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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:

State ABC's

This writing across the curriculum lesson was created by Nevada teacher,Karen McGee, who believes it would work well with students in grades 4-12. State ABC books can be great individual projects, or they can be community-building group projects.

Karen's inspiration for this lesson was the book
S is For Silver: A Nevada Alphabet.

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 teacher users: WritingFix is not a "writing program." Our website simply contains thoughtful lessons designed by outstanding writing teachers. These 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:

Nevada students (or students from any state) who are learning about the history of their state will show their knowledge by writing an alphabet book at the end of their unit. Because each student chooses a topic based on an alphabet word or phrase to research, he will then be responsible for writing about that topic. This lesson encourages students to narrow and focus their research and writing to reflect clear and concise information which will fit into a larger whole---an alphabet book.


6 Trait Overview:

The focus trait in this writing assignment is organization; the writer’s goal is to compose a complete text about a topic in an alphabet format. After the writer has completed his research, he must write his knowledge in such a way as to fit the demands of a page in an alphabet book. Therefore, the support trait is idea development; the writer must be able to sift through his research and write only the most relevant information.

Teacher Instructions:
(These instructions were written for a Nevada classroom; if you're in another state, obviously you'll need to change any specific Nevada examples mentioned in the lesson.)

Step One (sharing some published models): Tell the students that they are going to explore some alphabet books to see several different ways they have been organized to give information. Read two alphabet books in addition to an alphabet book from your state from the Discover America State by State series and compare and contrast how each of the authors handled the subject matter; Karen uses the two texts at right, in addition to the alphabet book about Nevada by Eleanor Coerr.

Then explain that as a class, they too will write an alphabet book about Nevada---similar to the published model, but not the same. Instead, they will be asked to write more dense information similar to The Weighty Word Book---more an illustrated book than a picture book. The book will be the final product at the end of the Nevada unit.

Introduce a large alphabet chart, and explain that the students will use this chart as a kind of “Anticipation Guide” for their reading and studying about Nevada. Each time they see a key word or phrase they think is critical information, they will add it to the appropriate box on the chart. You, as the teacher, may start the process by adding one or two key words. (Undoubtedly, you will need to fill in both the X and Z box---Planet X and zephyr or Zephyr Cove. Planet X is a pottery studio outside of Gerlach, a rural town in Washoe County which produces gypsum, the major ingredient in walls.)

When the Nevada unit is complete, ask each student to select a key word or phrase from the alphabet chart to “become the authority on.” If you have more than 26 students, suggest that students select their words from boxes with very important information. Once a student has his key word or phrase, he is responsible for researching it. (You may guide your students with special needs to choose words which have fairly straight-forward, simple research components, ie. zephyr.)

Step Two (introducing models of writing): At this time, we are waiting for student samples. See this lesson's student samples posting page for information.

Step Three (thinking and pre-writing): You or you with the help of the class must decide the form of the writing. Once that form is established, students begin writing their page or pages based on their research. If your students have no previous experience with this kind of writing, or if their expository writing skills are weak, you might consider modeling much more before asking students to be independent.

Step Four (revision with specific trait language): To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach Writing Fix’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 Writing Fix’s Revision & Response Post-it® Note-sized templates, click here.

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): Perhaps the best way to publish is to have each student read his page aloud and ask the others in class if they have any questions or comments. When each student has shared his page, bind the pages together into a class book.

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! We're looking for example photos of pages from your students' State Alphabet Books. We don't need to see an entire 26-page book, but we'd love to see a sample from a student who really created a great page.

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!

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.

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