A Literature-Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Character Impressions

creating a scene and a character while establishing a mood with word choices

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by Nevada teacher Marie Affinito at an AT&T-sponsored in-service class for teachers.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapter 2 of the book.

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

A note for teachers: 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:

Step one…sharing the published model:    Chapter two of The Great Gatsby introduces readers to the character of Myrtle Wilson and builds on the previously introduced character of Tom Buchanon while at the same time establishing the narrator’s attitude toward both of them. Provide students with a copy of the passage that begins “So Tom Buchanon and his girl . . .” and ends with “Meanwhile Tom brought out a bottle of whisky from a locked bureau door” (which can be found on pages 31-33 in our copy of the novel).

This passage can be accessed online at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/Fitzgerald/gatsby/gtwo.html

As you read the passage aloud, students should underline or highlight every word or detail that causes them to form an opinion, either good or bad, of Tom and Myrtle. After reading, have students share with partners what they highlighted and why, noting how details create specific impressions. Hand out the graphic organizer and have students do as much as they can together, then continue completing and discussing the graphic organizer as a class. When you finish this, at the bottom of the graphic organizer, students should write a statement that describes how they think Fitzgerald wants them to feel about the characters and why. Have them share and compare these statements for accuracy, and remind them that details to create characters and mood are carefully chosen.

Step two (introducing teacher or student model): 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.  Encourage students to think about how the students used methods of characterization to develop their characters. You may want to use a similar t-chart to discuss student models. You might prompt your students to talk about each model's word choice as well.

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…pre-thinking and pre-writing:   The interactive buttons on the Student Instructions Page will certainly give your students ideas for characters and settings they might create to complete this writing assignment.

Students will be using this activity to describe a person or character in a scene or situation by using details that create an impression and establish an opinion. Ideally, students should choose real people and places by observing and taking notes. This could be assigned as homework. Other options include basing the writing on a picture in a magazine, a scene from a movie, or completely fictionalizing it. Whether they use a real or fictional person, they should use the graphic organizer as a guide to note details and impressions and the overall mood they want to create. Next, student should write a paragraph, poem, or song lyrics that convey a mood and an opinion of a character or person by using precise details that show rather than tell.

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):  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 about author F. Scott Fitzgerald by clicking here.

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