A Picture Book-Inspired Poetry Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: WORD CHOICE Support Trait: CONVENTIONS

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Student Writing Samples from this Lesson


On-line Publishing:

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The Lesson's Author:

Karen McGee worked as a primary teacher for 15 years and as the Reading Coordinator for WCSD for 15 years. Now retired, she volunteers two days a week at Jessie Beck Elementary in her grandson and her granddaughter’s classrooms.

As a member of NNWP for over 20 years, she acted as Co-director for two years and as an instructor for the Open Writing Project for 15 years. She has published her writing twice, as a member of a team teaching group and as the director of the Homeless Literacy Project.


Two more optional mentor texts to use with this lesson:

Ghost Hour, Spook's Hour by Eve Bunting

The 13 Nights of Halloween by Rebecca Dickinson

Teacher's Guide:

Hoot & Howl Poems

...a Fall poetry & writer's notebook challenge

This poetry lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Karen McGee. Many of Karen's lessons can be found in the NNWP's Six by Six Guide for Primary Teachers.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Halloween Hoots and Howls by Joan Horton. 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 Halloween Hoots and Howls 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 one becomes a truly, authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Step one (sharing the published model slowly while exploring vocabulary):  Start a whole-class chart entitled Halloween Word Bank. Read the first poem from Horton’s mentor text: Halloween Hoots & Howls. Then read the same poem again, asking the students to tell you to stop reading when they hear "an amazing" Halloween word to put on the class chart. When the poem has been read through (with interruptions) a second time, you should read the charted words aloud as a group.

Over several days, continue reading through more of the poems the same way. After each addition of words to the class's Word Bank, ask students to re-read all of the words aloud.

When your chart has thirty or more words, type the words up and print them. Cut the them out into individual words. Give each student or student group 3-5 words. The teacher takes a handful of words as well. Ask the students to sit in a semi-circle or in small grops with their words. You start the first sentence of the poem with two (or more) of your words from your pile. For example:


Place your words on the floor, table, Elmo, or write them on the whiteboard. Ask if any student has a word in their hands which could describe the bats you've placed down. As students find words which meet this criteria and place their words in the appropriate position in the sentence, you continue asking for words to complete the first sentence. “Does anyone have a word that shows what the bats are doing? Does anyone have a word to describe the moon?” Keep some blank cards to add words which are not from the Word Bank but are needed for the poem to make sense. Continue with this activity until you and the students feel like the poem is complete thought or idea about Halloween. Be sure to re-read the poem constantly as you build it. Publish the class poem, like this one:

Halloween Night
by Mrs. York's second grade class

Nasty flying coal black bats screeching at the mysterious moon,
Warty wrinkled wicked witches cackling and mumbling and chortling,
Spooky stretching scratching black cats creeping
delightfully in the dark disgusting shadows,
Orange moldy crazy Jack-o-Lanterns showing off their grumpy faces,
Yucky boney shivering skeletons stalking creepy mummies,
See-through stomping ghastly ghosts haunting graveyards saying, “Oooooh!”
Plump spitting spiders hiding in dark messy webs,
Stiff-legged frightful Frankenstein monsters muttering and bellowing,
“Trick or Treat,”
Everyone dressed in their costumes for a fun Halloween night.

Step Two (setting up a writer's notebook page):

Setting up the Writer's Notebook page:
Seasonal Word Bank



Describing Words (Adjs):
Action Words (Verbs):














Save Room for several sentences inspired by the word bank:



Tell students they will be each creating a personal word bank page in their writer's notebooks. This word bank, should they ever need to write their own Halloween poems, will come in very handy. As seasons or holidays come and go, you can invite your students to create similar lists on later pages of their notebooks.

At left is a teacher model of the page they will create; ours is about summer words so that students can't depend on your example for much more than a structure.

And sure enough, look at that: If you look at the teacher model on summer, you can see how easy it would be to find poetic inspiration, should you be asked to do some descriptive or poetic writing on the topic of summer. This type of page in a notebook on any theme serves as future writing inspiration.

Of course, if they finish quickly (and neatly), you could allow them to decorate their pages like Amelia does in Amelia's Notebook.

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 three (introducing student models of writing):  In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the individual student models that come with this lesson.  The groups should certainly talk about the word choice , but you might also have your students talk about the conventions in the writing too.

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 four (thinking and pre-writing): Inspired by your class poem and other student samples, now challenge students to create their own Halloween poems that focus on word choice.

The interactive word game on the student instruction page is designed to give students an image to launch their poems. Karen also provides you with this list of Halloween words to post or hand out to students as a word choice bank. Encourage your students to change the forms of certain words, if necessary; be sure they think about spelling rules, if they change word forms.

The poems can certainly be free-verse, but if your students choose to use rhyme, have them compare the following two poems' rhyme schemes. Challenge students to use a similar rhyme scheme, or even create a unique one.

Have students compare these two rhyme schemes:

As October comes around,
And Halloween approaches,
We dazzle the house
With spiders and roaches.

A night for scary movies,
And all your friends to scare,
We run around on Halloween
When very few will care.

--by Michael, eighth grader

In the dark of the night,
The sound of the funniest fright.

Spooky, cute, outrageous, wacky,
Wild, unique, even totally tacky.

Silly faces, laughs and screams,
Little kids' candy dreams.

--by Jade, eighth grader

After challenging students to make individual poems that use different words than the class's poem, have writers compose their individual poems on their own pieces of paper. You might re-read Halloween Hoots and Howls again, if you see your kids needing some word choice inspiration.

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 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 Joan Horton by clicking here!

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