A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
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Teacher's Guide:

Between Repeated Catch Phrases

creating a story that "stacks" on itself and repeats a catch phrase

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant Janet Cryer at an SBC-sponsored inservice class.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. 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 Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day 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):  Teachers should stress, as they read this picture book aloud to the class, what the author has done well in this story.  Says Janet, "In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst has chosen to organize her story chronologically from the time Alexander gets out of bed in the morning to the time he goes to bed at night.  Throughout his day, Alexander has many bad things happen to him.  Viorst starts the story with an attention grabbing introduction, jumping right into Alexander’s bad day.  The title of the story and Alexander's catch phrase are repeated throughout the story – another organization tool.  She finishes the story with a satisfying conclusion – Alexander realizing that everyone has a bad day from time to time – 'even in Australia.'"

Ask students, "If it was school picture day and you wanted to look your best, what terrible, horrible, no good and very bad things might happen to you?" Brainstrom as a class, and create a class chart of all the bad things that would happen on school picture day.

Tell students, they will be creating an original tale of a fictional bad picture day. If they need further inspiration from a mentor text (and if you have time), share Margie Palatini's Bedhead, a great story about school picture day gone bad.


Step two (introducing 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 organization, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt them to talk about the sentence fluency 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 (thinking and pre-writing): The interactive button game on the Student Instructions Page is designed to get your students to think up an original "catch phrase" for their stories. Alexander asked himself the question, "Why shouldn't I just move to Australia?", and his catch phrase was born.

Students need to create their own catch phrase, then plan to use it three or four times in the telling of their "Bad Picture Day" stories.

The graphic organizer below is designed to challenge your students to plan a story between repetitions of their original catch phrases. Students can then draft their writing on the two-page drafting sheet, which comes with an embedded organization checklist for them to use after they have written an entire first 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.

As students work on their conclusions, challenge them to refer back to their catch phrase in their last sentence(s) without simply repeating the catch phrase another time. Refer to the conclusion in Judith Viorst's book for inspiration


Step four (revising with specific trait language):  One tool for revision is provided below.  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 is 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 their 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 free-to-use Writing Lesson of the Month ning.


Learn more about author Judith Viorst and her books by clicking here!


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