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A Right-Brained Writer's Notebook Prompt from WritingFix

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A Grammar in Context Writing Lesson!

A WritingFix Original...
The Who/What/Where/When Game

Camping Sentences

learning to move adverbs and prepositional phrases around in sentences to craft more fluent and more interesting writing

This prompt was revised in 2011 as part of our "Year of Writer's Notebooks" Project.

The Mentor Text:

When I Go Camping with Grandma by Marion Dane Bauer is not only a great mentor text for teaching narrative writing, but it will inspire original stories about camping if you share it while using this prompt.

What's "Grammar in Context?"

Grammar worksheets don't work for every student; they are designed to teach material to certain learning styles, but they certainly don't help every student learn. The prompt on this page is designed to give students an opportunity to talk about grammatical terms (nouns, verbs, adverbs, and prepositions) as they create a personal piece of writing for their writer's notebooks and possibly their writing portfolios. When students apply grammar terms to a piece of their own writing (as opposed to the writing examples found on worksheets or in Daily Oral Language drills), a different type of learning opportunity comes to the surface; this is called "learning grammar in context." For more information, check out Constance Weaver's Teaching Grammar in Context.

Overview of this Notebook Prompt & Lesson:

For this prompt, students create a sentence about camping (a real trip or a fictitious trip) using the sentence generator below. After manipulating and illustrating the sentence, they write a longer story or description using the sentence as inspiration.

The goal of this writing activity is to teach students to "craft" thoughtful sentences while using grammatical terms in their conversations about the activity. This prompt focuses on:

  • nouns: persons, places, things, and ideas that serve as subjects and objects in sentences
  • action verbs: the prompt generator below exclusively uses action verbs, not linking verbs
  • adverbs: modifiers of verbs that tell us where, when, why, and how a verb was performed by a sentence's subject; some adverbs are single words (tomorrow, quickly, etc.) but most adverbs take the shape of a prepositional phrase (in the cellar, in the morning)
  • prepositional phrases: when serving as adverbs, prepositional phrases can usually be moved to the beginning, end, or middle of a sentence; teaching students to move prepositional phrases around is a fine way to teach them about sentence variety and sentences that sound rhythmic--both skills of the sentence fluency trait.

As students create a crafted sentence to illustrate in their writer's notebook, require them to use the four grammatical terms above. When students apply grammatical vocabulary to sentences they care about (and know they will use in an original story), they are more likely to remember and understand the vocabulary terms at a deeper cognitive level.

Students are to press each button on the prompt machine below, creating an original sentence. Then, they are to press the buttons again, changing pieces of their sentence until they end up with a sentence they really like. After copying their sentences into their writer's notebooks or journals, they are to move the sentence's adverbs around to a variety of places, creating three of four versions of the same sentence. In their notebooks, they illustrate their sentence.

Then, taking their favorite version of the sentence, they create a story around it. The sentence can serve as their stories' introductions, their stories' conclusions, or they can 'hide' their sentence inside their stories and then challenge a fellow classmate to find the hidden sentence in their rough draft.

Students can be invited to choose to revise their stories during an upcoming writer's workshop block and include final drafts of their camping stories in their writing portfolios.

Use our Interactive Prompt/Idea Generator On-Line:
(or replicating its big ideas on a class chart)

This camping-themed button-pressing game (in the blue box below) was created during an inservice class by Nevada teacher Kim Awisus.

If you have the ability to project this page for your students to all see, you can do a whole-class demonstration that helps them all find one favorite sentence idea to record in their writer's notebook. Simply ask your students to help you choose a button to click on; keep doing this (several dozen times) until all your students can piece together sentence that has a where adverb and a when adverb.

You can also--if you have a designated computer lab time at your school--have your students find this page and independently click the buttons, recording favorite ideas on a piece of paper to carry back with them to class and do the writing assignment at their desks.

If you don't have the ability to project or computer lab time, look below the blue box for suggestions on replicating the interactive prompt with less technology.

Press the four buttons until you create an actual sentence
that you know you can use in a longer story about camping!




Ways to replicate this interactive prompt without using technology: It's simple; make four columns on your whiteboard or chalkboard or on chart paper, labeling them noun, verb, adverb #1, and adverb #2. Write four or five of each (borrowed from the button game above or original camping-related ideas) to give your students a model; then, have your students work in pairs to create more camping-related words and phrases that could go in each column. When students share their ideas out loud, record the very best ones on the classroom chart. With a chart created, tell students they are to all create an original sentence of their liking by choosing a word from each column that ultimately creates a sentence that makes sense; ideas can be modified from the chart to help sentences make more sense.

