blog stats

An Alphabet Book-inspired Narrative Writing Lesson
a writing across the curriculum project sponsored by WritingFix

Navigating WritingFix:

WritingFix Homepage

Alphabet Projects Homepage

Narrative Writing Homepage


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:

Plan an Amazing Sleep-over!

This alphabet lesson was created by Nevada teacher, Karen McGee, who believes it would work well with students in grades 2nd-6th. This lesson is featured in the NNWP's "Show Me Your Story" narrative print guide.

Karen's inspiration for this lesson was the book
Everything to Spend the Night, from A-Z.

Alphabet Books Make Great Mentor Texts!

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.

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:

After listening to Anne Whitford Paul’s book, Everything to Spend the Night from A-Z, students will write about either a real or imaginary sleepover, focusing on the things they will bring to make that event an amazing experience. Students will be encouraged to select some specific things they will pack, using the answers to the questions “Where are you going for your sleepover? Who will you go with? What do you plan to do?” as guidelines. This online prompt helps students focus on relevant, specific details as they describe their own sleepovers.

6 Trait Overview:

The focus trait in this writing assignment is idea development; the writer’s goal is to compose a text which shows specificity and relevance of the details to support the central idea of having a sleepover. The support trait is organization; the writer will begin his piece with a lead which is an exclamation and end his piece with a satisfying ending that answers the questions, “So What? Why does it matter that you got to have this sleepover?”

Teacher Instructions:

Step one (responding to the mentor text): After reading Paul’s book to the students, point out how everything the child packed to spend the night with her grandfather had a purpose. Explain to the students that they are going to write a piece about a sleepover they either have had or would like to have. Unlike the child in the book, however, they can only pack five things. In order to decide what to pack, they need to identify where they’re going, with whom they’re going, and what they plan to do.

Model for the students on this organizer how you would answer those three questions. Then model the five most important things you would pack. Explain your decisions as well as why you wouldn’t write about everything you would actually pack. Ask the students to fill out their own organizers.

Step Two (introducing models of writing): Share some of the attached examples of student writing with your students. Discuss what the writers did well and places they might improve their writing.

Compare & contrast two fourth graders--Kaya and Avery's--idea development skills Compare & contrast two fourth graders--Nate and Imogen's--organization skills

Step Three (thinking and pre-writing): Review the purpose of a good lead. Explain to the students that for this piece of writing, they will practice writing leads which are exclamations. Model three or four different exclamation leads for the students. Ask the students to help you choose the best one. On a clean overhead, write that lead as the beginning of your first draft.

Next, ask the students to write three exclamations as leads for their own pieces. When all the leads have been written, students will partner and share all three leads. The partners will help the writers choose the best leads. Each writer will write the favorite lead on a clean paper and continue writing the piece using his organizer as a guideline.

Step Four (revision with specific trait language): For this piece of writing, I pulled each student for one-on-one response where I probed for more specificity, more relevance, and more clarity of thinking. While most students had acceptable leads, almost every student needed probing to write a satisfying conclusion.

If this kind of one-on-one response is not possible, refer to the two Post-it® Note-sized templates for revision, which are provided here. You can use one or both, depending on how much time you have to spend on this assignment.

To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach WritingFix’s Revision and Response Post-it® Note-sized templates and have students rank their own use of skills or rank the skills of a friend; rank means they’ll have only one “1” and one “5” and one of the other three numbers. Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings. For more ideas on WritingFix’s Revision and 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. Here are four samples from Karen's class book:

A Great Weekend Ahead
by Kaya, a Nevada fourth grader

Can you imagine being separated from your sister when you are only eight weeks old? We adopted my puppy, Kingston, and my cousins adopted his sister, Sasha, when they were only eight weeks old, and those puppies haven’t seen one another since then.

My puppy misses his sister, and we are going to visit her and her family this coming weekend. The puppies are going to have the best time, and so am I. Of course, I’m bringing some of Kingston’s puppy toys---a green soccer ball, his rainbow ball of yarn with the treat inside, and his big Teddy Bear. I’m hoping that the puppies will play together with them.

I will bring my favorite white dress in case my cousins and I play fairies and my bird mask in case we want to perform a show for the rest of the family. I will bring my skeleton P.J.’s so I can be cozy. I’ll bring some Jammy Sammies because they’re my absolutely favorite snack. Because my aunt is a dentist, I can’t forget my toothbrush and toothpaste.

I hope I won’t forget anything important. I feel so great about bringing Kingston to my cousins’ house. I can’t imagine being separated from my siblings.

A Sleepover
by Nate, a Nevada fourth grader

I can’t believe my luck! I get to go to Drew’s house! I can’t wait to show him my secret plan. I’m also going to bring two pretend light sabers to battle with, a book to read just in case I get bored with the light sabers, four video games to play before bed, and a flashlight, which is part of my secret plan.

My mom said, “I am dropping you off tonight.” I waited. I waited. Five minutes passed. I waited. I waited. I waited. Twenty five minutes passed. At dinner time, thirty more minutes passed. Finally, it was time to go to Drew’s house.

When I got dropped off, Drew was waiting at the door. We decided to play video games first. We played five levels of Harry Potter. Then we played light sabers; I cut off Drew’s arm and I cut his body in half, so I won. Next, we went downstairs and played another hard level of video games. We defeated it in an hour.

“Bed time!” announced Drew’s mom. I brushed my teeth and I got into my P. J.’s, but we stayed awake until midnight. I grabbed my flashlight, and we pretended that we went upstairs, sneaked past Drew’s parents’ bedroom, and went out the door to the Ace’s game. Finally, we fell asleep.

My mom picked me up first thing in the morning, and she asked, “How did you enjoy Drew’s house?”

“I want to go again!” I shouted.

“Maybe he can come to our house the next time,” said Mom.

A Camping Trip
by Avery, a Nevada fourth grader

Yes! My family and I get to go camping at my favorite site---Cricket. I love it because there’s a lake nearby and we usually go with our friends. I’m going to bring a sleeping bag to sleep in which has secret compartments where I can hide a flashlight, a water bottle, and a book. I’m also going to bring S’more supplies so I can have a dessert. When my family roasts them, we get a lot closer to each other. I’m going to bring a couple of board games so my brothers and I can show the grownups how to play. I’m bringing fishing poles since I love fishing with my dad---just me and him alone. I’m also going to bring a swim suit so I can swim in the lake. The last thing I’m going to bring are my tennis shoes so I won’t have trouble walking around the forest.

I’m so excited. I hope I will bring everything I need for the trip. I love camping, and I wish I could go more often.

A Sleepover
by Imogen, a Nevada fourth grader

“Oh, no! I don’t have any clean pajamas. What will I take on my sleepover?”

Tatum and I wanted a play date, and our moms figured out a time. I get to go to her house on Saturday for my sleepover.

We plan to play games, so I’m bringing Monopoly and Sorry. We plan to make a fort inside and tell scary stories to each other in it. We also want to go swimming in her pool in the backyard, so I need to bring my swim suit. Plus I’m bringing some books because we both love to read.

Of course, I’ll need my toothbrush and toothpaste and some clean clothes for morning. I’ll also need two water bottles because I get thirsty at night.

I still don’t have clean pajamas, so Mom suggested that I take an old shirt to sleep in. I’m really excited because I’ve never had a sleepover before. My friend Tatum is really creative and silly, and we have lots of fun together.

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. It's free and easy to sign up for our ning, and you'll receive a monthly e-mail with a link to one of WritingFix's best lessons.

WritingFix Homepage Alphabet Book Projects  Narrative Writing Homepage 
© WritingFix. All rights reserved.