A Literature-Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: VOICE Support Trait: IDEA DEVELOPMENT

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Teacher's Guide:

Just Because...

giving voice to voiceless characters

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant
Rob Stone
during 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 Lord of the Flies by William Golding. 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 Lord of the Flies 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:

A comment from Rob Stone, this lesson's author: "As you read through this lesson, keep in mind that this idea could be adapted to use with any novel that involves people who lack a voice. I considered using To Kill A Mockingbird (Boo Radley, Tom Robinson), Of Mice and Men (Lennie, Curley’s wife), Animal Farm (Most of the animals), etc."

Pre-step (before sharing the published model): In my class, the first 15 minutes are spent doing “Sacred Writing Time” which is a chance for students to take ownership of their writing and explore topics of their own choice. Occasionally that writing is guided and I give them some topics to choose from or one specific topic to write on. Before doing “Just Because” poems, you may consider having students do some writing about ways they feel they are stereotyped or their voice is defined for them. Public schools are rich with examples of how groups and individuals group each other and compete for power, and thus voice, on a school campus. Student writers have lots to say about this topic and this pre-writing will help students generate and develop ideas later in the lesson. This is also an opportunity to define “voice” and its relationship with power both on the island and in today’s society. Students may be confused about the two uses of voice in this lesson (voice as power, voice as a writing trait) but this would be an interesting discussion about the similarities and differences between the two.

Step one (brainstorming topics): After Sacred Writing Time, brainstorm with students all the ways people are stereotyped on a high school or middle school campus. List all ideas on the overhead or board: race, gender, sexuality, hobbies, grade point average, socio-economic status, physical appearance, etc. Tell students to be thinking of examples they have personal experience with both as the one doing the stereotyping and the one being stereotyped. Share student brainstorming examples or….share your own! Students love to hear how teachers feel when their voices aren’t heard!

Step two (introducing student models of writing and becoming familiar with the format of a Just Because Poem):  Discuss with students the structure and purpose of “Just Because” poems. Share several student samples with them and consider writing one of your own. Students would love to hear how teachers feel stereotyped or how they feel their voices aren’t heard! In small groups, have your students respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson.  The groups will certainly talk about voice, because of the Post-it® Note-sized template that has been embedded on each model.  Discuss with students how mood, passion and perspective is evident in each poem. You might prompt your students to talk about each model's idea development as well. They should point out areas where the author’s quality details send a clear message about how he or she feels.

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.


Now that students are familiar with “Just Because” poems and the way that they allow people or groups to speak out, owning and using their individual voice, they can apply that knowledge to Lord of the Flies. Give each small group the Graphic Organizer, which asks them to analyze power and voice in the novel. You should encourage kids to really think about the perspective of each character. What voice do they have? What voice do they want? What might they say if given an equal voice in the novel? Remind them that they will be writing two “Just Because” poems. The first will be from the perspective of a character in the novel and the second will be from someone in modern society, possibly themselves, that needs to have their voice heard.

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 three (thinking and pre-writing for an original "Just Because" Poem):

The interactive buttons on the Student Instructions Page will certainly give your students ideas for voices they might represent with a "Just Because" Poem.

As your students compose their drafts, strongly encourage them to use verbs and adjectives that convey VOICE, and to use details that will make their IDEA DEVELOPMENT more memorable.

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.


Play the on-line Lord of the Flies game by clicking here.

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