A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Unique Imaginary Friends

writing original adventures
about imaginary sidekicks

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

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Ted by Tony DiTerlizzi. 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 Ted from Amazon.com, and you will help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

A note for 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):  Tony DiTerlizzi's story Ted is about a boy's extraordinary adventures with his imaginary friend.   The book's "adventures" focus on simple life experiences (haircuts, playing games, etc.) that grow into fantastic happenings by using both real and made up words.  This activity is geared to help students who struggle with the belief that simple real life experiences can be a treasure trove of writing ideas.  Part of the trait of idea development is to write about what we know and to make it interesting.  This book and this writing assignment both aim to further that idea.

Share this story about a lovable and imaginary friend, Ted, who thinks up “fantabulous” things to do with a lonely boy. Be sure to ask students what the author has done well in writing this story:  In this case DiTerlizzi uses creative word choice and an imaginary friend to turn simple kid experiences into amazing adventures. By giving the lonely boy an imaginary friend, he has given the child permission to do the unthinkable things his parents would never let him do.  Be sure to also point out how Tony DiTerlizzi’s artwork makes the adventures come alive and how it fits well with the details in the adventures.

Talk with the students about the many adventures Ted takes the boy on, and whether any of your students have ever done something similar...something that could be blamed on an imaginary friend.  Share with your class an experience you had as a young child that seems funny now that you are an adult.   If you are adventurous, explain how it would have been better if you had an imaginary friend like Ted to take credit for your crazy ideas. 

Next have your students think about something they did as a young child that they think is funny (possibly a story that is told at family gatherings), or something they would like to do if they could.  Have them think about how this event could have been even funnier with an imaginary friend at their sides to take the blame or inspire the idea in the first place.  Make a class brainstorm of ordinary, every-day events that they can base their extra-ordinary stories on.  Tell them their job is to write about an imaginary (or real) "adventure" they had with an imaginary friend, like Ted.


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 idea development, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's 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 choices on the Student Instructions Page can certainly inspire your students to begin generating ideas for this assignment, but you can certainly create a class brainstorm that accomplishes the same without being on the computer.

Each student's goal is to create a scene where a made-up imaginary friend helps the writer to complete an everyday task at his/her home. The unique (no Ted rip-offs!) imaginary friend causes nothing but trouble in the scene. Memorable details and powerful word choices should encouraged from every student.

The graphic organizer below will help your students plan, then draft, their scenes.

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.

Learn more about Tony DiTerlizzi by clicking here!

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