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A Revision Lesson inspired by a Real Author's Craft
a teacher-created lesson inspired by the NNWP's revision inservice class

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The Mentor Text:

Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an amazing novel built from words and pictures. The text and pictures provide a unique opportunity to show students how well-written words can paint visual pictures in readers' minds. This amazing mentor text is an excellent teaching tool if your showing students how to improve their use of details and word choice in writing.


This Lesson's Title:

in on a Prompt
about Friendship

This lesson was created by Nevada teacher
Kim Price
during a teacher workshop
on revision offered by the
Northern Nevada Writing Project

In Northern Nevada, we offer inservice workshops designed to help teachers strengthen their use of authentic revision strategies.

Barry Lane's Reviser's Toolbox is always a popular resource we share from during our classes, and it helped inspire the lesson on this page.

An important note for our WritingFix teacher users: This website is not a "writing program." We simply feature thoughtful lessons and classroom resources designed by outstanding writing teachers. Our model 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 a genuine writing teacher.

Brainstorming Topics to Write About:

The writing prompt for your students with this lesson is friendship. Challenge your students to think about their friends. Have students discuss with a partner what makes someone a friend, the criteria they have in selecting a friend. Ask if they have ever made a friend with someone they never expected to like the friendship in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Drafting the "Seed" Idea:

Write the topic—“An unlikely friend”—where students can see it. Even if some students are choosing to use an alternative piece of writing, have them all write to this prompt. Tell students they will have ten or fifteen minutes to write between five and ten sentences on the topic. They need to try and explain how they met their friend and why it was an unlikely paring.

Allow for ten minutes of sacred writing time, which means quiet writing time. Depending on the writing levels of your students you could have anywhere from a few sentences to students who will write five or six sentences.

Here is a teacher-made writing sample from this prompt that you can use when modeling revision for this lesson.

I met my best friend Joey when we were in third grade. We didn’t get along very well but my teacher made us sit in the same group. I always thought he was trying to steal my mechanical pencil, so I was mad at him a lot. We sometimes played soccer against each other at recess. I found out that he wasn’t trying to steal my pencils and I was wrong about him. Soon we were playing soccer on the same side and have been friends ever since.

Consider putting students' writing away for a day so that those who struggled to write have some time to recover from their struggle.

Inspiring Revision through the Mentor Text:

In his Reviser's Toolbox, Barry Lane shares many resources focused on a writer using imaginary "binoculars" when revising. Writers can aim their binoculars at their writing and focus or zoom in on things in their story's scene. If you have a copy of Reviser's Toolbox, be sure to use some of Barry's binocular-based teaching resources to strengthen this lesson.

Tell students they will be revising their unlikely friend prompt writing, but first they will study how a published author uses "binoculars" to show the reader through an unusual friendship by listening to a summary of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Students will also have the chance to explore the book by reading some selected chapters and looking at the pictures in this unique novel. features a four-and-a-half minute video with author Brian Selznick talking about this lesson's mentor text. You can share this video with your students.

Click here to access the video.

After giving the students a brief summary of the novel, allow them to explore the introduction through page 61. Direct them to pay close attention to the pictures and the details within the pictures. Ask them, while reading the text, to monitor how closely the words play off of the pictures. Ask, "How does the author lead the reader from the text into the pictures and back to the text?"

Author Brian Selznick is a master at using descriptive adjectives to paint a picture in the readers mind. His use of details and adjectives easily lead the text into the pictures. Have the students mark any parts of the chapter they are exploring with a sticky note that they like; whether it is a descriptive passage, a good example of well written adjectives, or a part that paints a picture in their mind.

How do the pictures help move the story along? Is it possible for your writers to sketch drawings within their own writing? If so, where would they put their pictures?

Authentic Revision:

After thoroughly exploring the first chapter of Selznick's novel, have the students take out their writing of an unusual friendship (or any piece of writing they are currently working on). Ask them if there are any places in their own writing where they could zoom in using their binoculars and add some descriptive details. Can they pick a few sentences and make them come alive with specific details? Are there parts that paint a picture in the reader's mind? Could the reader sketch a detailed drawing about the writing after reading their writing?

Ask your writers how they might improve one or two of their sentences from their unusual friendship prompt using the zooming idea and the detail skill(s) they have talked about in the mentor text. Ask them to revise just a sentence (or two) from their original student sample that shows the mentor text’s skill in their own writing.

You might consider showing one or two different ways to revise a sentence from the modeled writing so that students realize they have choices.

  • I always thought he was trying to steal my mechanical pencil, so I was mad at him a lot. (original version)


  • My mechanical pencil was an object of his desire and more often that not, it was in his hand being used without my permission. (revised version)

Remind them that this is revision, not editing (which comes next), so they should not worry about spelling and punctuation. This is their chance to get their ideas down a second time, but this time in a way that zooms in on details.

Below is a completely revised version of the model that might inspire your student writers.

Joey usually had a look of mischief worn on his face. He was a master at seeming to pay attention to the teacher while skillfully looking out of the corner of his eye. Joey joined my third grade classroom after the school year had started. He was the “new” kid and his desk was right next to mine. My mechanical pencil was an object of his desire and more often than not, it was in his hand being used without my permission. This would infuriate me to the point that I all I could do was stare at him with the most evil face I could create. During recess we would go out to play soccer and were usually on opposite teams. I would try with all of my might to somehow make him trip, miss the goal or get a foul. I was usually unsuccessful with my attempts-he was just a better soccer player than I was. I soon discovered that Joey was not trying to steal my pencils, he just didn’t have any of his own and he was afraid to ask me if he could borrow mine because of the mean faces I would make when I looked at him. I had to laugh hysterically at that and soon we were best friends playing on the same team.


Extend the Learning:

Assign a few more quick prompts to your students over the next week or two. This time, before students start writing, remind them of Brian Selznick's writing and Barry Lane's zooming techniques. Challenge them to use those tricks in their first drafts so they can try some new craft tricks during revision time.

Share your Students' Improved Writing:
(and earn a free resource for your classroom)

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!  If you obtain both a thoughtful rough draft and an even better revised draft from a student for this lesson (in typed, scanned, or photographed form), they can be posted at this blog page. If we select your student's sample to be moved from the blog to this page at WritingFix, we will send you a free NNWP Print Resource for your classroom.

At WritingFix, we aim to safely publish students' writing from all over the world. We're looking for student samples to post for this page's write-up! If your students write a rough draft that is improved upon by this craft lesson, we want to see both drafts! If we feature one of your student's writing on this page, we will send you a complimentary copy of one of the NNWP Publications for your classroom.

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