A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
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Teacher's Guide:

Top Secret Rule Reasons!

creating a unique idea from a model, then adding personal voice to the final draft

This lesson idea was proposed to WritingFix by NNWP Teacher Consultant Denise Boswell at an SBC-sponsored inservice class. Denise also hosts WritingFix's HistoryFix Homepage.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups by David Wisniewski. 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 Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups from Amazon.com, and you will 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 :

Step one (sharing the published model):  Rules can be a child’s worst nightmare, so it's no surprise that The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski is a book that all actual children (as well as children at heart) enjoy.  This is a book full of rules!  And then it spoofs those rules.  The author splits the book up into eight sections; each section is devoted to one grown-up rule we all remember.

While reading The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski point out NOT ONLY the great descriptions used throughout the book BUT ALSO the three-part pattern used by the author.  Make a chart listing the rules from the book, the "real" reasons for those rules, and favorite descriptions the author used.   The interactive activity below is a follow-up to reading the story, and it attempts to inspire students to create an original idea for a story by using the author's safe and familiar structure.  After students play the activity below and are preparing to write their drafts, remind them to center their stories on great descriptions and an original idea for a rule's "real" reason.


Step two (introducing models of writing):    Below, find the initial brainstorms of three writers--Lauren, Robbie and Natalie.  Have your students look these over.  Pose this task to student groups:  "Imagine you are in Lauren's, Robbie's, or Natalie's writing response group.  If Lauren, Robbie, or Natalie shared these initial ideas for this writing assignment, what advice would you give them to help them turn their brainstorms into a story that is as detailed as one of the "real rule" stories from Mr. Wisniewski's book."

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): If your students have trouble coming up with an original rule to write about for this assignment, the interactive button game on the Student Instructions Page might inspire them.  Once students have an idea for a rule they will create the real reason for, have them brainstorm details on the worksheet below. 

We also provide a drafting sheet below for once the brainstorm is completed.  An idea development Post-It is embedded in the drafting sheet so that students can double-check those trait-specific skills before, during, and after drafting.

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 David Wiseniewski by clicking here.


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