Grade 3-5 Unit 2: Personal Narrative
Essential Questions:


How do authors tell their own stories so as to compel their readers?
What writing strategies do authors use to strengthen their personal stories?
Common Core Standards:
Grade 3
Grade 4
Grade 5
3.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using
effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
a) Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an
event sequence that unfolds naturally.
b) Use dialogue and description of actions, thoughts, and feelings to develop
experiences and events or show the response of characters to situations.
c) Use temporal words and phrases to signal event order.
d) Provide a sense of closure.
3.W.4 With guidance and support from peers and adults, produce writing in which the
development an organization are appropriate to task and purpose.
3.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen
writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
4.W.3 Write narrative to develop real or imagined experiences or events using
effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
a) Orient the read by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or
characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
b) Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the
responses of characters to situations.
c) Use a variety of transitional words and phrases to manage the sequence of
events.
d) Use concrete words and phrases to convey experiences and events precisely.
e) Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.
4.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization
are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
4.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen
writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
5.W.3 Write narrative to develop real or imagined experiences or events using
effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
a) Orient the read by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or
characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
b) Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to
develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to
situations.
c) Use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the
sequence of events.
d) Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences
and events precisely.
e) Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.
5.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization
are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
5.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen
writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, or trying a new approach.
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
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
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Write personal narratives that use strategies to strengthen ideas, organization, and word
choice.
Use the strategy “show don’t tell” to strengthen their ideas.
Plan their writing to support drafting of their ideas.
Write leads and endings that engage the readers in the story.
Use precise nouns, action verbs, and choice adjectives in their writing.
Revise their writing for ideas, organization, and word choice.
Edit their writing using a checklist.
Key Academic Vocabulary:
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Personal narrative
Story elements: Plot, character, setting
Parts of Speech: Nouns, adjectives, verbs
Six Traits of Writing: Ideas, organization, word choice, conventions
Outline of Unit 2: Personal Narrative
Day 1
Introducing
Mentor Text: The
Genre of
Personal
Narrative
Day 6
Bring Your
Characters to Life
Trait: Ideas
Day 11
Making a Plan
Trait:
Organization
Day 16
Use Choice
Adjectives
Trait: Word
Choice
Day 21
Choose a seed
idea for personal
narrative
Day 26
Revise for ideas,
organization, and
word choice
based upon
lessons for the
unit.
Day 7
Day 12
Using Transition
Words
Trait:
Organization
Day 17
Day 22
Create a timeline
for seed idea
Day 27
Use Editing
Checklist
Day 3
Use Plot, Place,
and Character in
a Story
Trait: Ideas and
Organization
Day 8
Describe What
Your Characters
Look Like
Trait: Ideas
Day 13
Write a Lively
Lead
Trait:
Organization
Day 18
Use Precise
Nouns
Trait: Word
Choice
Day 23
Begin drafting
about #1 only
Day 28
Final Draft
Day 5
Show Don’t Tell
Trait: Ideas
Day 9
Using Dialogue
to Bring
Characters to
Life Trait: Ideas
Day 14
Day 19
Day 24
Continue
drafting
Day 29
Final Draft
Day 10
Use Details to
Bring the Setting
Alive
Trait: Ideas
Day 15
Come Up with
the Right Ending
Trait:
Organization
Day 20
Use Verbs that
Describe
Trait: Word
Choice
Day 25
Continue drafting
Day 30
Author’s
Celebration
Day One: Introducing Mentor Text: The Genre of Personal Narrative
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific
that you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you
will reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly
how to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Identify the difference between reading a piece as a reader and
reading as a writer.
 Name several strategies used by mentor authors in writing
personal narratives.
 Copies of “Eleven” and other mentor personal narratives
I am so excited about the writing that you have done so far this year. I
know that your stories are important to you, but I have also noticed that
your writing really matters to your readers too. I noticed… [Share a few
anecdotes about the students’ writing has affected their readers.]
So I want you to remember that your writing matters because you are
writing for your readers.
Today we are starting a new unit of study about personal narrative
writing, and this time your goal is to write even more powerful stories,
stories that will make your readers laugh, cry, get angry, or think about
something in a new way. You have that power as writers and I can’t wait
to help you get started!
Today I want to teach you that one way to make your writing powerful is
to study the work of published authors. We can read their writing and
then ask, “What did this author do that I could do in my writing?”
I want to share a piece of writing by Sandra Cisneros with you today. This
story is called “Eleven.” I chose this text there are parts of the story that
resemble the kind of writing that you will try to do in this unit. This story
will be our mentor text. Listen and watch as I read and experience this
story. [Read aloud and demonstrate experiencing the story. To show
this, act out small parts such as Mrs. Price holding the sweater with
disdain between two fingers. Stop periodically to think aloud and point
out how you are “experiencing” the story. Read up to the line in the
story that reads “Not mine, not mine, not mine.”]
I can really picture this story in my mind! I felt like I was Rachel, moving
that red sweater to the corner of my desk with a ruler so that I didn’t
have to touch it!
Active Engagement
Now, I need to think like a writer. As a writer, I need to stop and ask
myself, “What do I notice about this story? What has Sandra Cisneros
done that I could try the next time I write a story?” I call this reading with
my writer’s eye. Let me take a look at the story using my writer’s eye.
Hmmm…. I notice that Cisneros has written about one small episode in
her life, one that other people might not think was very important, but
one that I think really mattered to her. [Add this idea to anchor chart.] I
also notice that this author writes her story from so much detail that I
feel like I am right there reliving every moment. One way Cisneros does
this is by using the exact words that Mrs. Price said. [Add this idea to
anchor chart.]
Let’s try this together. I’ll continue reading. As I read, I want you to
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it
with me…”
experience this text and make a movie in your mind. [Read aloud “Eleven
from “Not mine, not mine, not mine.” to “all itchy and full of germs that
aren’t mine.”]
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Have students look through different examples of personal narrative.
Have them look and record in their notebooks what qualities of writing
do they observe in what they read.
Independent Writing
So, I want you to always remember that writers learn from other writers.
As a writer, you must read in two ways. First, read to experience the
story. Then, really read like a writer. Study stories and ask yourself,
“What has this writer done that I could try?” This study will make your
writing even better and more powerful!
