A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix

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On-line Publishing:

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Teacher's Guide:

Showing with Participial Phrases

verbs (serving as adjective phrases) that launch action-packed sentences

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

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the picture book Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen. 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 Dancing in the Wings from Amazon.com, and you will help us keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you in advance for this type of support.

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:

Pre-step (before sharing the published model): Before sharing Debbie Allen's book, do a mini-lesson with your students on participial phrases. Tell them that using participial phrases can be a great way to vary sentences for rhythm and flow, and it can also be a great way to combine two short sentences when revising.

Use the overhead below to have students start thinking about participial phrases and their punctuation requirements. The writer's notebook lesson in the yellow box is an optional step for this lesson, and it also would work well as a learning log lesson, or as a group poster-making assignment.

A writer's notebook challenge for this lesson: From Corbett Harrison, WritingFix's Webmaster: "This writer's notebook lesson is intended to be used after a lesson on sentence combining using participial phrases. For this lesson, I wanted to have students combine visuals and written words on a notebook page so they would remember how to create and use a participle in their future sentences; I am always inspired by the combination of visuals and words that Marissa Moss uses in her Amelia's Notebook series, so I try to design my writer's notebook lessons to be both visual and word-based. My teacher model of this notebook page is my own attempt to keep a notebook like Amelia does.

"In my classroom, we use Mr. Stick as our 'margin mascot,' which means he is the visual that can appear on their notebook pages. Often this simple-to-draw character 'lives' in the margins, pointing out things on the page with his dialogue bubbles. For grammar- and punctuation-inspired notebook pages (like this one on participial phrases), we often bring in 'Professor Stick' to take the place of 'Mr. Stick.' When Professor Stick visits our pages, he is there to paraphrase a lesson on the conventions of language.

"For this lesson/notebook page, 'Professor Stick' was required to 1) explain what a participle is (in each student's own words) and 2) demonstrate making a participle in three steps. Here is the teacher model I made of this notebook page, which I show them briefly after they've learned the concept. My purpose in including my own notebook page here as a model is to inspire you to create your own to show your students, but I will understand if you want to use mine as yours. Here is a really large version of the page, if you want to zoom in on details or print my example on a poster, if you have that ability.

"First, I showed students my completed notebook page, explaining the two requirements above, then I had students create a draft on a piece of scratch paper. After they showed their rough drafts to each other, checking one another for correct spelling and punctuation, they carefully created 'final draft' of their notebook page, adding Professor Stick in their margins.

"My purpose in assigning this type of page for their notebooks is I want my students to have a creative-looking reference page for participles for future reference during writer's workshop. When I catch students forgetting to punctuate or even use participles, I ask them to flip through their notebooks until they find that page, then revisit what they've written. I truly believe having this page in their notebooks helps my students remember to use more sophisticated types of sentences."

Step one (sharing the mentor text):  Teachers should stress, as they read the cited picture book aloud, what the author has done particularly well in writing this story: in this case, author Debbie Allen has incorporated participial phrases as part of her sentence structure variety.  She uses them to add spice to the descriptions of characters; instead of merely using adjectives, Debbie Allen takes active verbs and turns them into participial phrases in order to help the reader visualize the trials and tribulations of her main character.

Read the book a second time, if desired, asking students to listen for and remember as many participial phrases from the story as they can. Tell students they will be writing a descriptive paragraph today about a character involved in an exciting moment, and they will use three different participial phrases in their paragraph.

The interactive activity on the Student Instructions Page is a follow-up to reading the story, and it attempts to inspire students to come up with an idea for their own original stories, using original participial phrases to add to their sentence variety.

Step two (introducing models of writing):    Before they write their own, 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 sentence fluency , since that's the focus of this lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's conventions 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 developmentally appropriate grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll make your hardest-working students "famous" to the thousands of teachers and students who use this lesson annually!  Visit this lesson's student samples page for details.

Step three (thinking and pre-writing): Students need to think of a situation where a character would be involved in a series of actions. A sporting event is a good possibility. Or a dance. Or a fifty yard dash. Or an exciting moment on the playground. Or even some sort of story about an escape.

If students can't think of an idea for a story, they can press the buttons on the Student Instructions Page, which will give them a participle and a character idea. One of those combinations might just inspire a bigger paragraph.

Start by having students write a list of short sentences about a character in one of these action-packed sequences; have them do this on a piece of paper and ask them to skip lines between sentences. Encourage students to use a different action verb in each short sentence.

Next, have students draw arrows between any two sentences whose actions might happen simultaneously; participial phrases don't work unless the actions of the sentence are more-or-less happening at the same time. Encourage students to draw at least three arrows between sets of sentences that could be happening at the same time, and encourage them to quickly add a new sentence to their lists if they don't have a sentence that meets that criteria yet, but they can think of one.

Encourage students to think of interesting adjectives or prepositional phrases they might add to their short sentences that have arrows between them. Ask them to add them in the margin or in the space beneath their original sentences.

Let them work with a partner to figure out how to combine their "arrowed" sentences with a participial phrase. Remind them that the participial phrase could go at the beginning, the end, or smack dab in the middle of the other sentence. Show them the examples on the overhead again, if necessary.

Each partner should create three sentences that have participial phrases, and their partners should help them check for correct commas and spelling.

Walk through the class, and help students make good choices about their participial phrases.

Finally, tell students they need to write a descriptive paragraph of five to seven sentences that show the character doing the action the writer has planned. Not all sentences should have participial phrases. Students should try to spread them throughout the paragraph. Students should try to have all three types of participles (beginning, middle and end) represented in their paragraphs.

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):  One tool for revision is 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. Great motivation can be spread among your students when you set-up a "top three contest" among your students, especially with the potential promise that those students' work might get moved to our official student samples page for this lesson, where thousands of teachers and students visit annually!

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 Debbie Allen by clicking here!

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