now they are ready to begin writing their adventure.

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 Ellen Raskin by clicking here.


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