Example Class Chart
Who? (Noun)
Did What? (Verb)
Where? (Adverb)
When? (Adverb)
An experienced camper became terribly lost on a bed of pine needles at high noon
The group of bird watchers broke down the equipment deep in the forest just in time
The camper's dog sipped hot chocolate near the cliffs just after dawn.
The girl scout lit the campfire on the lakeshore when no one was watching

Analyzing the Mentor Text's Adverbs:

Like most pictures books, When I Go Camping with Grandma contains sentences with enough adverbs (single word and prepositional phrase versions) that can be written on the board and analyzed. Ask, "Where is the Who or the subject of the sentence? Where is the Did What or the verb of the sentence? Where is the Where and/or When or the adverb(s) of the sentence?"

Write a few of the book's sentences that have where and when adverbs in them. Demonstrate to students how these adverbs can be moved to different places in the sentence and still make sense; in fact, moving adverbs is a great skill for students to work with as they revise writing for sentence fluency.

Here are three example sentences from Brave Irene with the adverbs underlined. Ask students which adverbs could be moved to different places in the sentence, leaving the sentence to still make sense. Which adverbs probably shouldn't move?

Two Original Sentences by Marion Dane Bauer:

In the morning I pop my head out of the tent. The moon floats low in the bluing sky like a balloon left from a night party.

A Manipulated Sentence:

Out of the tent I pop my head in the morning. In the bluing sky, like a balloon left from a night party, the moon floats low.

Another Original Sentence by Marion Dane Bauer:

Together, we'll watch [the fish] wiggle away into the black silk water.

A Manipulated Sentence:

Into the black silk water, we'll watch [the fish] wiggle away together.

Re-read When I Go Camping with Grandma, asking students to listen for a favorite sentence about camping. Tell them to choose a camping-related sentence they can illustrate in their writer's notebook.

Creating a Writer's Notebook Page:

For pre-writing, have students create a page in their notebooks or journals for this lesson. They should title the page Camping Sentences, and they should partition the page as follows:

A Writer's Notebook Page:
Camping Sentences
A When I Go Camping with Grandma Sentence:




(Based on strong adverbs, record a favorite sentence--or two--from the mentor text and illustrate it in this box.)

My Original Camping Sentence:




(Write sentence three ways, choose the "best crafted" sentence from the three, then illustrate in this box.)

For the top-half of the page, they are to carefully copy a sentence from the original text and then illustrate it. You might have them color code their sentence's subject, verb, and adverbs.

For the bottom-half of the page, they are to copy a sentence inspired by the interactive sentence-building prompt on this page. Before illustrating their own sentence, they are to manipulate the adverbs and write it down in one, two, or three different ways.

For inspiration as they create their own pages, show students 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 create 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 or notebook mascot, it can actually be pretty fun to make your teacher model to show them. 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 are 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.

Models of Writing this Page Might Inspire:

A few days after they have finalized the notebook pages, explain to students that they should consider creating a paragraph description or a whole story based on their best camping sentence during their next writer's workshop block. They can use their favorite sentence from the notebook page as a) the story's introduction, b) the story's conclusion, or c) as a "hidden" sentence somewhere in the middle of their story; if they "hide" the sentence, they can challenge a classmate to read the whole story and see if they can locate it!

To model what a completed story looks like, show them the following teacher model inspired by our webmaster's own writer's notebook page.

Solo Camper
a story from Mr. Harrison, WritingFix's Webmaster, inspired by his writer's notebook page.

Deep in the forest, just after dawn, the girl scout became terribly lost. Her scout leader, after camp had been set up the afternoon before, had handed her special map coordinates in an envelope. Candace was honored by this gesture; to serve as "Solo Camper" on one of the camp outs meant the troop had not only nominated but also had voted her as the most capable and skilled campers. This was indeed an honor. Everyone felt confident she could handle sleeping alone in the woods, some distance from where they camped.

Yesterday, Candace had followed the map's coordinates,using her compass with great skill. Just as the sun set, she had found the campsite where she was to spend the night. She fallen asleep quickly, worn down by the hike. A few night-sounds had woken her during the night, but she hadn't been too scared, which surprised her. Fear only had taken over when, while climbing from her sleeping bag at sunrise, she had stepped on her compass, shattering it and rendering it useless.

Every direction to hike back looked the same in these woods. Too far from her troop's camp, she heard nothing but birdsong, the wind through the tall pine trees, and her own breathing. "Stay calm," she told herself as she realized the disappointment her fellow scouts would feel upon learning of her situation.

She began walking, having no idea if she was going in the right direction. The wolf watched her through the trees...

An Invitation to Share Camping Stories!
(Publish your students! It's incredibly motivating!)

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 non-represented grade levels for this writer's notebook prompt!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll help make a few of your writer's from class a bit more "famous" to the thousands of teachers and students who use WritingFix every year.

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.

Resources for Students Writing Longer Stories:

The goal of a great writer's notebook page is to inspire students to write an even longer (and better) story during an upcoming writer's workshop block. Encourage your students to come back to their notebook pages or their character paragraphs and write a longer story for their portfolios.

If they pursue this lesson's ideas in a longer piece of writing, here are some tools that will help them continue to explore sentence fluency skills as they expand their ideas.


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