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An Alphabet Book-inspired Lesson & Project
a writing across the curriculum project sponsored by WritingFix

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Meet the author of this lesson:

Karen McGee is one of the most respected and well-known teachers in Northern Nevada.

Karen worked as a primary teacher for 15 years and as the Reading Coordinator for WCSD for 15 years. Now retired, she volunteers two days a week at Jessie Beck Elementary in her grandson and her granddaughter’s classrooms. As a member of NNWP for over 20 years, she acted as Co-director for two years and as an instructor for the Open Writing Project for 15 years. She has published her writing twice, as a member of a team teaching group and as the director of the Homeless Literacy Project.

Welcome to this Lesson:

Puppets, Songs, and the Alphabet

This alphabet lesson was created by Nevada teacher, Karen McGee, who designed it for kindergarten, first grade, ELL or special education students who are learning the alphabet.

Karen's inspiration for this lesson was the book A, My Name Is Alice.

In Northern Nevada, we believe alphabet books belong in every single classroom! If you have ever searched for alphabet books at a bookstore, library, or online, you know these types of books address every subject, every content, every curriculum.

Early on in every school year, a teacher should introduce the alphabet book structure to the class so that students can be challenged to pre-write and publish all year long inspired by the structure of the alphabet.

An important note for our WritingFix teacher users: This website is not a "writing program." We simply feature thoughtful lessons and classroom resources designed by outstanding writing teachers. Our model 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 a genuine writing teacher.

Lesson Overview:

This lesson is designed for kindergarten, first grade, ELL, or Special Education students as a way to learn the alphabet. After exploring alphabet books like the ones above, rich with alliteration, students will be asked to write their own alliteration story in the form of a Language Experience Chart or as an Interactive Writing Chart based on a puppet and a story frame. After completing the story, they will then the story into a song, and both will become a part of the classroom routines.

6 Trait Overview:

The focus trait in this writing assignment is word choice; the goal is for the class as a whole to write a story using the most interesting words which fit the focused letter of the alphabet. The support trait is organization; using those interesting words based on an alphabet letter, the students must then put those words into the writing template so that they can reread their text many times. The template itself will provide the pattern needed for students’ memories, and select illustrations will further support their memories---key ingredients for beginning readers.

Teacher Instructions:

Step One (sharing some published models): Every day for about a week before starting the Alphabet Puppets, share an alphabet book like one of those picture at right. Start, of course, with A, My Name Is Alice. Draw students’ attention to the sounds of the language: “M my name is Maude and my husband’s name is Martin. We come from Manchester and we sell mops. Maude is a Moose. Martin is a Mole.” Write the upper and lower case Mm’s on the board, and have the students practice making the Mm sound. Have the students practice writing both the upper and lower case Mm’s in a variety of ways: on their own hands, on one another’s backs, on white boards. Now, write the Mm page from above on the board or overhead or chart. Have students circle or highlight all the upper and lower case Mm’s.

Each day after sharing a new text with the students, repeat this kind of work, focusing only on one letter, using the pattern from the focused text of the day. A note of warning: avoid the vowels and the consonants which have more than one sound for these early demonstrations with very young or special needs youngsters.

Step Two (introducing models of writing): Share the Model Story and Song with your students. Explain that they, too, will write a story and a song like the ones they’ve just seen. Here is a list of student choices they might choose from when they begin thinking about their stories.

Step Three (thinking and pre-writing):

Day 1: Introduce this template to the students and explain that they will use it to help them write their own story. Next, introduce the puppet by saying, “Here is a pig. Today we will focus on the letter Pp which is the beginning letter of pig. We need to find a name for our pig. Raise your hand if you would like the pig to be a girl? A boy? (Count hands and do a mini-math lesson on more than and less than so students can tell which gender won the count.) If the count shows that the pig is a girl, start generating a list of girl names on the board asking for student help (ignore the mistakes called out and praise the correct responses by adding those names to the list): Petunia, Peggy, Priscilla, Patty, Poppy, Polly. Notice aloud that since all the words on the board are names, they all begin with an upper case P. After you have 4-6 names on the board, take a vote on the name the students most want. (Use a tally system, but beware of children who vote more than once.)

Do the same kind of word generating for the next four questions: Where does your puppet live? What does your puppet eat and/or drink? Who are your puppet’s friends? What do the friends do together? Continually remind the students that everything they think of to answer these questions must begin with the “p” sound. Because these children cannot yet read, you must be diligent writing and reading these lists of words many times.

Now, you must decide whether you will take the dictation from the children as a Language Experience Writing or as an Interactive Writing. In both forms, you must take care to encourage good talk until you “hear” the kinds of lines you will write or have students write. Remember that, good group writing is good selective listening on the part of the teacher. Another caveat: all group writing tends to be noisy as the children become engaged and excited. If the noise level becomes too disruptive, shorten the length of time you devote to the project in a day.

Complete the template using the words and phrases the children have agreed upon, rereading each section of text when completed. When the entire story is complete, ask several of your lowest performing students to either illustrate or paste Googled images near key words to facilitate reading.

Day 2: Share again the song model. Explain to the students that they now will use the information from their story to create a song about the pig puppet. Choose a simple melody that you are comfortable singing such as: Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, Are You Sleeping?, JingleBells. (I always write the name of the melody on my chart because I too quickly forget what tune I’m using.) Model for the students how to make the first line of the song.

To the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:

Polly Pig lives in a pen, in a pen, in a pen.

Polly Pig lives in a pen, a pretty pink pigpen

Continue adding items from the writing chart to the song. Feel free to manipulate language to fit the tune. Again, ask your lowest functioning students to illustrate key words and phrases in the song. Keep the charts visible for easy reference.

Revision and Editing Occur during the reading/writing process since this is a group activity with high teacher support.

Publishing: This activity is an oral publishing event as part of classroom routines. If there is a classroom puppet show theater, students can take turns holding the puppet while the students read the story. Everyone sings the song. Daily repetition of reading and singing ensure memorization, a requisite for preliminary sight word recognition as well as alphabet recognition. During free time activities or Reading the Room activities, students can choose to replicate the reading/singing either individually or in small groups.

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! We're looking for example songs and rhymes created by teachers who've used this lesson. We'd also love to see photos of students performing the songs and rhymes.

We've established this posting page at our site's Ning where teachers can easily post up to three samples from their classroom. If we like your samples enough to move over to the actual WritingFix site, we will send you a complimentary NNWP resource for your classroom!


Writing Modification for Older Students or Gifted Students: After this writing activity has been modeled several times with different letters of the alphabet, some students might be encouraged to write their own puppet shows and songs to share with the larger group.

Arts & Crafts: In a center, ask students to create paper puppets to go with the story and song.


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