An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix
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Lesson Title:

Taking the Un out of Unwritten

teaching prefixes and suffixes while asking students to write about how to live well

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

This writing prompt inspired by

Natasha Bedingfield's song "Unwritten"

Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :

Pre-step…before sharing the published model:  From Abby: "This lesson would work well in conjunction with spelling lessons, vocabulary lessons, etc. I use this lesson to introduce/review the grammar concept of prefixes, suffixes and roots. My middle school students are a mixed bag: some of them are familiar with prefixes and suffixes, some of them have forgotten, some of them have never been taught them."

Before this iPod lesson, I ask students in my class who is familiar with a prefix, suffix, and root word. I ask for student definitions in their own words and for examples. Without giving any feedback, I just jump right into this lesson.

Step one…sharing the published model:  First, I give students the following three-part journal question:

  1. Think of five of the longest words that you use in your written or oral communication on a regular basis? Write them down.
  2. Can any of these words be made into smaller words? Write them here. What did you do to make them into smaller words?
  3. Do you know what a prefix or suffix is? Explain in your own words.

Next, I conduct an “Accountable Talk” discussion about this journal topic with my students.

I then pass out the lyrics and graphic organizer for the rap song “Prefixes, Suffixes, Roots.” Students read the lyrics silently while the song is played from my iPod; you can also play the song directly from the website. After the song is played once, I play it again while students complete the Four Square Notes organizer on the right side of the handout.

After their four square organizer is completed, we discuss as a class some of the student responses from the handout. I encourage students to think of as many examples of words using these prefixes, suffixes and roots as possible.

On my overhead/projector, I ask students to copy down first the Root Wordnotes and then the Prefix and Suffixnotes. I make sure to discuss these notes thoroughly with the class, eliciting as many student examples as possible for other prefixes and suffixes and words that are examples of these prefixes and suffixes. The point is that students are thinking of and brainstorming great words throughout each step of this lesson.

I handout Commonly Used Prefixes and Suffixes” worksheet. This is only one example of any handout you would like to use on this topic for your students depending on what you are working on. You may want to include a different list of prefixes and suffixes to better match your curriculum. As a class we go over many of these and talk about ones that maybe students are not familiar with.

Handout the “Unwritten” lyrics (by Natasha Bedingfield) and this graphic organizer. Ask students to read over the lyrics silently, underlining or highlighting words that have a prefix or a suffix (or both) as they read. Ask students to complete the graphic organizer on the right while they listen to the song from the iPod . After playing the song and giving students time to finish their graphic organizers, discuss the organizer as a class.

On the backside of the above lyrics/organizer, I include the prewriting for the Prefix/Suffix writing assignment. In the last few lines of “Unwritten,” the songwriter says: “No one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips, Drench yourself in words unspoken, Live your life with arms wide open, Today is where your book begins, The rest is still unwritten.” Using the graphic organizer from both iPod songs, students will begin the prewriting for the assignment: to write about how to live your life with arms wide open using as many prefixes, suffixes, and roots as possible.

Before they begin writing rough drafts, have students look over a few of the student models we have attached to this lesson.

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 Conventions, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's Word Choice as well. 

  • 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:  Students begin drafting their pieces of writing, thinking to about how to live life with arms wide open; they are to use as many prefixes, suffixes, and roots as possible in their rough draft. You might have them compose their writing on this drafting sheet, which re-states the assignment's directions and purpose.

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.

Extension ideas for this lesson: Once students feel comfortable identifying prefixes and suffixes, you can do very creative things with them. This list of cool and obscure words with interesting affixes is always popular with my students. I also have them create their own brand new words, showing their knowledge of roots.

Learn more about Natasha Bedingfield by clicking here!

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