A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

The Important Thing about
Idea Development:
Specific and Memorable Details

three or four memorable details to teach basic paragraphing skills

This lesson idea was proposed to WritingFix by NNWP Teacher Consultant Kim Polson.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. 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 The Important Book 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 :

Step one (sharing the published model):  After reading some or all of The Important Book, point out the specific pattern the author used, but also take note of how specific the details were in describing each object.  As Brown proves through her writing, sometimes the most obvious details about items can make descriptions interesting, if the obvious details are written interestingly.  Brown chooses interesting verbs and nouns and adjectives to craft memorable details.

As a class, compose an original Important Book passage together.  Choose a topic all can relate to...perhaps "The Important Thing About Candy."  Students will most likely start out by suggesting simple details, like "It tastes good," and "I love candy."  Write simple details down on a section of the white board or chalk board called "Details that need to become memorable."

Model how you would revise one of their simple details.  Change "Candy tastes good" into something like "When it touches my tongue, pure happiness drips into my bloodstream."  Point out how strong verbs (touches and drips), interesting adjectives (pure), and precise nouns (tongue and bloodstream) are the foundations of memorable details.

In student groups, have writers revise the other details the need to become more memorable.  As they work, repeatedly stress these words: "Strong verbs, interesting adjectives, and precise nouns please."  Have groups share aloud, and celebrate how different some of their revisions will be.

Amy Harbarger, one of the NNWP's great teacher/librarian consultants, asks her students to reflect using the Important Book's safe frame for writing.

At left, see one of her students' finished products. At right, see the poster that hangs in her classroom as a safe frame for her students who need the frame.

Click either image to see it larger.

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 idea development , because of the discussion tool that has been included with each model.  You might prompt your students to talk about each model's organization 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): After you have read The Important Book with your students, talked about the obvious pattern on each page, modeled and tried writing some memorable details, and looked at some student samples, it's time to have each individual write four for practice.

Use the interactive button games above to inspire a detailed description of an item not on Brown's original book.  Students can attempt to write their own version of The Important Book with completely different items.  Remind them to be specific with details when describing the attributes of the object they are writing about.

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 Margaret Wise Brown by clicking here.

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