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Now, I’ll reread the same section and I want you to really think like a
writer. Notice what Sandra Cisneros does that allows you to experience
her story and ask yourself, “What could I try in my writing?” [Reread
section of text.] Turn and talk to your partner about what you noticed.
[Share a few ideas and add to anchor chart.]
Today during independent writing continue your study of personal
narrative writing. There is a collection of personal narratives at each
table. Read and experience these stories. Then study them with your
writer’s eye. List what the authors have done that you can try. We’ll
work quietly for about 15 minutes and then come back together to share.
Have students share one part of a personal narrative with a partner that
they found powerful.
Ask: What did your writer’s eye notice about these stories? Who found
something in a story that they plan to try in their own writing?
Have students name some of the key qualities of personal narratives that
they discover and record on an anchor chart. For example, an anchor
chart might include the following:
1. Write about a small moment
2. Details make you feel you are there.
3. Show rather than tell.
4. Convey strong feelings
“Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros.
What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when
you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four,
and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you
expect to feel eleven, but you don't. You open your eyes and everything's just like
yesterday, only it's today. And you don't feel eleven at all. You feel like you're still ten.
And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that's the part of you that's still ten.
Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama's lap because you're scared,
and that's the part of you that's five. And maybe one day when you're all grown up maybe
you will need to cry like if you're three, and that's okay. That's what I tell Mama when
she's sad and needs to cry. Maybe she's feeling three.
Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk
or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one.
That's how being eleven years old is.
You don't feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even
months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don't feel smart eleven, not
until you're almost twelve. That's the way it is.
Only today I wish I didn't have only eleven years rattling inside me like pennies in a tin
Band-Aid box. Today I wish I was one hundred and two instead of eleven because if I
was one hundred and two I'd have known what to say when Mrs. Price put the red
sweater on my desk. I would've known how to tell her it wasn't mine instead of just
sitting there with that look on my face and nothing coming out of my mouth.
"Whose is this?" Mrs. Price says, and she holds the red sweater up in the air for all the
class to see. "Whose? It's been sitting in the coatroom for a month."
"Not mine," says everybody, "Not me."
"It has to belong to somebody," Mrs. Price keeps saying, but nobody can remember. It's
an ugly sweater with red plastic buttons and a collar and sleeves all stretched out like you
could use it for a jump rope. It's maybe a thousand years old and even if it belonged to
me I wouldn't say so.
Maybe because I'm skinny, maybe because she doesn't like me, that stupid Sylvia Saldivar
says, "I think it belongs to Rachel." An ugly sweater like that all raggedy and old, but
Mrs. Price believes her. Mrs Price takes the sweater and puts it right on my desk, but
when I open my mouth nothing comes out.
"That's not, I don't, you're not . . . Not mine." I finally say in a little voice that was maybe
me when I was four.
"Of course it's yours," Mrs. Price says. "I remember you wearing it once." Because she's
older and the teacher, she's right and I'm not.
Not mine, not mine, not mine, but Mrs. Price is already turning to page thirty-two, and
math problem number four. I don't know why but all of a sudden I'm feeling sick inside,
like the part of me that's three wants to come out of my eyes, only I squeeze them shut
tight and bite down on my teeth real hard and try to remember today I am eleven, eleven.
Mama is making a cake for me for tonight, and when Papa comes home everybody will
sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you.
But when the sick feeling goes away and I open my eyes, the red sweater's still sitting
there like a big red mountain. I move the red sweater to the corner of my desk with my
ruler. I move my pencil and books and eraser as far from it as possible. I even move my
chair a little to the right. Not mine, not mine, not mine.
In my head I'm thinking how long till lunchtime, how long till I can take the red sweater
and throw it over the schoolyard fence, or leave it hanging on a parking meter, or bunch it
up into a little ball and toss it in the alley. Except when math period ends Mrs. Price says
loud and in front of everybody, "Now, Rachel, that's enough," because she sees I've
shoved the red sweater to the tippy-tip corner of my desk and it's hanging all over the
edge like a waterfall, but I don't care.
"Rachel," Mrs. Price says. She says it like she's getting mad. "You put that sweater on
right now and no more nonsense."
"But it's not—"
"Now!" Mrs. Price says.
This is when I wish I wasn't eleven because all the years inside of me—ten, nine, eight,
seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one—are pushing at the back of my eyes when I put
one arm through one sleeve of the sweater that smells like cottage cheese, and then the
other arm through the other and stand there with my arms apart like if the sweater hurts
me and it does, all itchy and full of germs that aren't even mine.
That's when everything I've been holding in since this morning, since when Mrs. Price
put the sweater on my desk, finally lets go, and all of a sudden I'm crying in front of
everybody. I wish I was invisible but I'm not. I'm eleven and it's my birthday today and
I'm crying like I'm three in front of everybody. I put my head down on the desk and bury
my face in my stupid clown-sweater arms. My face all hot and spit coming out of my
mouth because I can't stop the little animal noises from coming out of me until there
aren't any more tears left in my eyes, and it's just my body shaking like when you have
the hiccups, and my whole head hurts like when you drink milk too fast.
But the worst part is right before the bell rings for lunch. That stupid Phyllis Lopez, who is
even dumber than Sylvia Saldivar, says she remembers the red sweater is hers! I take it off right
away and give it to her, only Mrs. Price pretends like everything's okay.
Today I'm eleven. There's a cake Mama's making for tonight and when Papa comes home from
work we'll eat it. There'll be candles and presents and everybody will sing Happy birthday,
happy birthday to you, Rachel, only it's too late.
I'm eleven today. I'm eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one, but I
wish I was one hundred and two. I wish I was anything but eleven, because I want today to be
far away already, far away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny o in the sky, so tiny tiny you
have to close your eyes to see it.
Your Name in Gold
Anne sat at the breakfast table, eating her cornflakes and reading the print on the cereal box in
front of her. "Tastee Cornflakes - Great New Offer!" the box read. "See back of box for details."
Anne’s older sister, Mary, sat across from her, reading the other side of the cereal box. "Hey,
Anne," she said, "look at this awesome prize - ‘your name in gold’."
