A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Adventure Planner

playing with new transition words

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 Meanwhile... by Jules Feiffer. 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 Meanwhile... 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 an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

About the mentor text:  From Corbett: "My reluctant readers love this story; I think it must be an official predecessor to graphic novels, but it feels like a good old-fashioned comic book to them. The story's main character--Raymond--discovers the power of a little transitional word found in his comic books--the word is meanwhile... The word, when written in the corner, always seems to whisk away the comic hero to a new location. When Raymond decides he needs an escape from his chores and responsibilties, he tries writing the word on his bedroom wall and--wham!--he suddenly finds himself in a new location with exciting stuff going on around him. The word provides his escape. In his new location, when it gets too hectic, he uses the word again, and he's off on another adventue. Of course, things eventually get out of hand, and Raymond ultimately learns a valuable lesson from his experience. The joy of the story is that Feiffer successfully turns a transitional word (normally a dry kind of topic) into a joyous writing tool. This is a great book for showing the 'power' of a transitional word."

Step one (sharing the published model):  Before sharing the entire story by Jules Feiffer, show the students several Xeroxes of a few panels from the comic-book styled story; choose panels that have the word meanwhile... printed in the upper corner. Have students predict what the story will be about just looking at these specially-selected panels. Have students discuss what they know about the word meanwhile before sharing the whole story with them.

Then, enjoy the story as a whole. Ask students to imagine where their personal adventures might take them if they could write a word down and be whisked away. Ask if they would have a different word (or phrase) that might whisk them away. Write down any ideas for different words/phrases from your students that are actually transition words. Smile at, but don't write down suggestions like abra-cadabra, explaining that it is not a transition word like meanwhile is.

Discuss the definition of transitions. Discuss their importance in good story-telling. Discuss the importance of having a variety of transition words in one's personal word-bank or writer's toolbox to be a better writer and story-teller. Talk about how younger writers depend on the transitions and and then way too often, but older writers need to learn to use better, more specific types of transitions--like meanwhile.

This writing activity is about having students create an original series of events for an original adventure story; the stories will be inspired by selecting five interesting transitions to include between their stories' parts.

Step two (introducing student models of writing):  From Corbett, this lesson's author: "I can't stress enough how important I think it is for teachers to create their own complete model of the writing process, if teaching this lesson. When a teacher knows where he/she has struggled to complete this assignment, then his/her students will benefit from the teacher's ability to discuss those struggles. If you can't create your own model, I invite you to share mine.

"One thing I discovered was that the second, third, and fourth box of the graphic organizer needed me to recognize a specific obstacle before I could begin writing out my sentences. My obstacle for the second box is a common one in adventure stories: time...the character is running out of time. The darkness is the obstacle for the third box. The collapsed wood is the obstacle for the fourth box, which I strategically set-up with the last sentence of the third box. These are things I can point out to my students because I have gone through the process of creating my own sample for this lesson."

Show students your process, or Corbett's process below, to let them know what process they will be undertaking for this writing lesson.

In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson.  The groups should certainly talk about the sentence fluency in each model, but you might direct your students to talk about the idea development 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 all 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): If students are struggling for ideas for an original adventure story, the interactive word game on the student instruction page might just inspire them with setting ideas and treasure items for their short adventure tale.  Once they all have an idea, you might very well have students who will immediately launch into wanting to write a huge story about their adventure; congratulate those kids for their enthusiasm, but reel them back in with the promise they can move in that direction once the beginning scene for this lesson is created.

For this writing assignment, students are writing a scene from an adventure, not the entire adventure. Encourage students to begin their writing in the middle of some action; exposition is not a requirement. Instead of packing the car for the adventure, it's okay to begin with the adventurer already at his/her destination.

Before handing out the graphic organizers, have students discuss their story ideas with a partner or in a small group. Once students have heard their own ideas out loud, as well as the ideas from some classmates, pass out the graphic organizer. Remind students of their task at hand by showing them the teacher-model of the graphic organizer.

As students are drafting on the drafting sheet, you might show them your teacher model (or Corbett's), discussing where small improvements have been added or made to the original ideas on the graphic organizer. To prime their brains for further revision, you might have them look at your model's (or Corbett's) ranking of idea development skills on the second page. Ask, "What do these rankings tell me I should focus on to make my next draft even stronger?"

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 Jules Feiffer by clicking here!

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