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

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Student Writing Samples from this Lesson


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Teacher's Guide:

Instead of Said
Dialogue Adventures

writing and punctuating a dialogue exchange between a book's dog and its baby

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant
Karen McGee
during a workshop for teachers.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day. Before writing, students should celebrate the story-telling style of this book's author, and they should brainstorm ideas for dialogue the author did not include in the wordless book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing Good Dog, Carl from Amazon.com, 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:

Pre-Step (before sharing the published model): Do a review lesson on synonyms. Have students come up with interesting synonyms on this synonym worksheet, then share some of them out loud. Focus in on the word "said" from the worksheet, and create a class list of multiple said synonyms by asking all students to share from their worksheet. Tell students this class list will help them with the writing asssignment they are about to begin.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Before reading Alexandra Day’s book, explain to the students that the book is about a dog who acts as a babysitter for a baby. The only pages which have any writing on them are the first and last pages where the mother speaks to the dog, Carl, telling him that he is to mind the baby. Explain that after exploring the book together, they will be expected to take on the role of either the dog or the baby and talk to one another on paper using the pictures as guidelines. (I made overheads of the first 6 or 7 pages of the book to put on the overhead. Classrooms with Elmos or Smartboards can display pictures of the book in other ways.)

After sharing the book, number the students---1, 2; all the 1’s will be the dog, and all the 2’s will be the baby. Give each team a piece of paper, and instruct that once the writing begins, all talking stops. The dogs begin the writing, using theater format: Dog: Hop on my back, Baby. We’re going for a ride. When dog has completed his writing, he passes the paper to baby who ready what he wrote, looks again at the picture from the book, and writes a response. Continue in this manner until either time runs out or enthusiasm wanes. (I’ve found that using about six pages of the book is enough.)

When all teams have completed their pieces, they share them with the whole group. (Be prepared for lots of laughter.) At this point, tell the students that there is a second part of this assignment: the punctuation piece. With the students’ help, make a synonym chart for the word “said.” Explain that each student may use the word “said” twice---once for the dog and once for the baby; all the other pieces of dialogue need a synonym.

To model how the dialogue is to be punctuated, choose one team’s paper and write the first two pieces of dialogue on the board using a colored pen for the dialogue. Using a different colored pen, write the words around the dialogue. For younger students, use only one way of writing dialogue: Dog said, “Hop on my back, Baby. We’re going for a ride.” Baby answered, “That sounds fun, but where are we going?”

More sophisticated ways of writing and punctuating dialogue can be introduced and practiced with older students. “Do you feel like getting out of that jail?” asked Dog. “Absolutely,” giggled Baby, “What are we going to do?”

Here are some sentences you might use when modeling:

  • Dog announced, “Hey, Baby. Mom’s gone now. Let’s play.”
  • Baby giggled, “Whooee! What are we going to do?”

  • “Do you like to jump? Let’s jump on Mom’s bed,” suggested Dog.
  • “That sounds fun, but I think Mom will get mad,” argued Baby.

  • “Mom’s not here,” chuckled Dog, “I am your babysitter, and I say that we jump on the bed.”
  • “Okay,” Baby said, “but if she finds out, I’m going to tell her that it was your idea.”

Tell students they will be re-telling the wordless story from Good Dog, Carl, using correctly-punctuated dialogue.

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 conventions (punctuation), 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): As they prepare to write, or during revision, the interactive button game on the student instructions page will challenge your students to think of interesting said synonyms that might appear in their dialogue interpretation stories for the book Good Dog, Carl.

Younger students can rewrite and punctuate their original pieces of dialogue in their teams in one of two ways: with one member acting as scribe or with both members sharing the pen. They can help one another punctuate correctly by looking at the model on the board and self-correcting as needed.

Older students will rewrite the entire dialogue independently, using the model on the board as a guide post. If you have oldert students use the drafting sheet below, they'll be reminded to think about the support trait--word choice--when they use the embedded checklist.

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):  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 Alexandra Day's books by clicking here!

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