As Mary read on, Anne’s interest in the prize grew. "Just send in one dollar with proof-ofpurchase seal from this box and spell out your first name on the information blank. We will send
you a special pin with your name spelled in gold. (Only one per family, please.)"
Anne grabbed the box and looked on the back, her eyes brightening with excitement. The name
"Jennifer" was spelled out in sparkling gold. "That’s a neat idea," she said. "A pin with my very
own name spelled out in gold. I’m going to send in for it."
"Sorry, Anne, I saw it first," said Mary, "so I get first dibs on it. Besides,
you don’t have a dollar to send in, and I do."
"But I want a pin like that so badly," said Anne. "Please let me have it!"
"Nope," said her sister.
"You always get your way - just because you’re older than me," said Anne, her lower lip
trembling as her eyes filled with tears. "Just go ahead and send in for it. See if I care!" She
threw down her spoon and ran from the kitchen.
Several weeks passed. One day the mailman brought a small package addressed to Mary.
Anne was dying to see the pin, but she wouldn’t let Mary know how eager she was. Mary took
the package to her room. Anne casually followed her in and sat on the bed.
"Well, I guess they sent you your pin. I sure hope you like it," Anne said in a mean voice. Mary
slowly took the paper off the package. She opened a little white box and carefully lifted off the
top layer of white cotton. "Oh, it’s beautiful!" Mary said. "Just like the cereal box said, ‘your
name in gold’. Four beautiful letters. Would you like to see it, Anne?"
"No, I don’t care about your dumb old pin."
Mary put the white box on the dresser and went downstairs.
Anne was alone in the bedroom. Soon she couldn’t wait any longer, so she walked over to the
dresser. As she looked in the small white box, she gasped. Mixed feelings of love for her sister
and shame at herself welled up within her, and the pin became a sparkling gold blur through her
tears.
There on the pin were four beautiful letters - her name in gold: A-N-N-E.
By A. F. Bauman
from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul
Copyright 1998 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen and Irene Dunlap
(There are 5 selections here from the book The House on Mango Street. The first selection has the
same title as the book.)
1) The House on Mango Street
We didn't always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third
floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I can't
remember. But what I remember most is moving a lot. Each time it seemed there'd be one
more of us. By the time we got to Mango Street we were six—Mama, Papa, Carlos, Kiki, my
sister Nenny and me.
The house on Mango Street is ours, and we don't have to pay rent to anybody, or share
the yard with the people downstairs, or be careful not to make too much noise, and there
isn't a landlord banging on the ceiling with a broom. But even so, it's not the house we'd
thought we'd get.
We had to leave the flat on Loomis quick. The water pipes broke and the landlord wouldn't
fix them because the house was too old. We had to leave fast. We were using the washroom next
door and carrying water over in empty milk gallons. That's why Mama and Papa looked for a
house, and that's why we moved into the house on Mango Street, far away, on the other side of
town.
They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours
for always so we wouldn't have to move each year. And our house would have running water and
pipes that worked. And inside it would have real stairs, not hallway stairs, but stairs inside like the
houses on T.V. And we'd have a basement and at least three washrooms so when we took a bath
we wouldn't have to tell everybody. Our house would be white with trees around it, a great big yard
and grass growing without a fence. This was the house Papa talked about when he held a lottery
ticket and this was the house Mama dreamed up in the stories she told us before we went to
bed.
But the house on Mango Street is not the way they told it at all. It's small and red with tight
steps in front and windows so small you'd think they were holding their breath. Bricks are
crumbling in places, and the front door is so swollen you have to push hard to get in. There is no
front yard, only four little elms the city planted by the curb. Out back is a small garage for the car
we don't own yet and a small yard that looks smaller between the two buildings on either side.
There are stairs in our house, but they're ordinary hallway stairs, and the house has only one
washroom. Everybody has to share a bedroom—Mama and Papa, Carlos and Kiki, me and Nenny.
Once when we were living on Loomis, a nun from my school passed by and saw me playing out
front. The laundromat downstairs had been boarded up because it had
been robbed two days before and the owner had painted on the wood YES WE'RE OPEN so as not
to lose business.
Where do you live? she asked.
There, I said pointing up to the third floor.
You live there?
There. I had to look to where she pointed—the third floor, the paint peeling, wooden bars
Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn't fall out. You live there? The way she said it made
me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded.
I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn't it. The
house on Mango Street isn't it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know
how those things go.
2) My Name
In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness,
it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my
father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.
It was my great-grandmother's name and now it is mine. She was a horse woman too,
born like me in the Chinese year of the horse—which is supposed to be bad luck if you're
born female—but I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don't
like their women strong.
My great-grandmother. I would've liked to have known her, a wild horse of a woman,
so wild she wouldn't marry. Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and
carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. That's the way he did it.
And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the
way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what
she got or was she sorry because she couldn't be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I
have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window.
At school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the
roof of your mouth. But in Spanish my name is made out of a softer something, like silver,
not quite as thick as sister's name— Magdalena—which is uglier than mine. Magdalena who at
least can come home and become Nenny. But I am always Esperanza.
I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the
one nobody sees. Esperanza as Lisandra or Maritza or Zeze the X. Yes. Something like Zeze the
X will do.
3) Hairs
Everybody in our family has different hair. My Papa's hair is like a broom, all up in the air.
And me, my hair is lazy. It never obeys barrettes or bands. Carlos' hair is thick and straight. He
doesn't need to comb it. Nenny's hair is slippery—slides out of your hand. And Kiki, who is
the youngest, has hair like fur.
But my mother's hair, my mother's hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly
and pretty because she pinned it in pincurls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is
holding you, holding you and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is
the
smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you
sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring. The snoring, the rain, and Mama's
hair that smells like bread.
4) Bums in the Attic
I want a house on a hill like the ones with the gardens where Papa works. We go on
Sundays, Papa's day off. I used to go. I don't anymore. You don't like to go out with us, Papa
says. Getting too old? Getting too stuck-up, says Nenny. I don't tell them I am ashamed—all
of us staring out the window like the hungry. I am tired of looking at what we can't have.
When we win the lottery... Mama begins, and then I stop listening.
People who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too
much on earth. They don't look down at all except to be content to live on hills. They have
nothing to do with last week's garbage or fear of rats. Night comes. Nothing wakes them but
the wind.
