A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix & ScienceFix
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Teacher's Guide:

Noun-Inspired Animal Reports

organizing an animal report by first brainstorming precise nouns

This lesson was built for WritingFix after being proposed by Northern Nevada teacher Amy Benham at an SBC-sponsored inservice class.

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

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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 you become an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Pre-step (before sharing the published model):  Conduct a little lesson on how to turn verbs into nouns. You can list interesting animal-related nouns on the board (burrow, cat-nap, climb, protect, consume, hibernate, etc.) and then explain how to turn them into nouns (burrower, cat-napper, climber, protector, consumer, hibernator.)

Later for this assignment, when your students are researching animals for their reports, they might think of pretty common verbs to associate with their animals (like run). You might conduct a little lesson on synonyms, showing them how pursue or scamper might make better choices for their brainstorms.

Step one (sharing the published model):  Throughout Molly Grooms' story We Are Bears, the author uses precise and interesting nouns to describe bears.  The author has chosen these nouns in order to teach younger students all about bears, their habitats and their habits.  Children will be captivated by the beautiful illustrations of a mother black bear and her two cubs and the smooth gentle pace of the story.  Teachers should stress, as they read We Are Bears, what the author has done particularly well in writing this story: in this case, Molly Grooms has chosen precise and interesting nouns to describe her beloved bears.  We discover that bears are climbers, searchers, swimmers, diggers, and sleepers.

Grooms has also jammed her book full of factual information regarding the bears’ habitat and habits, food sources and behaviors.  (To further stress Grooms' use of precise nouns, you may also want to read We Are Wolves.) 

This writing activity requires students to research an animal (other than a bear) and discover interesting and precise nouns that could be used to describe their animal. They will organize a report that uses these precise nouns as introductions or conclusions to each of their report's parts.

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, since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's organization 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 all 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 an animal that interests them enough to do some research on. If your class is studying a certain habitat, then you can assign them animals, or you can let students freely choose. The interactive button game on the Student Instructions Page is designed to help your students self-choose an animal and start thinking about interesting nouns.

As students research, they are to gather a certain assigned number of interesting and precise nouns about their animals. These nouns need to be animal-specific (as opposed to habitat-specific). For very young students, you can assign students to discover two or three nouns. Older student can probably handle five or six, like Grooms' book on bears features. Some nouns might jump out from the research (carnivore, for example), but others may have to be created from verbs the students discover about their animals. When the nouns are created from verbs, they are more likely to be animal-specific.

Remind students once more that an animal's unique verbs can be turned into nouns (usually with just an -er suffix), and then let them gather their nouns. It might be a good idea to require them to gather extra nouns so that they can choose their best nouns to put on the graphic organizer. You might let them gather their nouns just on a blank piece of paper, then let them select their best nouns to put on the graphic organizer.

This one-page graphic organizer allows for students to think about three nouns. If you are requiring students to use more nouns than that, just give them multiple copies of this pre-writing worksheet. The second page of the G.O. has an example that shows how one column should look, when it's filled out. As students fill out their researched facts in the box provided, encourage them to put facts into their own words.

Be sure to tell your students up front how many columns they will need to fill out in order to have "enough" research for their reports. Again, younger students might be fine with just two columns filled out, while older students might need two (or more) copies of the graphic organizer.

With the organizer's columns filled out, students are ready to begin planning their reports' paragraphs or parts. Each paragraph or part needs to be about one of their columns of facts. Each paragraph or part should either begin or end with "We are [researched noun]" or "[Animal Name] are [researched noun.]" So if it was a report on bears, each section of the report will either begin or end with "We are gainers" or "Black bears are gainers."

Once students have each of their report's parts rough-drafted, two great conversations about the trait of organization can happen. First, talk about pacing; ask students to double-check to be sure that each part of their rough drafts has an equal amount of facts and a fairly equal amount of words. A student with one fact in one part and nine facts in another part will not have a report that has been well-paced. Second, require students to think about sequencing by asking them to spread out the parts of their reports and talking about which order it would make the most sense to present their reports' parts.

Have students assemble their reports' parts into one rough draft.

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.  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 all of Molly Grooms' books by clicking here!

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