A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix & HistoryFix

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This Lesson's Title:

The Presidential Quotation Report

organizing a president report based on quotations said by the president

This lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Corbett Harrison.You can access all of Corbett's on-line lessons by clicking here.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Theodore by Frank Keating. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author.

Check out Theodore at Amazon.com.

Washoe County teachers, click here to search for this book at the county library.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :

Pre-step (before sharing the published model):  Introduce dictionaries of familiar quotations to your students. On the overhead (or in the computer lab) show your students how such dictionaries or on-line collections work and how they can be navigated to find quotes by specific people or about specific topics.

Ask your students, "What are three or four scenarios where something might be said or written by someone, so that it could end up in a collection of quotes like this?" Remind them of Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a vast crowd, and how many famous things said in that speech are now in a quotation dictionary. Ask, "How else do quotes make their way into these dictionaries?"

Have fun discussing their ideas. Before leaving the discussion, ask them to guess which U.S. presidents have the most quotations in these types of dictionaries.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Frank Keating, author of Theodore, was Governor or Oklahoma before he wrote this picture book. The book is a lovely tribute of one of Keating's political inspirations. Enjoy reading about the life of Teddy Roosevelt with your students. Challenge students to make a list of ten facts they learned about Theodore from this picture book.

Read the book a second time with your students, perhaps a few days later. Before sharing again, alert them that most of the pages of the book are centered around an actual quotation said by T.R. Some of the pages end with a quotation. Some of them begin with a quotation. These are not quotations people think Theodore Roosevelt might have said; these are quotations from different types of primary source documents. When done reading through a second time, say, "A lot of these quotes can now be found in a quotation dictionary, but some quotes came from other places too (T.R.'s saved letters, for example)."

Tell students they will be writing a factual report about one of the other U.S. presidents, and they will be using quotations in their reports much as Frank Keating did in his picture book.

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 organization as well.

  • We're looking for student samples for all grade levels for this prompt!  Help us get some, and we'll send you free books for your classroom!  Contact us at publish@writingfix.com for details.

Step three (thinking and pre-writing): The interactive button game on the Student Instructions Page is designed to help your students get excited about thinking about what famous presidential quotations might mean. You can, of course, assign students to write about specific presidents you're studying without taking them to the online interactive game.

Once students have chosen a president for this report, they need to start searching to find actual quotes said by the president. Dictionaries of quotations will be useful, but so too will biographies and internet research. Tell students, "In order to use a quote, you have to find proof that it was really said (or written) by the president."

Students are to locate two, four, or six quotes said by the president they are researching. Students are to carefully select quotes a) that they basically understand what is being said and/or talked about by the president and b) that they have some sort of personal connection to or personal opinion about.

Draw your students back to some of the pages from Frank Keating's picture book. Ask, "Do you understand what this quote is saying, and do you think that Frank Keating has a personal connection or opinion about the quote?" Stress these two criteria as students search and research. Let Keating's picture book serve as a mentor text.

Once students have collected the required amount of presidential quotations, have them talk about their quotes in student groups. Have each student read each quote aloud to their group, asking, "Who do you think said this? Why do you think this president might have said it? What does the quote's content tell you about the president?" Monitor discussions, helping students to speculate on what the quotes they have chosen might really mean.

And then...time to research. Students are to find four or five facts about their president that might explain why he might have said that at some point in his life. These facts can be about the circumstances in which the quote was said, or they can be about events from the president's life that might explain why the quote needed to be said.

This graphic organizer is deisgned to help students gather these facts. When students find facts, they are to put them in their own words as best they can. If your students are writing smaller reports (based on two quotes), you only need to run the first page for them; if they are writing longer reports (based on six quotes), run copies of all three pages for them.

Gathering research can be tough and time-consuming. Build in lots of time to work on these facts, and to talk one-on-one with some of your students who might struggle.

When students have their graphic organizers completed, they need to begin planning their entire report.

If students have gathered and researched six quotations, then their reports will have six parts. Each part of the report will either begin or end with one of the presidential quotations, and it will include researched reasons that explain (in the student's own words) why the president probably said the quote. The student's own words--for each part of the report--can be inspired by the circumstances in which the quotation was said, or they can be inspired by the president's motivation to have said that.

Again, draw students back to the pages of Keating's Theodore. Allow this excellent mentor text to show students how much and what kind of writing should accompany the quotations they have chosen to introduce or conclude the separate parts of their reports.

Obviously, drafts of the report's parts will take days--if not weeks--to create. Allow students to create the parts separately, if you wish. As students prepare to create a second draft, which brings all the parts of the report together as one whole report, challenge them to think about sequencing. Ask, "What order should these quotes and explanations be presented so that someone not as familiar with the president as you are could make the most sense of this report."

Step four (revising with specific trait language):  Two tools for revision are provided below.  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.

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):   When they are finished revising and have second drafts, require students to create a final draft.  Students will probably enjoy creating original illustrations for this report as they get ready to publish it for their portfolios.

Interested in publishing student work on-line?  We invite student writers to post final drafts of their original reports at WritingFix's Community of Student Writers.  This is a safe-to-use blog for students and teachers. No writing is posted until it is approved by the moderator. Contact us at publish@writingfix.com if you have questions about getting your students published.

Learn about Governor and children's book author Frank Keating by clicking here!

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