One day I'll own my own house, but I won't forget who I am or where I came from.
Passing bums will ask, Can I come in? I'll offer them the attic, ask them to stay, because I
know how it is to be without a house.
Some days after dinner, guests and I will sit in front of a fire. Floorboards will squeak
upstairs. The attic grumble.
Rats? they'll ask.
Bums, I'll say, and I'll be happy.
3) Papa Who Wakes up Tired in the Dark
Your abuelito is dead, Papa says early one morning in my room. Estad muerto, and then
as if he just heard the news himself, crumples like a coat and cries, my brave Papa cries. I have
never seen my Papa cry and don't know what to do.
I know he will have to go away, that he will take a plane to Mexico, all the uncles and
aunts will be there, and they will have a black and white photo taken in front of the tomb
with flowers shaped like spears in a white vase because this is how they send the dead away
in that country. Because I am the oldest, my father has told me first, and now it is my turn to
tell the others. I will have to explain why we can't play. I will have to tell them to be quiet today.
My Papa, his thick hands and thick shoes, who wakes up tired in the dark, who combs his hair
with water, drinks his coffee, and is gone before we wake, today is sitting on my bed.
And I think if my own Papa died what would I do. I hold my Papa in my arms. I hold and
hold and hold him.
--from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
First Pen, from Marshfield Dreams
By Ralph Fletcher
When I was eight Dad bought me my first pen. It just a cheapo BOC, the kind with a clear
barrel so you could see how much ink it left in the cartridge, but I loved it. In school we wrote in
pencil, and it made me feel grown up to be putting inked words onto the page.
With that pen, and a brand new notebook, I made my first story. I wrote it on a rainy
Sunday, sitting at the kitchen table while Mom made caramel applies with the little kids. The
story was about a Major League baseball player who batted 1,000 during his rookie year. The
kid was amazing-he got a hot every time he came to bat. No pitcher could figure out how to get
him out!
It was fun writing that story. And it felt like a small miracle, too: first there was nothing
on the page, then the story appeared, written in ink that couldn’t be erased.
I sat for a long time, wondering what to write next. I stared at my BIC pen, the cartridge
filled with ink so blue it was almost black. What words were hidden-unborn, unwritten-in all
that unused ink?
Day Three: Using Plot, Place, and Character in a Story
Focus Lesson Topic
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Identify plot, character, and setting as elements of narrative.
 Identify plot, character, and setting in their own and peer’s writing.
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”

Copies of “Teeth” from Marshfield Dreams, by Ralph Fletcher, to hand
out to your students
 Chart papers and markers
 Other picture books for repeating the lesson include The Gardener by
Sarah Stewart, Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting, Brave Irene by William
Steig, and Fox by Margaret Wild.
We have been discussing an important question, “What do you need to
include in order to write a strong story?”
Let’s start by hearing a short story by Ralph Fletcher. We are going to read
like a writer like we did in previous lessons.
Read the story to the students.
Ask students, “What did you notice? What surprised you?”
Draw a Venn diagram with three circles, labeled plot, setting, and character.
Place the label “story” in the intersection of all three circles.
Most stories we read and write are built on three pillars: plot, the setting, and
characters. The combination of plot, place, and character results in the story.
There are other elements, but we’re going to concentrate on these three. Let’s
see what parts they play in the story we just read.
Ask students, “Who are the characters in ‘Teeth?’”
Discuss and write them down. Do the same thing with plot and setting.
Students may note that the story takes place both inside and outside the
house.
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
When you write a story-whether it’s true or a work of fiction-make sure you
have these three elements in your writing. Make sure you have included
enough details and examples so the reader can picture them clearly.
Independent Writing
Possible Conference Questions:
 When you reread your story, point out where you have included these
elements.
 Find a place where you may need to add details or examples to
strengthen the character, setting, or plot.
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Turn to your partner and describe the plot, setting, and characters in the story
you have been working on.
Turn to your partner and share where you describe the setting.
(While plot, place, and character are not present in every single story, the vast
majority do include all three. Unfortunately, these three elements don’t
always show up in student writing. You’ll probably find that all students have
plot, most use characters, but relatively few bother to develop the setting.)
Teeth, from Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher
Mom had a “tooth bank” shaped like
a coconut. When one of our teeth came
out, she washed off the blood and
deposited it into that bank.
“Why are you saving our teeth?” my
brother Jimmy wanted to know.
“Because.” She smiled at him.
“They’re precious to me. And so are you.”
Great Grandma came to visit two or
three times a year. She was old and tiny,
and it took her a long time to get anywhere
because she walked so slowly. She always
wore a gray sweatshirt way too big for her,
and always smelled like the gingersnap
cookies she baked. She put whole chunks of
ginger into the cookies, so when I bit into
them they were so spicy they made my eyes
water. But I loved her with all my heart, and
pretended to love those cookies so I
wouldn’t hurt her feelings.
Early one morning I heard her
outside my bedroom, going downstairs. I
waited until she reached the bottom stair
before I got out of bed and sneaked after
her. She padded into the kitchen, dressed in
slippers and the gray sweatshirt. What was
she doing? Getting a snack? Making
coffee? Moving closer, careful to stay out of
sight, I saw her go into the pantry. I was
amazed when she came out holding the
tooth bank. She unscrewed the rubber plug
on the bottom emptied some teeth into her
hand, and went out the back door.
I knew if I followed too closely she’d
catch me spying, so I eased out the front
door and ran around the house. The grass
was a cold wet shock to my bare feet.
Stealing from tree to tree, I saw Great
Grandma go into the garbage. A minute
later she came out carrying a trowel. Then
she went to the vegetable garden in back of
the house.
The whole thing felt like a dream but
my toes were so cold they were numb so I
knew it was real. I was about thirty feet
away, close enough to see her knee down
and start digging a hole in the garden. She
put one of the teeth into the hole, covered
it with dirt, and patted it down. She did the
same thing, three more times. Then, she
turned around and moved slowly back
toward the house.
I made myself wait five minutes,
then five more, before I went over to the
garden where she just planted our teeth. I
don’t what I expected to see. Finally, I went
inside and back to my bedroom.
