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A Persuasive Writing Lesson Inspired by Humor
this writing across the curriculum assignment inspires voice from your students

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Lesson's Mentor Text:

My Brother Dan's Delicious by Steven L. Layne

This picture book has its main character come home to an empty house. Fearing that monsters might be waiting to eat him, the narrator speaks a monologue that attempts to convince the monsters that he's not the one to eat.

Welcome to this Lesson:

Don't Eat Me
Monologues

writing an argument that asks a monster or some other carnivore to dine elsewhere

This writing lesson comes from Corbett Harrison, who based it on a mentor text shared with him by fellow NNWP Consultant Amy Richards.

Encouraging humor in writing assignments!

Why We Must Run With Scissors: Voice Lessons in Persuasive Writing by Barry Lane and Gretchen Bernabei, two author-friends of WritingFix, shares dozens of lesson ideas that are so fun, your students might not even realize that they were learning valuable lessons about persuasive writing and voice. The lesson on this page was inspired by this book's philosophy.

Greetings, fellow teachers! My name is Corbett Harrison, and in 2001, I helped the Northern Nevada Writing Project launch this WritingFix website. For ten years, we sponsored lesson-building workshops throughout our region, and the best-of-the-best lessons created by our participants were posted at WritingFix for all teachers to freely access.

The lesson you find here is one that I created as a demonstration lesson for my "Seven Elements of a Differentiated Writing Lesson" Workshop. One major element of a good differentiated lesson is that it gives students opportunities to talk to each other about writing skills and the writing process before, during, and after they prepare to write. I particularly like how easy it is to motivate students to talk about their process when they enjoy the writing they are doing for a lesson.

If you enjoy this lesson's big ideas and want to hear more about the work that I do to inspire student writers of all ages, I invite you to visit my personal website--CorbettHarrison.com--where you can access the new lessons and training materials I have been developing since 2009.

By the way, I want to personally thank Amy Richards, the wonderful Nevada fourth grade teacher who introduced me to My Brother Dan's Delicious.

Quick Lesson Overview:

After being inspired by the main character's monologue from My Brother Dan's Delicious, students will create a humorous writer's notebook page that shares rhyming reasons why they would make terrible food for another hungry creature. Next, each writer will think of a fictional situation where they might be in danger of being eaten by a monster, alien, or wild animal. Students draft a five-part monologue that contains an introduction, conclusion, and three thoughtful, persuasive arguments against their being eaten. Students revise their monologues for word choice, adding words that strategically add positive or negative connotations.


Writing Across the Curriculum Ideas:

This lesson was written to be a creative writing exercise, but in the hands of a clever teacher, the lesson could be adapted to work with other content areas.

We believe this lesson would enrich a unit on:

  • the food chain (science)
  • studying a government that "devours" its citizens' rights (history)
  • corporations that "eat up" small businesses (economics)
  • or?

Trait/Skill Focus:

In the very best writing lessons, the teacher has pre-determined a trait-based skill that the students all need to show growth with as part of the lesson's objective. For students who can handle more than one trait at a time, the teacher has pre-determined additional skills to focus those students on while they go through the writing process. Here are this lesson's trait skills:

  • Voice - all students will write a monologue that sounds like a real person speaking; stronger writers will also add tone to their writing by focusing on word choice (see below)
  • Organization - all students will write a monologue with five distinct parts: introduction, conclusion, and three persuasive arguments with transitions that guide the reader to the next part; stronger writers will also make sure their three arguments have been well-paced, and that their introductions and conclusions somehow link to each other.
  • Word Choice - stronger writers will revise by adding words that show positive or negative attitudes (tones) about topics in the arguments, and by adding subtle alliterations like the ones included by Layne in his picture book.

Using the Mentor Text Skillfully:

This mentor text is delightful. Steven L. Layne’s main character in My Brother Dan's Delicious--Joseph Demorett II--relies on an emotional monologue to tell his story. He comes home and finds himself alone, which becomes a scary notion once he realizes that some monster might be waiting to eat him. The narrator's fear is personified, and his monologue tries to convince the personified entity to do anything else than come after him. His best argument is that his brother Dan will be home soon, and he explains multiple reasons why his brother would make a better meal than him. When Joseph hears the front door unlocking, he is sure the monster has finally found his way in the house, but his brother Dan comes in instead, and Joseph realizes how much his brother means to him.


a fun and funny mentor text!

