A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: VOICE Support Trait: CONVENTIONS

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Just the Facts, Ma'am

bringing in Joe Friday's voice to solve an original, silly mystery

The writing of author Margie Palatini is currently inspiring student writers to try new techniques with the trait of voice. Join us in teaching (and adapting) this on-line lesson and sharing your students' work.

You can publish up to three of your students' edited and finished stories at this page.

Use these samples to inspire your student writers! Discussing the strengths of published student samples before, while, and after using this on-line assignment is important. If your students are engaged in trait- or skill-inspired discussions about any of the samples we've posted here, they will produce better writing, especially if you help them take their writing all the way through the writing process.

Thank you, those who share their students' writing with us.

Student Samples Being Sought:
Grades 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12

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Student Samples: Elementary

The Cat File
by Brian, fifth grade writer

11:15 a.m. Monday, January 12, 2009.

This is the family room. I was sleeping. On the rocking chair. With my family. I’m Bob, and I’m a cat. The television was on. It was boring. Very boring. Then I got the call.


12:02 a.m.

I am at Puss in Boots’ cottage.

Puss reported some trouble. “Meow! Meow!” he meowed.

“Just the facts, Puss. Just the facts,” I purred sternly.

“I’m missing my boots! Someone took my boots! I was taking a bath so I slipped my boots off. I put my boots near the cat door, and when I came back, they were gone! The Big Bad Wolf is always the bad guy, so you should go find him in the forest. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the burglar. He is every other time.”


(Click here to read/print Brian's complete story, as well as a story by a classmate.)

The Dog Files
by Wyatt, sixth grade writer

12:38 p.m. This is the back yard.

I was lounging about in the big back yard with a pool. It was quiet. Too quiet. Then we got the call.

"Detective Dog," the duck gasped, "someone has stolen my blue umbrella!"

"Have you made anybody mad lately?" I asked her, anxious to get on the job.

"No," she told me,"but I did see Owl flying away with something in his hand."

"OK," I replied, "I will find your umbrella."  I was off to the Great Tree.

Dum Da Dum Dum Dummmmmmmmm

1:02 p.m. This is the Great Tree.

I walked up to the huge brown tree with limbs that looked like hands while Owl's big yellow eyes watched my every move.

"Hi, Detective," he said, breaking the silence.

"Hello, Owl," I replied. "Do you have Duck's umbrella by any chance?"

"No, I don't," he stated, "but I did see Bear walking with an umbrella shaped object in his big furry hands."

I was off to Bear's den.

Dum Da Dum Dum Dummmmmmmmm

(Click here to read/print Wyatt's complete story.)

Student Samples: Middle School

The Case of the Jumpy Monkee
by Lucie, seventh grade writer

It was eight o’ clock in the morning in Lyon, France, and headquarters was hoppin’. My name is Grenouille—Detective Grenouille to you (aka “La Frog”). I was swamped in problems. None as important as Miss Monkee’s, though. She had gone bananas over some lost bananas. I was a hop, skip and a jump away from the Monkee residence, so I decided to check it out. My partner, S. Cargo (aka, — well, I think you know what) decided to meet me there.

I reached Miss Monkee’s at ten past eight. As I walked in the door, I caught a whiff of fresh bread and was assaulted by a shrill cry as Miss Monkee threw herself at me. “I hate to say this,” she sobbed. I detected a faint southern drawl in her voice. “But the banana thief caaain be no other than my repulsive neighbor, Mia Birdie.”

“Hold on a sec, now. Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts,” I calmly requested.

“But I saw her,” she wailed. She walked to the front of her kitchen and stood next to her stove. “I was standin’ right here,” she explained in between sniffs. “I had just opened the windows on the right side of the kitchen.” She demonstrated this by trekking down her long kitchen and cranking out the dirty windows. “Then I heard a noise. I looked out my kitchen window and saw Mia runnin’ through the yard with her arms full of my bananas.”

Her story seemed as airtight as a Ziploc freezer bag. But I knew otherwise.


(Click here to read/print Lucie's complete story, as well as a story by two classmates.)

by John, eighth grade writer

This is the zoo. My name is Pandective. I am a panda, and the animal detective here at the New York Zoo. Rumors have been going around lately. I don’t speak “Human” very well, but it sounds like an animal is missing.

It was night. I am not some dumb animal, so I can easily pick my lock. I walked out of my cage and headed over to Monkey’s for some answers because his “Human” is better than mine. I found Monkey’s cage and when he appeared, I asked “Did an animal go missing and, if so, which one?”

Monkey replied, “It was Lion, but I had nothing to do with it, I swear!” His eyes were very shifty and he talked loud and fast. Monkey then said, “You should go talk to Python. I am sure she knows something.”

I slowly trotted over to Python. Python is kind of creepy. For one thing, I always have trouble seeing her in her terrarium. That, and she drags out her “S’s.”

Out of nowhere, a voice said, “A pleas-s-s-sure to s-s-s-see you, Pandective. Find any clues-s-s-s yet?”

(Click here to read/print John's complete story, as well as a story by one of his classmates.)

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