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

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Teacher's Guide:

The Vocabulary Fashion Show

writing a script for an imaginative fashion show that personifies vocabulary words

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by NNWP Teacher Consultant Sandy Madura at an SBC-sponsored inservice class.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Miss Alaineus by Debra Frasier. 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 Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster from Amazon.com, and help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

A note for our 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:

Pre-step (creating a writer's notebook page a week before introducing this lesson):  One of our favorite mottoes at WritingFix has become, "Pre-write so secretly that students don't even know you are preparing them to do some writing." A week before asking students to do the actual writing required of this lesson, have a discussion about favorite vocabulary words. This discussion will lead to a fun-to-create writer's notebook page that will help students succeed with this assignment, but your students don't need to know that...not yet.

One of Ralph Fletcher's simplest suggestions in his Writer's Notebooks: Unlocking the Writer in You is that students should create celebrations of favorite words in their writer's notebooks. This pre-writing activity has students celebrate some of their favorite vocabulary words by personifying them and designing them clothes to wear.

As adults, most of us have favorite words. We like the sounds of certain words, we like the meanings of others, or we just have an interesting personal connection to a word. There's a tiny, memorable scene in the movie version of Cormac McCarthy's rather gloomy novel, The Road, where the father and son find a safe place to stay and locate lots of supplies that have survived the post-nuclear world the boy was born into. As they clean themselves up, using the supplies they have discovered, the father mentions the word shampoo, which the boy has clearly never heard before. He repeats the word in such a way that you can tell it has become one of his favorite new words. "Sham-poo." When children discover new words they like, they should be encouraged to hang onto those words as "favorite words" to take into their adulthoods. A notebook is a great place to celebrate and store favorite words.

Share some of your favorite words with your students; explain your reasons for liking those words so much. If you've never pondered your own favorite words, spend some time thinking about it; start with plethora and onomatopoeia, which most teachers seem to like, and then start thinking of unique ones that fit you.

At left, you'll find our webmaster's writer's notebook page which shares his two favorite vocabulary words: defenestration and cacophonous; the definitions can be found on the page, which you can see better by clicking on the image. Your kids don't need to know it yet, but this is a model of the writer's notebook page you'll be asking them to imitate as a pre-writing task for this lesson.

Ask students to start thinking of interesting vocabulary words they've learned or that they have spotted in books they are reading. Tell them you have a fun challenge for them as soon as they all think of two fun vocabulary words that they're willing to play with, that they're willing to call "two of my favorite vocabulary words!" Give them a day or two (with constant reminders) to think of two words; challenge them to ask their parents what words they like.

When students have all committed to one or two favorite words, tell them you'd like them to design a writer's notebook page that personifies the words. Ask them to put a Mr., Mrs., or Miss in front of their words, and to then creatively think about who that person would be. Explain the person they create must somehow represent the meaning of the word, so if they create Miss Onomatopoeia, somehow the character must have something to do with sound effects. Perhaps Miss Onomatopoeia was the class clown who annoyed the teacher by making sounds, or perhaps she works as the sound effects person on a radio show.

After sharing the onomatopoeia example, ask students, "What about the word plethora? What kind of person would Mr. or Mrs. Plethora be? Would this person be young or old? How would the person behave or what would the person do for a job so that he/she represented the meaning of the word? What clothes might the person wear to further represent the meaning of plethora?" Let students work in small groups to decide on a personality, profession, and outfit for Mr. or Mrs. Plethora.

Have students share their best ideas out loud for Mr. or Mrs. Plethora.

Step one (building some "fashion show schema"):  Ask your students what, if anything, they know about fashion shows. Talk about how models wear unique clothing and walk up and down a runway while a narrator/announcer talks about what the models are wearing.