Before sharing the whole book, start with just sharing a few pieces of the narrator's monologue. Xerox and cut out just the text from the page that begins with "Are there any monsters about?" through the page that starts "Finally, and most importantly there's the issue of taste." This will give you seven pieces of text. Scramble them up so they're out of order and tape them (out of order) to two pieces of paper. Xerox copies for your students.

Explain what a monologue is to your students; tell them it's a speech spoken by someone alone where they address an unseen audience. Shakespeare's characters often found themselves explaining their thoughts in monologues.

Pass out the two Xeroxed pages and explain that you've given your students a monologue from a book that is presented in an out of order fashion. Tell them briefly what the book is about and show them the cover illustration. Have them read it quietly, then have them work with a partner to put the seven pieces in the correct order. Ask them what clues they used to put it back in order. Discuss the power of well-placed transition words, and tell them they will be using thoughtful transitions as they write a monologue with five parts.

Before moving to the next step, be sure students notice two other elements in the text that they will attempt to imitate in their own monologues: 1) Joseph sounds like a real person and uses expressions (voice) that make him come across as a personality; and 2) Joseph uses subtle alliteration to improve his voice..."magnificent meal" and "succulent sibling" are just two great examples that can be spotted in the seven pieces of text that have been Xeroxed.


Creating a Writer's Notebook Page to Pre-write:

I have become a strong proponent of using writer's notebooks during pre-writing--the kind of tools discussed by Ralph Fletcher in his A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. There's really no better way to pre-write than to have students create a fun page in their writer's notebooks that invests them in the upcoming writing assignment. Explain, "Inspired by the mentor text, I want you to dedicate a page in your notebooks to a pretty fun idea today. I want you to come up with some original rhyming slogans on why certain parts of your body shouldn't be eaten. Advertisers use clever slogans because they're easy to memorize and remember, and I want you to pretend you're creating slogans that you want animals or monsters that might want to eat you so that they'll remember not to eat you."

Model the process after brainstorming a classroom appropriate list of body parts. Here are some examples that are easy to make rhymes with:

  • liver
  • brain
  • nose
  • eyes
  • feet
  • heart
  • ears
  • spine

The goal of these rhyming slogans is to give a good reasons why the writer shouldn't be eaten. It might help to brainstorm some reasons before making rhymes. For example, you don't want to eat me because:

  • I am not nutritious or good for you;
  • Other people taste better than me (which was Dan's technique in the book);
  • It's easier to obtain food at the grocery story;
  • It's against the law (murder!) to eat me;
  • Or...?

Working with partners or in small groups, have students create slogans like these:

  • Please refrain from eating my brain.
  • You'll get sick and shiver if you eat my liver.
  • "Don't eat my eyes!" the law decries.

Have each group share its best slogans on a chart or on the chalk/whiteboard. Have each student dedicate a page in their notebook to this topic: Rhyming Slogans for not Eating Me! In the center of the page, have them draw themselves; then, they are to surround their drawing with their favorite slogans, sketching an arrow between each slogan and the body part in question.

Students may borrow slogans from the class list for this task, but encourage them to continue to think about the task for the next 24 hours, and to add any original ones they thought of to their page.

I have included my personal notebook page for this lesson at right; my hope is that it inspires you to create your own page (or complete notebook!) to show your students. When you write alongside your students (especially on the more fun assignments, like this one), you will encourage more of them to participate. An additional way to make notebooks fun is to teach students to include Mr. Stick on their pages. Click here to view a really large version of my notebook model, which can be printed on a poster, if you have that ability.


Student and/or Teacher Models of the Writing:

A few days after the creation of the notebook page, inform the students they will now be writing a monologue (like Dan's) about not being eaten by something that wishes to eat them. Models are provided below to promote discussion among students before, during, and after the writing process.

When students look at the following models, be sure they are focused on voice, organization, and word choice.