That’s all that happened. There’s
really nothing more. But all that summer,
and for summers afterwards, I had the
keenest interest in that spot in the garden.
This may sound stupid but it’s the Gospel
Truth: every time I went past that spot I
would check to see if one of those teeth
had taken root in the soil, and started to
grow.
Day 5: Show Don’t Tell
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Use the writing strategy of “show don’t tell” to develop their ideas
fully.
 Sentences for students to use
When we looked at all of those examples of personal narratives, one of the
things we saw good writers do is they “show don’t tell.”
Today, we will discuss how to show not just tell in our own personal
narratives.
Use your own writer’s notebook to share with students a place where you
show don’t tell. Ask students to tell you how you showed and didn’t just tell.
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
In partners, have students take a telling sentence and turn it into a piece of
writing that shows. For example, “The cafeteria was noisy” or “The dog was
angry.”
Today, when you write in your writer’s notebooks, I want you to think how
you can use show don’t tell to make your writing more powerful.
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Independent Writing
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Continue having students write their seed ideas in their own writer’s
notebooks.
Turn to a partner and share a place in your writing where you showed and
didn’t tell.
Day Six: Bring Your Characters to Life
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Identify how a mentor author uses dialogue and details to bring their
characters to life. Develop the characters in their narrative using
dialogue and details.
 Excerpt from Flying Solo, by Ralph Fletcher
In previous lessons, we explored how narratives have characters.
In an exceptional piece of writing, the characters seem to lift off the page and
come alive like real people. We worry about them and care for them the way
we would a person we know.
Today we’re going to look at how to bring a character alive in a piece of
writing.
Let’s read an excerpt from Flying Solo, by Ralph Flectcher. Bastian is a sixth
grade student who is moving to Hawaii.
Ask students, “What do we learn about Bastian?”
Discuss.
Turn to a partner and share how the author brings him alive as a character.
Discuss. Students might mention the rude dialogue, especially Bastain using
the word peons, and the detail about how he gave other kids nasty
nicknames.
Bastian’s spoken dialogue, plus the information about all the unpleasant
nicknames he uses, allows us to hear the voice of the character. There are two
ways you can create voice in a character, even if the voice is very different
from your own.
Start an anchor chart labeled, “Strategies for Developing Characters.” Add the
two strategies discussed today, “Use dialogue” and “Add details about the
character.”
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Today, when you write, I want you to think about your characters. What can
you use, either dialogue or details, to make them seem realistic and
believable?
Independent Writing
Conference Questions:
 When you reread your writing, what things do you notice that make
your characters come alive as real people or animals?
 What details could you add or change to make a character seem more
realistic and believable?
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Turn to a partner and share one place where you added details or dialogue to
bring your character to life.
Excerpt from Flying Solo, by Ralph Fletcher
“My last day!” Bastian shouted as he entered the room.
“I thought you said Monday was your last day,” Karen said.
“My dad changed plans,” Bastian said. “Farewell, peons! I am
leaving you for the beaches of Hawaii!”
“You’ll look good in a hula hula skirt,” Jessica told him.
“You should talk, String Bean!” Bastian retorted. “Remember that
time you wore a dress? I laughed so hard I almost peed in my pants!”
“Shut up, Bastian,” Rhonda said.
Bastian had a mean streak, and Rachel didn’t trust him. He had
moved into town just before the beginning of sixth grade and
immediately made his presence felt by teasing kids in class. He invented
nasty little nicknames for just about everybody. Missy: Thunder Thighs.
Vicki: The Shrimp. Jessica: String Bean. He called Tommy Feathers The
Professor or, sometimes, Doctor Drool.
Day 8: Describe What your Characters Look Like
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Develop what their characters look like in their own writing.
 Identify how a mentor author develops their character by describing
them.
 “My Baby Sister”
 Chart paper and markers
As a writer you want your readers to be able to picture your characters. It’s
easy to forget to do that because you have no trouble picturing a familiar
friend, relative, or pet while you’re writing. Remember your readers don’t have
those pictures in their mind.
We have discussed how we’d use dialogue and details to bring our characters
to life.
Today, we’ll discuss how author describe what their characters look like to
help their readers picture their characters in their mind.
Read “My Baby Sister” aloud.
Ask students, “What did you like about this description?”
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Turn to a partner and tell how the author describes the baby.
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Think about your characters today when you write. Think about how you could
describe them do we could picture them. What details do you want to include?
I might talk to some of you about this during writing conferences.
Discuss. Kids might point out the comparisons, the humor, the anecdote at
the end of the paragraph. You might want to list their reactions on the chart.
Encourage kids to be as specific as possible. If someone says, “I like the
details,” you might reply, “Which ones stuck in your head?”
Writers who are good at describing their characters get in the habit of
observing them closely. You might need to go home and study your cat, or
your grandmother, to find more details to include.
Independent Writing
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Conference Questions:
 What have you told us about the way your characters look that will
help us see them?
 Are there places where you need to add visual details to help the
reader get a clearer picture of who you’re writing about?
Turn to a partner and share a place where you are working on developing
your character by using details, dialogue, or describing what they look like.
My Baby Sister
People laugh the first time they see my baby sister Anita. She’s cute, but funnylooking. Her perfectly round head is the size of a cantaloupe. She has blue eyes
and ears that stick out from her head like miniature TV dishes. Her mouth has
two teeth, one on top, one on the bottom, so when she smiles it looks like a jack
o’lantern. (She drools a lot.) But the funniest thing is her hair-she doesn’t have
any! Last week, Mom wanted Anita to wear a ribbon that matcher her dress.
Dad had to tape the ribbon to the top of her head! Then we held her up to the
top of her head! Then we held her up to the mirror so she could see the tapedon ribbon. Everybody was laughing like crazy because Anita though she looked
like the prettiest baby in the world.
Day 9: Using Dialogue to Bring Characters to Life
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Students will revise by telling what someone says, thinks or feels by
adding dialogue to elaborate the important scene.
 Students will share their writing with a partner to help improve the
writing.
 Personal narrative draft – student and teacher
 Teacher’s sample revision (see example following lesson)
 Chart paper and markers
We have been focused on ways to bring our characters to life. Another way to
make our writing more interesting is to stop and tell what a character is
thinking or feeling.
