A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: VOICE Support Trait: WORD CHOICE

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On-line Publishing:

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Teacher's Guide:

Put 'em on a Talk Show!

fracturing a fairy tale by putting its characters on television

This lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Corbett Harrison. Check out all of Corbett's on-line lessons by clicking here.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Cindy Ellen: a Wild Western Cinderella by Susan Lowell. 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 Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella from Amazon.com, and help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

A note for our 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 one becomes an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Step one (sharing the published model):  First, I must give credit where credit is due. My friend and mentor, Kay Henjum, inspired the creation of this lesson. She used to do a marvelous demonstration lesson where she would put the three little pigs (and various minor characters from that fairy tale) on the Oprah Winfrey talk show.

When I first heard the book Cindy Ellen, I immediately remembered Kay's original idea, and I built this lesson for WritingFix.

Try this.  Read the book Cindy Ellen by Susan Lowell aloud to your class.  Don't tell them it is a Cinderella re-telling.  You might even keep the book's title a secret from them, just to see how long it takes them to make the connection.  They'll get it eventually, but it's interesting to see how long it takes when a story is re-told uniquely...and re-told well.

Ask students to imagine that Cindy Ellen, her Cowboy Prince, and her embittered family are all guests on a famous talk show on a day she is discussing the topic of "True Love."  Have each student come up with a question that the host might ask the couple or the family.  Read several questions aloud.  Call on students act out (with their best wild West dialects) how they think the characters would answer.  Use their characterizations as an opportunity to talk about voice.

By the way: the Northern Nevada Writing Project's awesome print guide, The Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Guide, features a story re-telling lesson based on Cindy Ellen.  This lesson was created by first-grade teacher, Sonia Joy, and it can be found on page 34 of the guide. Just one more reason why you should get a copy of the guide!

After sharing the book, talk about how even stories that we are very familiar with (like fairy tales) can always be retold in a unique way.  You might show or talk about other versions of the Cinderella story, or you might cite John Scieszka's The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.

Tell students they will be creating and performing a skit where fairy tale characters appear civilly (no Jerry Springer satires!) on a talkshow.

Do your students like to perform?

Got a Larry King impersonator in class?

Your students will love this assignment!

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 voice, since that's the focus of this lesson, but 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 (thinking and pre-writing): The interactive button choices on the Student Instructions Page can certainly inspire your students to begin generating ideas for this assignment, but you can certainly create a class brainstorm that accomplishes the same without being on the computer.

We suggest groups of four to six students write these scripts together.  The worksheet below has room to brainstorm eight characters though, but students can have less than eight characters.  All students should have a speaking part, unless you want to assign one student to serve as the skit's director...it's a good leadership opportunity, we suppose.

Many groups will want questions to come from the "studio audience" as part of their skits.  Suggest to your groups that if they write the questions on notebook cards, they can actually use students who are not a part of their group to ask those questions when prompted during the skit. 

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.  You can use one or both, depending on how much time you have to spend on this assignment.

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.

If your students enjoy fracturing fairy tales, you should also
check out this lesson here at WritingFix.

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