A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Using 90th
Street's Advice
four techniques to inspire
quality details

The picture book that inspired this lesson was the 2008-2009 school year's Mentor Text of the Year.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street from Amazon.com, and help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

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 :

Step one (sharing the published model):  Read and enjoy this book by Roni Schotter!  Her tale of Eva, who doubts that a place she is overly familiar with can inspire interesting writing, is a marvelous story and lesson for writers.  After reading, have your students recall the four pieces of advice Eva is given, then paraphrase each piece of advice into their own words. Share their paraphrases aloud.  After students have paraphrased the four pieces of advice, read aloud the page from the story where Baby Joshua is introduced; it's six or eight pages into the story.  Tell your students that, on this page, Eva seems to have used all four pieces of advice.  Say, "I'm going to read the page again--slowly--, and I'd like you and a partner to be prepared to talk about where she used--at least--three of the four pieces of advice. If you need to write down a sentence or phrase that seems to have followed the advice in order to remember it, that's okay.  I'll read slowly, and I'll probably even read it another time, if you ask nicely."

The worksheet provided below has spaces for students to record each character's advice to Eva, spaces to paraphrase the advice, and spaces to record sentences from the text from the Baby Joshua page.  After students have completed the worksheet, have them talk to each other to note differences in paraphrasing and differences in the sentences and phrases they have taken from the Baby Joshua page.

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 two (introducing models of writing):  Before having your students pre-write to create their own descriptive paragraphs drafts, have them discuss the teacher models below.  With this sample, have your students look for phrases and sentences that seem to have been inspired by the four pieces of advice from the 90th Street picture book.  Then have them discuss the idea development and word choice skills in any of the student samples below.

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 and pre-writing): Time to brainstorm some interesting details about persons, places, and things, which your students will need to choose to write about.   The interactive button game on the student instruction page above will give your students plenty of choices for persons, places, and things, if you happen to have access to a computer lab, or you have the ability to project this page to your whole class.  If you do not have access to such technology available, in the next two paragraphs you will find an alternative method to getting your students to choose three nouns for their descriptive paragraph assignment.

Alternative method:  Hand out six blank Post-it® Note-sized templates to each student.  On the first two, have them print the names of interesting jobs that people have; I always say, "Don't be afraid creative.  A wizard is an interesting job, isn't it?"  On the next two Post-it® Note-sized templates, have them write interesting places, but tell them they cannot use proper nouns; I always say, "If you like New York as a choice, just write it as big city on your Post-It."  On the last two Post-it® Note-sized templates, have your students write interesting items that people might have in their pockets, on their persons, or that can be carried in the hand; I always say, "Feel free to add an adjective to the object.  Instead of flashlight, you might write broken flashlight."

Spread the Post-it® Note-sized templates out in three areas, keeping the persons, places, and things separate.  Have students come up to each collection and choose one Post-It they want to write about for this assignment.  Encourage them to choose three things that can go together somehow, if they use their imaginations.  Discourage them from choosing any of their own Post-it® Note-sized templates.  If done properly, students will return to their desks with three Post-it® Note-sized templates: one with a person, one with a place, and one with an object.

When your students have a person, place, and thing to use in a descriptive paragraph, use the worksheet below to have your students brainstorm phrases and sentences they might use to describe the three nouns they have chosen.  The first page of the attachment below is a "teacher model" to show on the overhead, and the second page is a blank worksheet for each student to complete before writing their drafts.

Step four (revising with specific trait language):   Two tools for revision are provided below.  You can use one or both, depending on how much time you have to spend on this assignment.

The "Revision Sprint" worksheet below asks students to determine which piece of advice from the book had the strongest influence on their writing.  When students have decided which piece of advice they utilized best, they will draw an arrow on the worksheet that connects that piece of advice to the finish line.  Then--and this is the important part--students will determine where the other three pieces of advice were when the winning "runner" crossed the finish line.  Were the other "runners" hot on the winner's heels?  Or were they hardly even out of the starting gate.  Have students complete this worksheet, and talk about their decisions with each other or with the teacher, and then plan a revision.  To inspire revision, tell them "One of your slower 'runners' must tie the 'runner' who won the first race, and you need to modify your story so that this can happen."

We also have a Idea Development Post-It you can use.  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 more about author Roni Schotter by clicking here!

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