A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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Lesson & 6-Trait Overview

Student Instructions

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources

Student Writing Samples from this Lesson


On-line Publishing:

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Teacher's Guide:

Details and Vocabulary

using content-based vocabulary in a paragraph about animal habitats or history-filled settings

This lesson was created by Northern Nevada teacher, Lori Bell, at an inservice sponsored by the
Northern Nevada Writing Project

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant. 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 Tulip Sees America 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): Read aloud Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant. Your kids should be able to pick up on the pattern within a few pages, and will probably start reading along with you. During or after the reading, discuss how the author’s word choice paints a scenic journey of a young man’s travels with his dog Tulip. Point out the pattern the author uses, and share some of the specific details and vocabulary used. You may want to revisit each page, and make a list of relevant words the author uses to describe each state. Notice how she playfully adds details to make each setting more inviting.

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 word choice because of the Post-it® Note-sized template that has been embedded on each model.  You might prompt your students to talk about each model's idea development 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): Choose an idea from the interactive button on the student instructions page and model to students how you would use resources to find meaningful vocabulary related to this topic.

One resource to find information about an animal or habitat is www.enchantedlearning.com. You can find a printout about most animals that contains basic information as well as a diagram of the animal. The diagram uses appropriate words to label the animal with specific characteristics of that animal. Using this printout, model how to list key words from the diagram and in the description.

Or use this animal vocabulary graphic organizer and show students how to Google questions to find relevant answers. The answers to the questions should be one word or two if part of a phrase. The Internet is a great resource when books from the library are not available.

Let students select their own animal/habitat/setting to begin research. Once they have completed the vocabulary graphic organizer, it is time to complete this prewriting graphic organizer. Have students select two to three vocabulary words that they can use together in one sentence. List the paired vocabulary words in each section of the graphic organizer. Using these words, write a sentence or two. Encourage students to revise their sentences using interesting, high quality details.

Note: The animal vocabulary graphic organizer works for writing about an animal. If students choose to write about an object, such as “The Castles in Europe”, you may need to give them vocabulary to learn and apply. Examples: knight, moat, catapult, drawbridge, keep, cesspit, garderobe, etc.

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 Cynthia Rylant by clicking here.

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