The intended "mentor texts" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson are the song If Today Was Your Last Day by Nickelback, and excerpts from the chapter book Before I Die by Jenny Downham. Before writing, students should and discuss these two published works..
If you are a Washoe County teacher, click here to search for this book at the county library.
A note for teacher users: 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 :
Pre-step (before sharing the published model):
Start with handing out this two-sided graphic organizer. The first question asks, “If today was your last day, what would you do with the moments left?” Pose that question and give students some time to process the depth of it. Then ask them to fill the area in the graphic organizer with some brief thoughts. Since this lesson can be very emotional, I ask them to share, but I don’t require it because they might put something very personal down in the organizer.
Play Nickelback’s song, “If Today Was Your Last Day”. As they listen to the song, have them jot down the singer’s advice on life. I would also recommend having the lyrics on the overhead or LCD projector. It makes it easier for them to process. Or you can play the song twice. When they finish with that, I ask them to highlight the FIVE things that really stood out to them. They write those in the box on the right. I then read questions 3 and 4 for them from the graphic organizer and ask them to spend a few minutes writing down their thoughts. Then we discuss as a class what they wrote.
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 one (sharing the published model):I then read chapter 9 from Before I Die by Jenny Downham. This is a compelling and powerful book, and Tessa, the main character, creates a list of things she wants to do before she dies (which is eminent because she has terminal cancer). The list is really spread out throughout the book, so I focus on chapter nine. In that chapter, the doctor tells her she only has a few months to live. The end of the chapter comes to a turning point—she can either wrap herself up in a blanket and die or get on with her list. This is a poignant part. It strikes a cord with the students. I want them to put themselves in her shoes and really think about what they would do with a few months. While I could tell them her list, I want them to think about what is really important to them. I direct them questions 5-7 on the graphic organizer to help them with their thoughts.
The goal is to create a list of ‘experiences’ they would like to accomplish in their lives (then I stress they will all have long lives—). The focus is really idea development—getting them to generate a personally-important list for themselves.
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 , since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might also have your students talk about the word choice in the writing too.
This is a new lesson to WritingFix. We're looking for student samples for upper grade levels for this lesson! Help us get some, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!
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 pagefor details.
Step three (thinking and pre-writing):The Interactive Button Game on the Student Instructions Page will get your students thinking about authors they might write, and questions they might answer about themselves as they prepare to introduce themselves to their author.
After processing the first page of the graphic organizer, I ask them to turn over the page. On the second side, there are nine prompts for them to think about. We go through these prompts and they write down their thoughts.
For a rough draft for this project, I ask them to take the graphic organizer home and use it to generate a list of 20 things they want to experience in life (I do request they keep it PG—because I don’t want to know about anything illegal or sexual). I remind them to focus on the big things and the little things in life. The best lists include both. The Interactive Button Game on the Student Instructions Page might get your students thinking about topics for their lists they haven't thought of.
They must be creative with their final product, but it must also be something they can easily access (perhaps folded up in their wallet, on their cell phone, taped on their bathroom mirror, etc). The creative product is turned in, the practical one, they keep.
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.
I have students make two final copies of their lists. One copy must show creativity with their final product; a second copy must be something they can easily access (perhaps folded up in their wallet, on their cell phone, taped on their bathroom mirror, etc). The creative product is turned in; the practical one, they keep.
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 Nickelback by clicking here.
Learn more about author Jenny Downham by clicking here.