A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Special Places
to Love

improving sentences with thoughtful prepositional phrases

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

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan. 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 All the Places to Love 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 :

Pre-step (before sharing the published model): Have students write to this prompt: "Write about a special place you love to go. You might go there alone, or you might go there with family or friends. It might be a special place in your house, or it might be a place outside. You might have been there once, or you might go there every day. Write five or six sentences that help me understand why this place is special to you."

After everyone has a draft, ask students to count the number of words in their sentences and write the numbers in the margin next to each sentence. Then, have your students circle the first word in every sentence.

Explain that good sentence fluency in writing often means that the writer has sentences of different lengths, and that good sentence fluency has sentences that start with different words. Today, you'll be teaching your students to think about these two qualities as they prepare to revise their paragraphs about their special days.

But first, pull out this lesson's recommended mentor test: All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan, which is a story about a special days and special places.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Patricia MacLachlan’s story, All the Places to Love, is a story designed to bring you back to the places and times in life that you love.  Her use of prepositional phrases takes you to Eli’s favorite places.  In her sentences, she varies the placement of the prepositional phrases (from beginning, middle or end), creating excellent sentence variety. The story actually reads like a poem.

One effective way of teaching students to read fluently is by pointing out that sentences should be read in chunks.  Prepositional phrases--one of the most obvious chunks to spot in reading--point out the when and where of sentences. 

MacLachlan has done an amazing job at structuring her writing in a way almost forces the reader to say it in a fluent, meaningful way.  I encourage teachers to take this story/poem and write it on chart paper.  Search the poem--whole class--to spot the prepositional phrases.  Next, have the students go to their personal readers, chapter books and picture books and go on a prepositional phrase hunt.  Have each student share one.  Discuss how these phrases, in and of themselves, can be used as a writing prompt; a longer sentence can be composed just with a good prepositional phrase's inspiration.  Doing this will help link the fluent reading strategy to sentence fluency in their writing. 

Read All The Places To Love to your class.  Have them pay special attention to Patricia’s use of prepositional phrases to create fluency in her writing.  Emphasize this sentence flow in your reading of the book.  When your students have a good understanding of the power of prepositional phrases, use the buttons below to get them started on a piece of descriptive writing that pays special attention to the use of phrasing.  They can incorporate as many of the phrases below as they would like.  Encourage them to also use their favorite phrases from the class's prepositional phrase hunt."

Tell your students they will be revising their special day paragraphs, using interesting and meaningful prepositional phrases.

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 sentence fluency, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's idea development 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):  Re-read just the first sentence of MacLachlan's story again. Have students look at their rough draft paragraphs, listen to the sentence again, then re-write their opening sentence so it sounds more like MacLachlan's.

Then ask your students to revise several of the sentences with a thoughtful prepositional phrase. If your students are struggling to think up prepositional phrases, encourage them to use the interactive buttons on the student instruction page

Using WritingFix's list of prepositional phrases might help them brainstorm original prepositional phrases. While they are creating original prepositional phrases, be sure to encourage them to use memorable adjectives and nouns.

Remind students that prepositional phrases can be at the beginning, middle, or end of sentences. Stress that the idea during revision is not to have tons of prepositional phrases, but to select and use highly memorable ones throughout the paragraph.

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):   Two tools for revision are provided below, and students should be encouraged--after they have created a second draft--to consider a third draft. 

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 Patricia MacLachlan by clicking here.

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