Teacher models revision using narrative draft.
Today we will revise adding dialogue.
Read aloud:
With each bubbly scrub she
whimpered softly.
Hmm. . . I think this would be a great point to zoom in on the moment.
Sadie hates baths. Now I am wondering what she might be feeling and
thinking.
She whimpered and seemed to be crying. I imagine if she could talk,
Sadie might share her feelings: This bath is torture!’
And her thinking: ‘What punishment for fun in the mud’.
Think aloud while adding dialogue and punctuation for quotation marks:
I’ll add this dialogue to show the words that Sadie is saying ‘inside’.
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
Quotation marks indicate exactly which words are being said. The
quotation marks always come right before the first word spoken. As in
any sentence, the first word is always capitalized and ends with a period,
question or exclamation mark. The quotation mark comes after the
ending punctuation mark.
Let’s write a dialogue sentence together. What might Sadie’s owner be feeling
giving the dog a bath.
Turn to a partner and come up with a dialogue sentence to tell what the
author might be thinking or feeling.
me…”
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Independent Writing
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Discuss students’ ideas.
Now reread an important event in your narrative. Watch for a place
you can add dialogue that tells what you or a character is thinking or
feeling. Remember to use quotation marks around the dialogue or
talking words.
Provide students with 10-15 minutes to apply the revision strategy.
Turn to a partner and share a place where you added dialogue to share what
your character is thinking or feeling.
As soon as we returned home Sadie had the soapiest bath ever!
I grabbed the tube of ‘Oh, So Shiny’ dog shampoo and plopped Sadie
into the bathtub. This was definitely NOT Sadie’s idea of fun. She
hated baths. She stiffened her skinny legs and her short tail hid
between her legs. Her ears hung sadly. With each bubbly scrub she
whimpered softly. What a mess! Muddy footprints, a grimy bathtub
and crumpled towels littered my bathroom floor. But finally, she was
our beautiful, shiny Sadie once again.
Day 10: Use Details to Bring the Setting Alive
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Name strategies to develop the setting in their own writing.
 Identify how a mentor author uses the strategies to develop the
setting.
 Write to develop their setting by using specific strategies.
 You’ll need a text where the author develops the setting. Some
suggested mentor texts are Fox by Margaret Wild, Brave Irene by
William Steig, Very Last First Time by Jane Andrews, and any of the
descriptions of Camp Green Lake in Holes by Louis Sachar.
We discussed how narrative includes plot, characters, and setting. We’ve
identified how authors develop their characters using dialogue, details, and
description of what they look like.
Today, we’ll discuss how authors bring their setting to life.
What do we mean by setting?
Wait for response.
That’s right-the setting is the place where the story happens. Some stories
have more than one setting.
We’re going to be learning about the setting.
Read the story aloud.
How many settings are in this book?
Discuss and list students’ ideas on a chart.
How do the author and illustrator bring alive the settings in this book?
Discuss.
Create an anchor chart titled “Developing Setting.” Add the following
strategies as they are discussed in the lesson:
 Where will your story take place?
 What does that place look like?
 How does the place sound, feel, and smell?
 How will your character be affected by the setting?
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Today, when you’re writing, I want you to think about the setting for your
story. Make sure you’ve described the setting using vivid details. Use your five
senses. What does the place sound and smell and feel like? How will your
characters be affected by the setting?
Independent Writing
Conference Questions:
 What is the setting for your story? What details have you used to
bring that place alive?
 Have you considered ways that your setting could have an impact on
the plot or the characters?
Turn to a partner and share which strategies you are using to develop the
setting in your narrative.
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Day 11: Make a Plan
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Outline a plan for their writing piece.
 Discuss strategies for planning out for writing.
 Your writer’s notebook with example of plan
(Note: You will want to have students prior to this lesson chose seed entries
they’d like to write into a full personal narrative. Place a sticker on the story
they will develop during the next couple of weeks.)
By now you have done lots of different kinds of writing in your notebooks.
You’ve doodled and sketched, wondered and reacted. You’ve gathered lists,
artifacts, and random facts.
These entries are like chicks in an incubator. There comes a time when the
chick is ready to leave the safety of the incubator and go out into the world.
The same is true with your notebook. By now you may be ready to take an
entry, or several entries, and craft a finished story.
Today, we’ll work on writing a plan for the seed entry you have chosen to
develop into a full piece.
Share a plan from your writer’s notebook. (Note: Share a list of events and
then also a timeline.) Explain that a plan doesn’t have to be complicated.
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Ask a student to tell about their seed entry. Use the student example to
outline and model a plan with the class as an example.
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Think about how you can use your notebook to make a plan for writing you
want to finish. Once you know what you want to write, try to envision the
finished piece. What will it include? How do you want to organize it? What
should come first, in the middle, at the end? You may find that you need to
make more than one plan until you’ve for one that feels right.
Independent Writing
Note: We can sometimes overuse prewriting. If kids spend too much time
completing webs, outlines, story maps, and graphic organizers, they’ll have
little energy left to actually write the finished piece. Remember: the
prewriting should serve the writer, not the other way around.
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Turn to a partner and share your plan for writing your personal narrative.
Day 12: Using Transition Words
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Combine provided sentences using time transitions.
 Incorporate time transitions into their own work to help their
narratives move along.
 Sentences prepared for students to revise with transitional words.
Additional mentor text recommended for highlighting transition words and
phrases:
 My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston
 Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
I have noticed some of you use some words such as “first, second, last, finally”
in your writing. These are important clue words to your readers.
During the school day I often let our class know that something new is
about to happen. You have heard me say, ‘It’s time for reading’, or ‘Let’s
line up for recess,’ when we change from one activity to another.
Writers do the same for their readers. Writers use special transition words to
let the reader know a change in time or place is about to happen.
Tell students that there are different kinds of transition words. Explain that
one kind of transition word is time transitions, which helps the reader know
the order of events in a story.
Discuss how using different transition words changes the meaning of a
sentence. Put the following 2 sentence strips in the pocket chart:


Dad and I went fishing.
Mom made our lunch.
Show students how you can connect the sentences by adding transition
words. For example:





Active Engagement
(We do!)
Dad and I went fishing. / Meanwhile / Mom made our lunch.
