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A Picture Book-inspired Writer's Notebook Lesson

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Great lessons for writer's notebooks can be found in:

A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher

This online write-up cites one of Mr. Fletcher's lessons

Welcome to this Lesson:

Caught Up in the Moment

teaching showing versus telling with a writer's notebook page

As part of our Mentor Text of the Year Program, this lesson was submitted to WritingFix by teacher Leslie Laurie-Nicoll.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author.

Check out The Summer My Father Was Ten at Washoe County teachers, click here to search for this book at the county library.

An Introduction from Leslie:

"All of us have had times when we’ve gotten caught up in the moment. A writer’s notebook is the perfect place to reflect on those times when we’ve acted impulsively, not thinking about the consequences of our actions. The following lesson inspires my students, and it makes them eager to share their personal stories."

Focus/Objective for this lesson: Idea development, especially "showing versus telling."

Step by Step Teaching Instructions:

  • Read The Summer My Father Was Ten, by Pat Brisson. Discuss the father’s actions and the consequences that followed.
  • In small groups, have students make and share text-to-self connections times of when they were caught up in the moment and acted impulsively.
  • Use chapter three of A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You to illustrate what “writing small” means. Find places in Brisson's text where the author has written small and discuss them with students.
  • Students should choose one time from their memories when they got caught up in the moment and acted impulsively. Introduce this narrative prompt:
Prompt: All of us have had times when we’ve done something that we later regretted. Write about a time when you got caught up in a moment, and did something without thinking about the consequences. Write small and show, don’t tell as you descirbe how you were feeling throughout the action. In what way(s) did you learn from the experience?
  • Have students create a "Caught Up In The Moment” page in their writer's notebooks.
Setting up the Writer's Notebook page:
Caught Up in the Moment
Summary of What I Did:
Summary of the Consequences:








Illustration based on the summaries up above:






Have students include a caption underneath the illustration.

  • Conduct Leslie's mini-lesson on “Show, don’t tell”.
  • Students use this “Show, Don’t Tell” planning organizer to help them “show” what they were feeling during the impulsive moment they summarized on their writer's notebook pages.
  • Students write about their “Caught Up In the Moment” experience during writing workshop.
  • Students may select this writing for revision, editing, and publication.

Student Samples inspired by this Lesson:

Leslie shared some of her students' samples, and we're inviting other teacher-users of WritingFix to share student samples if they use this lesson 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 two types of student samples for this lesson:

  • photos of students' decorated writer's notebook pages;
  • polished writing that was inspired by the students' writer's notebook pages.

Either type of sample can be posted at this lesson's posting page.

My Twix Adventure
by Sara, fourth grade writer

We scuffed our feet through the automatic door of Target. “Do you really want to be here?” I asked my friend, Emma.

“No, not at all.”

We followed my mom for about half an hour. I absolutely hated it. It was Saturday afternoon, and we were stuck in the clothes section the whole time! It was so boring. I don’t know about you, but I hate shopping. To pass the time, we talked and played a game. When my mom was finally finished, we got up. At the place where you pay, I asked my mom for a Twix bar.

“No, not today.”


“Because I said so.”


Emma laughed a little, so I put a candy bar up to my cheek and said, “Want some Twix? Want some Twiiiiix?” Emma kept on laughing, so I kept on doing it. Then I looked up at the cashier who was staring at me. I felt so weird because I didn’t know anyone was watching. Emma burst out laughing, and she looked like she might blow up!

In the car, I asked my mom to put down my window. “Why?” she asked. I explained I wanted to yell to people to ask if they wanted Twix, which I really did want to do. I yelled to the person next to us, “Do you want some Twix?”

He looked over at me and laughed. The whole way back to my house, we laughed and laughed, saying it over and over and over.

(Click here to open/print Sara and three of her classmates' stories.)


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