A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Different-Story Stories

exploring a good book's many themes, then writing a new story that teaches the same theme

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Six-Dinner Sid by Inga Moore. 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 Six-Dinner Sid from Amazon.com, and you will 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 :

Step one (sharing the published model):  Six-Dinner Sid is a story with multiple themes, which is why I use it for this type of writing assignment. It also has a great two-sentence introduction--one of my personal favorite story introductions ever.

Before reading about Six-Dinner Sid, explain to your students what a theme is. I always say, "Great stories speak the truth...generally. I am going to read you a story today that--even though it's fictional--speaks a lot of truth about life. This story has many possible themes, none of which are ever said in the book, because themes have to be discovered by readers. When I am done reading, I want you to talk with a neighbor and see if you can discover a sentence of truth that this story might be trying to show us."

Then I read this picture book by Inga Moore, which is one of my favorite stories to read aloud. At the end of reading, I remind my students that a theme is sentence, not a word. I always say, "Six-Dinner Sid is about cats or honesty or neighbors or secrets or variety, but those are story subjects, not story themes. A theme is a sentence about one of those subjects that the story seems to be trying to say. What's a generally true statement about any of those subjects (or another that you can think of) that this story might be trying to remind us of?"

Possible themes your students might come up with:

  • You should always pay attention to your cat, because they are sneaky creatures.
  • When you're honest up front, you don't have to hide secrets.
  • Good neighbors should talk to each other. Bad neighbors have no idea what is going on next door.
  • If you spice up your life with variety, you run the risk of getting fat. (If students come up with clichés, like "Variety is the spice of life" when asked for a theme, ask them to revise it by putting their own twist on the words.)

Have students, working with partners, discuss possible and multiple themes. Have student groups share their favorite themes out loud. Write down the ones that seem feasible based on student explanations. You will get some wrong answers, because I always do; at a teacher conference once, I had a gentleman explain vehemently to me that the book was an outcry in favor of communism, which I still laugh about to this day.

Tell students they will need to choose one of the themes from Six-Dinner Sid that they like, and they are to plan, then write an original story (with original characters and original settings) that teaches the exact same theme.

Step two (introducing student models of writing): Before having your students pre-write to create their own theme-inspired stories, have them discuss the any of the student samples that come with this writing lesson.  Have students count the number of sentences and details in each writer's sample so they can decide how well the pacing of the story came across to the reader.

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): First, students will need to choose a theme from Six-Dinner Sid that they want to base an original story on. The worksheet below will help them make some important decisions before they begin writing.

The interactive button game on the student instruction page will give your students interesting choices for unique characters they might base their stories on, but many student will have no trouble coming up with an idea for an original story that teaches the same theme.

After students have filled out the story planning worksheet, I find it helpful to have them explain their stories to other students orally in small groups. I instruct students to "simply listen" to each author's minute-long explanation of his/her story, then to write two or three questions they have on a Post-it® Note-sized template. At the end of the sharing session, students exchange their Post-it® Note-sized templates, and I encourage authors to address the questions as they begin drafting their stories.

A great introduction-writing technique I learned from author Barry Lane is to have the students select a "favorite" or "most-interesting" question from their Post-it® Note-sized templates, and to pretend the question has been asked in their heads and to answer it as either the first sentence of their story, or to answer it with several interesting sentences. So...if Joey chooses the question, "How does your character feel when he has to eat the same food at every meal for a week?", then Joey's introduction to his story might be "Bob felt utter disgust every time he had two meals in a row that were the same." This is just a great way to teach student writers to launch into an interesting lead.

Before students use their questions to write a lead, re-read them Inga Moore's first two sentences from Six-Dinner Sid. You might also share with them my wife's one-page handout, called Little Red Riding Hooks.

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.

Check out WritingFix's other Same/Theme, Different Story Assignment
by clicking here.

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