Break students into five groups. Assign each group to brainstorm a different category from this brainstorming worksheet: nouns, verbs, adjectives, -ly adverbs, and transition phrases. The words and phrases they brainstorm must be words one might hear said at a fashion show by the fashion show announcer; these would be words or phrases used to describe the models or their clothes and accessories. Show a copy of the brainstorming worksheet on your overhead, which has a few examples to get students' brains going. Give students five minutes to brainstorm the word category you have assigned them. Create a class list of "Fashion Show Vocabulary" by having groups share their best examples until your chart is full.

If your students need a boost to get going, get out your copy of Barry's Lane's 51 Wacky We-Search Reports, which we use in many of our Northern Nevada workshops for teachers. There's an assignment in the book that has students create fashion show scripts for concepts they are studying in all curriculum areas. Barry provides a hysterical model where he describes different rock types (igneous, marble, magma) as though they are fashion models on a runway. If you don't own this Barry Lane collection of lessons, you should change that! It's one of the best for-under-$20 teacher books out there.

Step two (sharing the published model):  Debra Frasier’s book Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster offers the reader a delightful word choice adventure.  Frasier introduces lively adjectives, strong verbs, precise nouns, risky words, alliteration, and word play as we experience a fifth grader’s week at home sick, while she tries to complete not only her vocabulary homework but also an extra credit assignment.   Upon Sage’s return to school, she discovers that she has not completely understood the meaning of some of her vocabulary words.  In the end, Frasier has her young character create a costume for the Vocabulary Parade that fully expresses her new understanding of one very difficult word. Debra Frasier uses every inch of space, including the endpapers and extra pages, to inspire the creative use of vocabulary words.  

Suggests Sandy, this lesson's author, "Teachers should take several sessions to read this book aloud.  During the first read aloud session, stress the many interesting and unusual words that are bold printed and explained by Sage.   During the follow up sessions, call students’ attention to any of the many word choice sub-skills incorporated in Sage’s description of her week in bed.  I would also suggest that a separate session be spent reading the book with a special focus on the extra credit assignment introduced on the copyright page.   This writing assignment is intended to be used as a follow-up only after several readings of Miss Alaineus."

For this writing assignment, students will be imagining that--instead of a Vocabulary Parade (like in the book)--they will be creating a Vocabulary Fashion Show. Each student will be taking a word from a vocabulary list (or a favorite vocabulary word) and asking, "If this word was a model at a fashion show, what kind of outfit would he/she be wearing, and how would he/she move up and down the runway?"

Assuming the voice of a fashion show announcer, students will be writing a 5- to 10-sentence script that describes their vocabulary word on the runway.

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 organization, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt them to talk about the 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): The interactive button game on the Student Instructions Page is designed to help your students choose interesting words that would make interesting "fashion models" in your Vocabulary Fashion Show. In truth, students should choose words from actual vocabulary lists from your classroom, but if you don't have a vocabulary list, the words in the interactive button game might inspire your student writers.

Once students have chosen a vocabulary word, use this graphic organizer, which has them draw their word as a "fashion model" and choose words from the class brainstorm that might apply to how they think their fashion model would move up and down the runway.

Then have students write a short script, in the voice of a fashion show announcer. Ultimately (but not yet), students will team up with other students who have written scripts about other vocabulary "fashion models," and the teams will combine their scripts to create a complete fashion show that can be performed for the class. For now, students need to know that their five- to ten-sentence script must describe (in the voice of a fashion show narrator) what the model is wearing and how he/she is moving up and down the runway.

Allow students to write, sharing "golden lines" out loud as you walk among your writers and look over their shoulders.

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):  One tool for revision is provided below.  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 out loud):   When they are finished revising and have second drafts, team your students in groups of four or five to create a complete "fashion show." The student groups, combining their four or five scripts, are to a) decide what order the models will come in, b) add creative phrases to transition between the different models, c) rehearse their show, allowing one student to announce while the other students become the actual models, d) perform their scripts aloud, perhaps even in costume.

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 vocabulary 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 Debra Frasier and her books by clicking here!

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