Drafting the "Seed" Idea:
The day of class, show students “Some Student Thumbnails” (on page 78 in Barry Lane’s The Reviser’s Toolbox). Point out that each short piece of writing contains at least one sensory detail. The older the student, the more types of sensory information shows up in the writing, but the pieces of writing remain essentially the same length. Show students that, in each piece, there is a single most important character that is either being described or who is at the center of the action.
Ask students to remember a time in their own lives in which they were at the center of the action. Ask the students to write about that moment, using as many important sensory details as they can remember.
Here is a rough draft written by one of Nancy's eighth graders that she uses when she models revision for this lesson. Nancy teaches middle school , so feel free to use this sample or to create your own sample that is appropriate to the grade level or skill level of your students.
Rough Draft--Center of Attention Prompt
from Bob, eighth grade writer
The car flew down the tracks into the pitch black of the tunnel. The wind whispered down around her, telling her of things to come…She knew she would fall. A pinpoint of light appeared at the end of the tunnel, growing bigger by the second. The screech of metal and the screams of terror from the people joined together to form one, inaudible noise. A small bubble of hysteria rose in her then and her screams mixed with the cacophony of sound around her. The only person not screaming was her brother Bob. He was laughing like the maniac he was. She heard her brother yell, “We’re going down!” and then she fell.
Consider putting the 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:
Now that the students have a first draft, prepare them to look at the last paragraph of the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Before students look at the paragraph, point out that J.K. Rowling is a good writer, and we can write in a similar way too. Talk about the fact that this piece of writing uses things the students have seen before in stories they have read and in writing they have done. Her little paragraph uses setting, characters, emotion, and a little bit of dialogue. They can use these things in their writing too!
After you have read this paragraph to the students, work together as a class to list all of the elements that they see in Rowling’s piece. Use this “Harry Potter” graphic organizer that Nancy designed.
Next, have students fill out this I Can Write Like J.K. Rowling graphic organizer before they begin their next draft. Talk about how Rowling used the essentials of setting, characterization, emotion and dialogue to tell her story, but what brings her story to life is who she is focused on. This paragraph is a series of circles within circles, all of which surround and protect Harry. Harry’s hand encircles a letter; Harry is wrapped inside a blanket; the Dursley’s front porch is surrounded by hedges which are moving in a breeze, all of which is under the canopy of an inky sky.
Here are some improvements eighth-grader Bob added to his rough draft to show how he used Rowling's inspiration to revise his rough draft.
The car flew like lightning…
A pinpoint of light appeared at the end of the tunnel, so bright it was hard to look at…
His laughter was an odd noise, full of joy and excitement…
Now students Barry Lane’s “Make a Zoom Book,” on page 44 from Reviser’s Toolbox. Ask students to think about the most important object in each of their stories, draw just that object in the first box, and then with each succeeding box, step just a bit further away, and add the new details that they can see in that part of their story. When students have finished their “zooms,” have them go back to their first drafts, re-write them and, as they are going through the second draft, add some interesting details from their zooms that didn’t make it into their original drafts. Most zooms contain details of setting and characterization that can be added to stories.
Here is a twelve-box zoom storyboard that they can draw their stories on.
by Bob, eighth grade writer
The car flew like lightning down the tracks into the pitch black of the tunnel. The wind whispered down around her, telling her of things to come…She knew she would fall.
A pinpoint of light appeared at the end of the tunnel, so bright it was hard to look at, and grew bigger by the second. The screech of metal, high and shrill, and the screams of terror from the people joined together to form one, inaudible noise. A small bubble of hysteria rose in her then, and her screams mixed with the cacophony of sound around her, high and loud and full of the fear and terror she felt for herself.
The only person not screaming was her brother, Bob. He was laughing like the maniac he was. His laughter was an odd noise, full of joy and excitement in the midst of all this terror. She heard her brother yell, “We’re going down!” and then she fell.
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 flows more like poetry.
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 J. K. Rowling's craft tricks and Barry Lane's zooming technique. 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.