After / Dad and I went fishing, / Mom made our lunch.
Before / Dad and I went fishing, / Mom made our lunch.
Dad and I went fishing / after / Mom made our lunch.
While / Dad and I went fishing, / Mom made our lunch.
Discuss how the different transition words change the meaning of the
sentences by changing the sequence (order) of events.
Put the following 3 sentence strips up on the pocket chart.
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
o
o
o
Marty saw the puppy.
He recognized it.
He picked it up.
Give 3 student volunteers three cards with 3 transition words on them (First,
Then, After that). Tell students that the transition words on the cards will help
them put the sentences in the correct order:
First, Marty saw the puppy. Then he recognized it. After that, he picked it up.
Give students other transition words on cards and ask them how the words
change the meaning of the sentences:
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Independent Writing
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
After Marty saw the puppy, he recognized it, and he picked it up.
As soon as Marty saw the puppy, he recognized it and immediately picked it
up.
As writers, all year long, you’ll use transition words to help organize your
writing.
Have students select a draft from their writing folder. Have them highlight the
transition words they used. Then have them choose a paragraph to revise by
adding 3-5 transition words.
Turn to a partner and share your revised paragraph.
Transition Words List
After
In the meantime
Afterward
Later As
soon as
Next At
first
Soon At
last
When
As a result
When suddenly
Before
We had just Before
long
It was not long
Finally
In the afternoon For a
long time
Until
Day 13: Write a Lively Lead
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Identify strategies for writing leads.
 Write several leads for their story.
 “Little Red Riding Hooks” Handout (You may want to limit the
number of strategies to three for students to try. Throughout the
school year additional strategies can be added.)
We now have plans for what we’d like to write. We need to continue
exploring how we’ll organize our writing. A lead is an important part of
organization.
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Today we’re going to talk about the lead.
Does anyone know what a lead is?
Discuss.
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
A lead is the beginning of a piece of writing. The purpose f a lead is to set the
mood, or tone, for the writing. A strong lad engages us as readers, draws us
in, makes us want to continue reading.
Let’s look at some strategies to start out writing.
All of you know the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Let’s look at some
examples of how we might start that familiar story.
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Create an anchor chart of the strategies identified through the discussion.
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
We’re going to be looking at different kinds of leads this year. This is just one,
but it’s worth looking at, and learning from.
Independent Writing
Have students write several leads for their story using some of the strategies
identified in class.
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Turn to a partner and share one strategy you might use to start a lead.
Today, I want you to think about your lead, both when you write and when
you reread what you’ve written. Write the kind of lead that sounds like you
and that will grab the reader’s attention.
Turn to a partner and share some of your leads.
Consider collecting leads from students that can serve as good examples for
students.
This writers’ handout was designed to accompany one of WritingFix’s on-line, interactive writing prompts.
Little Red Riding Hooks…
From the amazing classroom of Dena Harrison, Mendive Middle School
Great alternatives to introductions, hooks, and leads
“Once upon a time, there lived a little girl with a red riding
hood…”  KIND OF A BORING, CLICHÉ INTRO!
There are more interesting ways to start off this famous story. Below are
eight techniques to consider:
Technique one: Start with a short (four- or fiveword maximum), effective sentence:
Her hair shone gold.
Technique three: Start with an interesting
question for the reader to ponder:
Who could have thought that
a simple trip to Grandma’s
house could end in tragedy?
Technique five: Start with a riddle:
Who has big eyes, big teeth and
is dressed in Grandma’s clothes?
Yes, you guessed it, the Big Bad
Wolf.
Technique seven: Capture a feeling or emotion:
You might be surprised to learn
that a little girl couldn’t
recognize her own
grandmother.
Technique two: Start with an interesting
metaphor or simile:
The wolf was a tornado,
changing the lives of all who
crossed his path.
Technique four: Start with a subordinate clause
or other complex sentence form:
Though the road to Grandma’s
house was spooky, Red skipped
along with an air of confidence.
Technique six: Fill in these blanks: “
kind of
who/that
”
was the
Little Red was the kind of girl
who thought wolves would
never bother her.
Technique eight: Use a string of adjectives:
Tall, dark, and with an air of
confidence, the woodsman
entered the house.
©2006 Northern Nevada Writing Project. All rights reserved.
This resource comes from the best website for writers and writing teachers: http//writingfix.com and http://writingfix.org
This writers’ handout was designed to accompany one of WritingFix’s on-line, interactive writing prompts.
Novel Openings: What Makes These Good?
Here are the openings from 20 excellent novels. Many of them are already classics. Have your
students discuss why they might have impact on a reader.
1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
2. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)
3. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984
(1949)
4. I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
5. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of
foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it
was the season of
Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two
Cities (1859)
6. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. —Samuel Beckett, Murphy (1938)
7. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a
mirror and a razor lay crossed. —James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
8. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. —William
Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)
9. Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. —Ha Jin,
Waiting (1999)
10. All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
11. They shoot the white girl first. —Toni Morrison, Paradise (1998)
12. Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature. —Anita Brookner, The
Debut (1981)
13. Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. —Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were
Watching God (1937)
14. It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)
15. It was a pleasure to burn. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
16. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've
been turning over in my mind ever since. —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
17. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I
didn't know what I was doing in New York. —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)
18. He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight
at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare
which made you think of a charging bull. —Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (1900)
19. In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together. —Carson McCullers, The
Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)
20. The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army
stretched out on the hills, resting. —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)
Three powerful “hooks” from young adult novels:
 “Where's poppa going with the axe?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting
the table for breakfast. —E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web (1952)
 There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. —C. S.
Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
 Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were
perfectly normal, thank you very much. —J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s
Stone (1997)
©2006 Northern Nevada Writing Project. All rights reserved.
This resource comes from the best website for writers and writing teachers: http//writingfix.com and
http://writingfix.org
Day 15: Come Up with the Right Ending
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Write several ending for their story.
 Identify strategies for writing endings.
 Markers and Chart Paper for Anchor Chart
 Mentor text with opening and ending to share with students
We’ve been discussing and writing leads for our narratives. We identified
strategies for developing leads.
Today, we’ll discuss endings. Endings are important, too. Have you ever
watched a movie or TV show that started out strong but had a lousy ending/
Have you ever read a book that did that?
