An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Barbara Surritte-Barker has been a Northern Nevada Writing Project Teacher Consultant since 2006. She teaches middle school in Sparks, Nevada.

Barbara keeps a personal portfolio of work here at WritingFix.


Teacher's Guide:

My Big Break!

introducing oneself with an organized essay and a creative People Magazine cover

This lesson was created by Nothern Nevada teacher Barbara Surritte-Barker during the NNWP's I-Pods Across the Curriculum Workshop for teachers.

This writing prompt is inspired by

"Breakaway" sung by Kelly Clarkson

Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics.

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:

Background information This lesson will only work if students have already been introduced to poetry and discussed multiple topics related to what they already know about poetry, why students tend to not like poetry, and the purpose of poetry.

The day before the lesson is presented, assign students bring in (on CD or iPod) his/her favorite, yet most meaningful, lyrical, song and a copy of the lyrics.

Pre-step…before sharing the song Display several copies of People Magazine in your room (Select which issues with caution-- consider your audience when choosing which volumes/content to display). Discuss logistics of the covers (a great way to incorporate period-specific terms such as banner, byline, etc.), featured stories, pictures, and subheadings. Discuss students' familiarity with People Magazine, ask if any have subscriptions, ask if it's something they might read at home, and discuss likes/dislikes about the magazine. Discuss the “people” who make the cover. Why did they make it, and what made them so popular?

Next, allow students the opportunity to silently read the lyrics of “Breakaway” before listening to the song. I like to have them write a response as to what they believe the theme/main idea of the song is, any writing strategies/techniques that the song-writer has used, and their opinion of the song. Discuss their responses whole group.

Step one…sharing the song:  While the song is playing over your iPod or classroom music player, I like to have students highlight what they believe to be the most important lyrics, any tier 2 words, and/or anything they feel is relevant to the main idea of the song. At the end of the song, allow students a moment to reflect and write some notes next to the lyrics that triggered some kind of response: text to text, text to self, etc. Students might identify different types of figurative language, or define meaning to certain lines of the song. Once the song is over, I love to discuss their responses. The conversation with this song is usually always rich with well thought-out opinions and perspectives.

Preview the lesson's graphic organizer/planner. The box titled, Tools for my Writing Toolbox on the second page, provides students with some space to “steal” any ideas from Ms. Clarkson. They can write about any writing strategies she used that they might apply to their writing, or her use of descriptive language, figurative language or sentence fluency. After they’ve identified some strategies they’d like to incorporate into their piece, have them discuss their ideas with their neighbors.

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 it's the focus of the lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's organization as well.

  • Because this is a brand new lesson at WritingFix, we're looking for student samples for all grade levels for this prompt! 

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 page for details.

Step three…thinking, talking, and pre-writing: The graphic organizer designed to support this lesson has three pages. As you work through the brainstorming for this writing assignment, you’ll see that each section of the g.o. is focused on the organizing ideas for the writing they will eventually do before they design their magazine covers. Here’s how I use the graphic organizer to help them brainstorm the parts of the essay they will write:

Essay Introduction (top of page 1): Reflecting upon the lyrics noted on the organizer, have the students brainstorm ideas/wishes about their upcoming school year. Using the questions as prompts, have students jot down their thoughts as you move them through the questions. Ideas can be written down in the exaggerated star shape. I’ve included a details box as well. This is where students should develop their ideas. I like students to zoom in on the details of environment, emotions they might be feeling, and any way to incorporate those sensory details of that moment. After completing this section, take a moment for students to share their responses in their groups. Not only will this generate more ideas for their own work, students will be inspired from each other as well.

Essay Body (bottom half of page 1, top half of page 2): There are several sections highlighting a variety of lyrical passages from the song. Students should reflect upon their upcoming academic school year. For this piece, I’ve focused on their 8 th grade year. What challenges would they face, risk their willing to take and goals they’ve set for themselves? The second transition highlighted focuses on their personal educational or academic obstacles they’ll need to face. What negative behaviors will they need to work on to be more successful to make the cover of People Magazine? How will they conquer those challenges, what strategies will they employ to help keep them focused on their goals? The final transition focuses on what made him/her so famous. Usually the cover of People Magazine is graced with celebrities who’ve accomplished something. What will be your great accomplishment this year? Making the basketball team? Achieving a 4.0 GPA? Earning all of your Accelerated Reader points? Being more assertive with your friends? Remind students to develop their ideas by using the sensory details box.

Conclusion (bottom half of page 2): Some prompts are provided on the brainstorming page.

Drafting the Essay/Article: Using the first two brainstormings page as their guide, students will begin the writing process by following the outline provided on the third page. After jotting initial ideas in the g.o.'s boxes, have them write their essay/article on lined paper or type a rough draft.

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 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.

Step six (publishing for the portfolio):   Once the final draft is completed and ready for publishing, have students complete the cover of their People Magazine. When I did this activity in my classroom, I actually took photographs of my students and placed them on the cover. The illustration boxes (4 of them) were used to reflect the content of their piece. Students drew pictures of athletic events, themselves holding up straight A report cards, etc. I encouraged students to add captions whenever they could. Completed assignments were displayed in the hallway. Students were thrilled to become the celebrities of our middle school.

Interested in publishing student work on-line?  We invite student writers to post final drafts of their original at WritingFix's online posting page for this lesson .  This is a safe-to-use where teachers can publish up to three of their students' samples.

Learn more about singer Kelly Clarkson by clicking here.

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