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A Literature-Inspired Writer's Notebook Lesson from WritingFix

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Welcome to this Lesson:

Tasting an Oxymoron

mixing two unusual flavors in a writer's notebook to inspire a future descriptive piece

This lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Corbett Harrison. You can access all of Corbett's on-line lessons by clicking here.

My lesson's intended "mentor text" is an excerpt from chapter 17 of the novel Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Now wait! Don't get hung up if you haven't taught this novel or are intending to; most WritingFix lessons are designed around sharing just excerpts from longer texts without having to read the whole text.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Cannery Row from, and help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

This is a writer's notebook-friendly lesson! This write-up has been recently revised to incorporate the creation of a writer's notebook page as part of its pre-writing process. A teacher model of the notebook page can be seen at left. On the teacher instructions page for this lesson you can read the step-by-step instructions for this writer's notebook task , which makes use of our webmaster's "Margin Mascot," Mr. Stick.

You can visit WritingFix's Writer's Notebook Resources Homepage to access more lessons and prompts revised to inspire effective modeling of writer's notebooks for our student writers.

A great classroom resource!

Three-Sentence Overview of this Lesson:

Here's a little lesson to show students what "independent thinking inspired by literature read in class" looks like on the pages of good writers' notebooks.

After enjoying the funny little passage from the novel, Cannery Row, where Doc orders a beer milkshake, tastes it, then tells the waitress that it tastes okay, writers will brainstorm other "oxymorons in taste" by creating a chart in their writer's notebook. Underneath this chart, students will create an advertisement for an oxymoron-inspired food that doesn't exist yet.

Later, writers can be encouraged to use this lesson's resources and tools to plan a three-part story where they (or a character they invent) order an odd-tasting concoction inspired by the writer's notebook chart. As they draft and revise, writers can work on specific sensory words and details. Your more gifted writers can be further challenged to create a few Steinbeck-inspired sentences as part of their descriptions. Teachers: click here to read the entire lesson plan.

6-Trait Skill Focus for this Lesson:

The focus trait for this writing assignment is organization; before writing, students will carefully and thoughtfully pre-plan a scene that has three parts.  The support trait  for this writing assignment is idea development; choosing perfect sensory details related to sight and taste is the goal of the writer's final draft.

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