A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: ORGANIZATION Support Trait: IDEA DEVELOPMENT

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Lesson & 6-Trait Overview

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Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources

Student Writing Samples from this Lesson

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Teacher's Guide:

Overcoming a Personified Fear

using transitions to move a reader through an original
three-part story

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book There's a Nightmare in my Closet by Mercer Mayer. 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 There's a Nightmare in My Closet from Amazon.com, and help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

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): Tell your students about something you were afraid of in the past that you are no longer afraid of. Assure them that all people overcome fears throughout their entire lives. Even adults are afraid of things like budgets, and early frosts, and being audited.

Explain to students what personification is: turning something abstract into something with human-like qualities. Explain what type of person/creature you would assign, if you were to personify your overcome fear from your past. If you're artistic, you might even sketch a picture for the students. Encourage them to help you.


Step one (sharing the published model):  Read There's a Nightmare in my Closet, making sure to help your students make the connection that the Nightmare is a personification of the boy's fear of the closet.

Show the pictures of the Nightmare. Ask, "Is this a good representation of the fear of the closet? Would your creature look different?"

Brainstorm fears that your students have overcome: fear of the dark, fear of water, fear of math, etc. You might want to stray away from fear of actual people--it's harder to personify when you're thinking of an actual person.

Pass out this student worksheet, which has student create an original paragraph about an original fear that has been conquered. The framed paragraph has students use the exact same transition words that Mercer Mayer did. Students can fill in the frame while thinking about a personal fear, or they can fill in the frame using one of the fears from the brainstorm.

Have students share their framed stories with each other, sharing some whole group. Focus students in on the transition words and phrases used in the story and borrowed for the frame. Explain that transitions are words or groups of words that move a story to its next event. "And" and "then" are transitions used too often by young writers telling stories, and the goal of today's writing is to have your students use a variety of transition words as they write a longer story about a fear they have overcome.


Step two (introducing student models of writing): Before having your students pre-write to create their own animal adventures, have them discuss any of the student samples that come with this writing lesson.  You should certainly have them discuss each model's organization, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might also encourage them to talk about each model's idea development 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 non-represented 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): Time to plan to write a three-part story that shows the overcoming of a personified fear. First, have your students sketch a picture of what their fear looks like personified. Encourage their imaginations as the sketch, and don't let them simply copy images from favorite cartoons or comic books. Encourage originality.

Next, tell the students their stories will need to have three parts:

  1. First, the story must introduce us to the personified fear and explain how the fear affects the life of the writer. This is where we would probably hear about what the personified fear looks like.
  2. Next, the story will explain how the writer came to the decision to overcome the fear...what was the breaking point? The final straw?
  3. Finally, the story will tell the reader how the writer overcame the fear.

A teaching suggestion from Corbett Harrison, WritingFix's creator: "I like to have students work with different partners during this planning process. First, have them carry their sketches to a partner, and explain their fears to each other. Have them talk about creative ways the fear makes their live unbearable. Then, have them talk with a different partner for the second part of the story, then a different partner for the third part of the story. Each time they meet with a new partner, have them re-cap their stories so far to each other, so that the final conversation is a much longer one. I find that when students talk before writing, and then talk multiple times, their first drafts are much better."

When students are ready to write, have them use this two-page drafting sheet, which comes with an organization checklist for students to complete after they written their first draft.

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 is 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 their 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 free-to-use Writing Lesson of the Month ning.


Visit the on-line Mercer Mayer Art Gallery by clicking here.


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