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A Right-Brained Writer's Notebook Prompt from WritingFix

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Other Mentor Texts to Consider Sharing if Teaching this Lesson:

A Lime, a Mime, a Pool of Slime: More about Nouns by Brian Cleary

Merry-Go-Round: a book about nouns by Ruth Heller

A Cache of Jewels: a book about collective nouns by Ruth Heller

The Power of Serendipity!

Serendipitous Nouns

a writer's notebook page based on an interesting noun collection that is built over time and turned into a story

This prompt was revised in 2010 are part of our "Year of Writer's Notebooks" Project.

The mentor text that inspired this prompt is Brian P. Cleary's A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What is a Noun? Cleary celebrates interesting nouns of all types in this mentor text that cleverly teaches students how to identify a part of speech

Purchase A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink at (using our link) and help keep WritingFix free to use!

Washoe County teachers, click here to search for this book at the county library.

Overview of this Notebook Prompt:

After learning the basic definition of noun -- a person, place, thing, or idea -- students begin a interesting noun collection page in their writer's notebooks. After collecting personally interesting, common (not proper) nouns for several weeks, the students choose their best person noun, place noun, and thing noun and write a descriptive paragraph that uses and describes all three. The goal of crafting the paragraph is that it can--if well-written--be used as the first paragraph of a longer story.

Where this Prompt Originated:

In April 2001, WritingFix was launched. This site began with twenty-one interactive prompts that had students pressing buttons to receive ideas for writing. The interactive button game below was one of the original twenty-one prompts.

In 2010--our "Year of Writer's Notebooks"--we revised this prompt by adding a mentor text suggestion and a writer's notebook page element.

Introducing the Mentor Texts:

Write the definition of noun where all can see: a person, place, thing or idea. Write the nouns man and person on the board. Write the nouns room and place beneath them. Write the nouns object and thing on the board.

Tell students they will be learning about nouns today, acquiring the basic definition, but then they will be challenged to create a list of interesting nouns. Point to the nouns on the board and explain, these are nouns, but they aren't very interesting words because they don't help you see much in the way of specific details.

Cross out man, and replace it with magician. Cross out room and replace it with attic. Cross out object and replace it with flashlight. Explain how the nouns just became more interesting because now they are more specific. Say, "If I asked you to write a story about a man in a room with an object, versus if I asked you to write a story about a magician in an attic with a flashlight, chances are you'd be more excited with the second option. That's what specific nouns do--they inspire better writing."

Bring out Brian Cleary's A Mink, A Fink, A Skating Rink. Tell students, after hearing the mentor text, they will need to choose what they thought were the five most interesting nouns used by the author. Enjoy the book. You might even consider reading it a second time, giving students a chance to revise their list of five nouns.

Have students share their favorite nouns with each other.

Creating a Writer's Notebook Page:

Tell students you'd like them to devote a page in their notebooks to interesting nouns. Today, you'd like them to add some interesting nouns to the page, and throughout the next month, they will be invited to come back to the page and add more nouns. So their job is to be listening for interesting nouns, and they are to remember them for the next time they open their writer's notebooks

Here is how students should partition a notebook page to complete this task:

A Writer's Notebook Page:
Interesting Noun Collection
Interesting persons
Interesting places
Interesting things
  • leave room for fifteen or more nouns in this column
  • leave room for fifteen or more nouns in this column
  • leave room for fifteen or more nouns in this column
Illustrations of my most interesting nouns:

When the lists are complete, students will select the most interesting noun from each column and draw an illustration for it in these three boxes.

Show them your own model of a finished notebook page and/or our webmaster's teacher model, which we have included (at left) with this lesson as our attempt to inspire you to make your own, but we will be understanding if you want to use ours as yours. If you are teaching your students to use Mr. Stick in notebooks to serve as a journal and notebook mascot, it can actually be really fun to make your teacher model. Your kids can gain real inspiration from having proof that you had fun as you created your own notebook page; we truly believe kids can have fun while learning as long as the teacher is modeling what smart and fun looks like at all times. Sample notebook pages from a teacher can be inspirational! Click here for a really large version of our webmaster's notebook page, which allows you to really zoom in on details or print on a poster, if you have that ability.

The Interactive Button Game:

If your students have trouble thinking of interesting and original nouns, the buttons below are designed to inspire their creativity. They can click until a name that appeals to them "pops up."



Write a story starring this character:



With names, students are ready to create their writer's notebook pages. Once the students have created, drawn, and added some details, show them the two introductions from the cited books again. Ask, "What would a two- or three-sentence introduction about your character need to sound like to invite your reader into the story?"

Have students--perhaps over a week's time--craft several introductions about their original characters.

Invite students, during upcoming writer's workshop blocks, to transform their introductions from their notebook pages into longer stories.

Resources for Students Writing Longer Stories:

An Invitation to Share Students' Finished Stories:

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use WritingFix lessons and prompts. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently seeking student samples for all grade levels for this writer's notebook prompt!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!

You can post your students' finished stories (as well as photographs of the notebook pages that inspired them) at this posting page set-up for this on-line lesson.


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