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

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Student Writing Samples from this Lesson


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Teacher's Guide:

I Wanna [Something]...

writing a persuasive letter that will be responded to by a classmate

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by Nevada teacher Summer Springer at an SBC-sponsored inservice class.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author.

Check out I Wanna Iguana at Amazon.com.

Washoe County teachers, click here to search for this book at the county library.

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:  Briefly discuss the term “persuasion,” asking students for real-life situations when students might need to be persuasive.  Ask students to think about the first time in their lives they tried to persuasde an adult to either do something or to think like they do. What skills of persuasion do they remember working with adults? What skills of persuasion have they learned don't always work with adults?

Then have students analyze second-grader Evelyn's persuasive letter below. Ask them to think about what Evelyn did well. Ask them to think about additional persuasion techniques Evenlyn might try if she made a new draft of this letter.

January 13, 2010

Dear Dad,

I would like a bird because I don’t have a pet. Not even one pet. If you got me a pet, I would have one pet, just one. I will clean its cage if it needs cleaned. I will give him or her a cool glass of water maybe. I will give it special bird food. In the night, I can cover the top of the cage and I will pay for some of it. I will finally have a pet, just one. Please, please, please, Dad!

Your only child,


Also, review the friendly letter format, if need be; you can use our friendly letter template, which can be shown to students on the overhead. For this lesson, students will have to write a series of friendly letters.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Writers love to imitate I Wanna Iguana's simple structure.  Says Summer, this lesson's author, "Writing can be as easy as one, two, three!  While reading the book, teachers should point out the author’s use of grabbing the readers’ attention with a fun idea applied to everyday situations."

Explain that Karen Kaufman Orloff’s I Wanna Iguana is about a boy named Alex who wants to adopt his friend’s iguana.  He decides to write this desire down in friendly letter form, and give it to his mother. The book is told from both his and his mother’s  perspective as they write friendly letters to each other. Point out that Alex doesn’t simply beg, but formulates convincing arguments why he and this iguana belong together.  Point out that his mother always replies in a thoughtful, yet firm manner, always addressing Alex’s arguments.  Alex too is careful to address his mother’s concerns through facts and promises of being a great pet owner. Through Alex’s skill in persuasion, he comes out the victor and receives a scaly surprise on his bedroom dresser.

During the read aloud, teachers should pause and discuss what makes Alex’s notes so persuasive, paying attention to persuasive writing techniques such as establishing facts (EF), clarifying ideas (CI), prioritizing/editing/sequencing (P/E/S), forming conclusions that are based on agreed upon facts (FC), using fantastic word choice (WC), and writing with confidence (WWC). Discuss how the humor (H) Orloff provided made this story more enjoyable, and how Alex’s word choice was important, especfially in his salutations. Place a Xeroxed copy of a letter from Alex on the overhead.  After reading it together as a class, ask the students to identify the techniques Alex used, marking them with EF, CI, P/E/S, and so on.  Divide students into small groups and pass out a copy of the mother’s response to the note.  Have students work together to label what persuasive technique she used to respond. Come together as a class and have each group read the letter aloud and report the techniques they discovered.  Discuss each whole group.

Explain that you would like students to use these same techniques while creating a little persuasive writing of their own.

Step two (introducing finished student 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 foucs 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): Hand out and explain the planning sheets, perhaps showing one on the overhead.  Explain that students will complete the first graphic organizer before writing their first letters, and that they will switch letters with a partner and respond using the second graphic organizer as a guide.  The students can exchange letters as many times as you have time for.

Extension Idea:  This letter-exchange lesson idea might might work for topics in other curricular areas--such as characters in books, or historical or scientific figures.

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.

Learn more about author Karen Kaufman Orloff by clicking here.

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