5th grader--Danielle--
reads her monologue to her class

5th grader--Kimberly--
reads her monologue to her class
Click here to open/print these two fifth graders' monologues.


6th grader--Arturo--
reads his monologue to his class

6th grader--Zach--
reads his monologue to his class
Click here to open/print these two sixth graders' monologues.

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 make them a little bit more "famous" to the millions of teachers and students using our site!  It's pretty great motivation to see your writing posted at WritingFix! You can post up to three of your students' monologues at our posting page for this lesson.

If you use this lesson with students in grades not represented here, be sure to post if you have an excellent and inspirational sample from your classroom. If we end up publishing your students' work here at WritingFix, we will send you a complimentary copy of one of the NNWP Publications for your classroom.


Helping Students Choose Topics Well:

Ask your students to brainstorm different carnivorous creatures who--whether we like it or not--if they had an opportunity to be alone with us, they might think we'd make a pretty good meal. Brainstorm out loud for a few minutes until many possibilities come to the table: actual animals, real or imagined monsters, science fiction creatures, cannibals, etc.

Tell students they will need to choose a creature whom they will address in their monologue. Ask each student to write down three favorite ideas from the brainstorm. Once written, ask them to think about where the story (setting) might take place for their three favorite ideas. In their homes? In a cave? At a campground? On the planet Mars? Have them write a setting underneath each creature choice.

Now ask them what their narrator should be doing (plot) moments before the monologue begins. Sleeping? Exploring? Hiking? Have them write an -ing verb beneath each creature choice.

Have students partner up and explain their three choice ideas. Have them ask their partner to suggest which idea might make the best story and monologue. Repeat the process with a second partner. Then have students circle which option they think they'll be writing about.


Using the Graphic Organizer:

Before handing out the graphic organizer, remind students what Joseph (and the student writers in the models above) did well with the monologue: alternative options were presented as a persuasive technique. Joseph doesn't just say, "No, don't eat me," and he doesn't beg, "Please don't eat me." Instead, he provides an alternative with multiply reasons why the alternative is better than the monster's original plan.

The graphic organizer is designed to have students think of alternative arguments. Their three-part monologues will need to either focus on one alternative and explain it with three different pieces of proof (like Joseph's monologue does), or they will need to come up with three distinctly separate arguments that can be each explained briefly.

Here is the graphic organizer I designed to do this. The first row is filled out so I can show the students the amount of details I expect. The second row is only partially filled out so they students can complete the row while working with a partner. The rest of the graphic organizer allows them to brainstorm independent ideas.

I ask my students to begin the graphic organizer on one day, then come back to it a day later. I find they think of interesting and fresh ideas when they think about the assignment while away from my classroom.


Click here to open/print this two-page graphic organizer.

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.
  • 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.

 

Student Talk Throughout the Writing Process:

It is critical for students to talk to each other throughout the writing process. When students hear how other students are thinking about a writing assignment, all students benefit.

In this writing lesson, purposeful conversations should happen:

  • as they unscramble the mentor text;
  • as they look for the focus trait/skills in the student models;
  • as they make choices for their writing topics;
  • as they fill in their graphic organizers. As they finish each row, have them share their ideas with a different partner.

In addition, students can (and should talk) as they transfer their ideas from the graphic organizer to the following rough-draft planning sheet:


Click here to open/print this two-page rough draft planner.


Revision Suggestions:

Revision is a very important step during a skill-based writing lesson. When students revisit and think deeply about the lesson's focus trait/skill after a rough draft has been completed, they are more likely to remember strategies for using that skill the next time they are asked to write. We often gloss over the step of revision when writing lessons go longer than they were supposed to; make certain to find time to include real revision with this lesson.

Attach the following revision Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts to help them determine skill-based goals for their stories' revision:


Print on yellow paper or yellow Post-it® Note-sized templates.

Print on blue paper or blue Post-it® Note-sized templates.

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.
  • 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.

 

Once students have revised their stories, allow them to publish them on these final draft sheets, which allows them to illustrate their writing. Each student will need five copies of these sheets--one page for each part of their monologue.

Click here to open/print this publishing sheet.


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