An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix
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You Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar!

turning a life lesson from a children's literature into a modern & relevant story

This lesson was created by Northern Nevada teacher Rob Stone during the NNWP's iPods Across the Curriculum Workshop.

This writing prompt inspired by

Jack Johnson's song "Cookie Jar"

Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :

Notes from Rob, this lesson's author: "I loved the children's song about the cookie jar and its message, but I never really made the connection between the lyrics and the [Jack Johnson] title, 'Cookie Jar.' When that revelation hit me, I knew I had to build a lesson around it. It is the perfect example of how we can connect a modern, 'relevant' artist (that students relate to) to our existing curriculum. If I tell my students that many of our life’s lessons and even current laws are really just adult versions of the morals sung about and read about in children’s games and stories, they might just roll their eyes. But if Jack Johnson tells them…well, that’s another story…

"I often find myself going to to explore a songs meaning. It is a great place to see other people’s analysis of and questions about a song. To me, how people interpret a song, poem or any other art is often more important and meaningful than the artists intentions. If nothing else, it is often just as interesting and thought provoking.

"The primary product for this lesson should be a creative short story but some alternatives might be a poem or song, a persuasive essay, a poster or a personal narrative. I think this lesson could be adapted without many changes to guide students for any of these other products depending on your objective.

"Teachers could choose from any number of short children’s stories, songs and games to model examples of learning a lesson. You can’t believe how many nursery rhymes, fables, etc. would serve the same purpose. Some that come to mind are: Aesop’s Fables, Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes and the Chicken Soup series. Depending on your grade level, it might be fun and appropriate to show a clip from television shows or movies that teach a lesson…Brady Bunch, Saved by the Bell, Hannah Montana and Full House episodes never go out of style and are readily available. The kids will love it!"

Pre-step…three things to do before sharing the published model:  Before sharing the model, have students brainstorm the ten most important rules in life, preferably in pairs or small groups. If you choose, after they share their list, you can show them Robert Fulgham’s list of rules in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and see how many of them they came up with.

Another important part of this pre-step is to brainstorm where we learn these rules…school, the Bible, boy scouts, brownies, parents/grand parents, television shows, nursery rhymes, kids books, children’s songs, peers, etc.

Finally, have students compare there list of rules with modern school rules or laws and see where there rules “legally” show up in their lives. All of this work should be recorded on this first graphic organizer so students can “track” and remember their thoughts, reactions, etc. It will be a valuable tool when they are ready to write their own stories.

Step one…sharing the published model:   Now they are ready to listen to the song. If it is appropriate for your class, play the “Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar” game with them for a few rounds or just remind them of the song and ask them the point of it. They should easily come up with the themes of the song, which are blame and denial. Ask them if those two themes are still present in their lives and in society as a whole? Many kids will share that society has a tendency to be quick to blame others and some will even admit that they make excuses when things don’t go well and are quick with denial. Whether it is grades, or getting in trouble or financial situation or something else, people looooove excuses and there are always ways to blame others for their mistakes and/or actions. On the same graphic organizer, have them record thoughts, questions or doodles that come to mind during this quick chat.

Now play Jack Johnson’s Cookie Jar while displaying the lyrics on the board. Important: This is a relatively emotional song as it deals with teen violence. Preview it first and consider if any discussions need to happen before or after playing the song. During the song, or when it is finished, guide students through the first page of this second graphic organizer, which asks them to analyze the song and message.

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 should certainly talk about the Idea Development, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's Voice as well. 

Now guide students through page two of the second graphic organizer which gets them exploring the concept and format of the poem they will write. It will probably help many students if you do a class brainstorm of all the nursery rhymes, children’s songs, Disney movies and stories they can think of and keep them posted. This will give students ideas and, more importantly, choices to write about.

  • Because this is a new lesson at WritingFix, we're looking for student samples for all grade levels!  Help us get some, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Visit our student samples page for information.

Step three…thinking and pre-writing:  In my opinion, the most important part of the writing process is pre-writing because a strong idea is the foundation of meaningful writing. So don’t be afraid to spend some time here. Share lots of examples. Brainstorm. Have kids practice creating quick stories in groups. This helps build confidence and explore ideas.

One idea is to share with students the book Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Or better yet copy the different lessons from each page of the book on little strips of paper and have them draw one out of a hat and create a quick story in groups and then share. This will get them thinking about how to create a story that teaches a lesson.

When they are ready, turn them loose on their rough drafts and then proceed through the writing process. If you have them create their rough drafts on these two-page drafting sheets, they will be reminded to think about idea development as they write, thanks to the embedded idea development checklist.

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.

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):   When they are finished revising and have second drafts, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block.  Their thoughts might become a longer story, a more detailed piece, or the beginning of a series of pieces about the ideas they started here.  Students will probably enjoy creating an illustration for this story as they get ready to publish it for their portfolios.

Interested in publishing student work on-line?  We invite student writers to post final drafts of their original at WritingFix's Community of Student Writers.  This is a safe-to-use blog for students and teachers. No writing is posted until it is approved by the moderator. Contact us at if you have questions about getting your students published.

Learn more about Jack Johnson by clicking here!

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