Discuss.
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Think about it: the ending is the last thing that will linger in the ear and mind
of your reader when he or she has finished your story. You want to leave them
with an ending that’s right for what you have written. Let’s take a look at
some endings.
Share endings with students from mentor texts. Identify the strategy the
author used to end their piece. List strategies on anchor chart.
Turn to a partner and share which strategy you’ll try for your writing.
Today’s challenge is to try several of the strategies for endings for your piece.
Independent Writing
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Students should write several endings for their piece in their notebooks.
Conference Questions:
 Have you thought about your ending?
 What ending would fit best with the story you’re working on?
Turn to a partner and share the strategy you used and your ending.
Anchor Chart: Designing an Ending
The ending is the last thing that will linger in the ear and mind of the
reader.
Choices for endings:








Splashy
Funny
Sad
Small Detail
Surprise
Circular
Factual
Quotation
Literary Beginnings and Endings
Beginning:
Magnus Bede, the famous alchemist, and his happygo-lucky wife, Eutilda, thought they had a
harmonious family. But their older son, Yorick,
considered little Charles a first- rate pain in
the pants, always occupied with something silly.
Ending:
The two brothers sincerely appreciated each other
now. Except when they were having a fight.
Steig, W. (1996). The Toy Brother. New York: HarperCollins.
-----------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
She could have picked a chiming clock or a
porcelain figurine, but Miss Bridie chose a shovel
back in 1856.
Ending:
She could have had a chiming clock or a porcelain
figurine, but Miss Bridie chose a shovel back in
1856.
Connor, L. (2004). Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin.
---------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
Winter is coming.
Ending:
Summer is coming.
Arden, C. (2004). Goose Moon. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.
----------------------------------------------------------------
Beginning:
Ruthie Simms didn’t have a dog. She didn’t have a
cat, or a brother, or a sister. But Jessica was
the next best thing.
Ending:
Ruthie Simms didn’t have a dog. She didn’t have a
cat, or a brother, or a sister. But Jessica was
even better.
Henkes, K. (1989). Jessica. New York: Penguin.
---------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
Miss Elizabeth felt troubled.
Ending:
And Miss Elizabeth rocked and rocked and rocked.
Gray, L. (1993). Dear Willie Rudd. New York: Simon & Schuster.
---------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
Ending:
This is the pot that Juan built.
The beautiful pot that Juan built.
Andrews-Goebel, N. (2002). The Pot That Juan Built. New York:
Lee & Low Books.
--------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
One wintry day I made a snowman, very round and
tall.
Ending:
So if your snowman’s grin is crooked, or he’s lost
a little height, you’ll know he’s just been doing
what snowmen do at night.
Buehner, C. (2002). Snowmen at Night. Buehner, M. (illus.). New
York: Putnam.
-------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
Two men walked into the rain forest.
Ending:
Then he dropped the ax and walked out of the
rain forest.
Cherry, L. (1990). The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the
Amazon Rain Forest. San Diego: Harcourt Brace.
--------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
When the eggs hatched, the little crocodiles
crawled out onto the riverbeach. But
Cornelius walked out upright.
Ending:
Life on the riverbeach would never be
the same.
Lionni, L. (1983). Cornelius. New York: Alfred A.
Knopf.
------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
This is the great Kapiti Plain,
All fresh and green from the African rains,
A sea of grass for the ground birds to nest in,
And patches of shade for wild creatures
to rest in…
Endings:
So the grass grew green and the cattle
fat, And Ki-pat got a wife and a little
Ki-pat—.
Who tends the cows now, and shoots
down the rain, When black clouds
shadow Kapiti plain.
Aardema, V. (1981). Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain. New
York:
Dial Books.
-------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
It was in the summer of the year when the
relatives came. They came up from Virginia.
Ending:
When they were finally home in Virginia, they
crawled into their silent, soft beds and
dreamed about the next summer.
Rylant, C. (1985). The Relatives Came. New York: Simon
& Schuster.
--------------------------------------------------------------Beginning:
On the day Shirley had invited all of her
relatives to dinner and Moe, her husband,
was pleasantly tinkering in the yard, a
flying saucer quietly landed next to their
toolshed.
Ending:
Luckily, Shirley had made extra spaghetti and
meatballs.
The cousins, the soldiers, the pilots, the
Marines, the FBI men—everyone sat down and had a
delicious meal; from soup to nuts.
Yorinks, A. (2000). Company’s Coming. New York: Hyperion.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Beginning:
The sun never rose today. When I came home
from school it was dark. When I left for
school, it was dark.
Ending:
Welcome back, sun!
Emberley, M. (1993). Welcome Back, Sun. New York: Little,
Brown and Company.
Day 16: Use Choice Adjectives
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly
how to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Revise by adding adjectives to their writing.
 Identify how adjectives can help convey an idea.
 Excerpt from Come On, Rain
 Other mentor texts that highlight adjectives
We have been working on organizing our ideas. We will know look at the
word’s we choose in our writing and making those as powerful as possible
to improve our writing.
Today, we are going to look closely at how we can use language to convey
our ideas in a stronger manner.
We are going to look closely at the language Karen Hesse uses in her book
Come On Rain! Hess has to describe skillfully how hot it is really wat in the
summer heat.
The author uses adjectives to help her do this.
Adjectives are words that describe nouns. Look at the first group of phrases.
Can you see the adjectives?
Read the excerpted phrases aloud and underline each adjective as students
point it out.
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
I want you to close your eyes and see what each adjective does to the
picture you have in your mind.
Picture a vine. Now picture a listless vine. What do you see? Get a picture of
an alleyway in your mind. Now does it change when she described it as a
broiling alleyway?
Hess has a central idea in this story: heat. Notice how she uses adjectives in
a handful of places to describe that heat. She didn’t just write: it was hot.
And she did more that describe the heat: endless and sizzling. She chose
adjectives that help us see heat everywhere-in alleyways, vines, paths,
lupines.
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
You may have a central idea you wish to convey in your writing. Take a
minute and think about a few places where you could use an adjective to
convey that idea more strongly.
Independent Writing
Use your conferences to help students find places where select adjectives
can highlight a central element of their writing.
Today, I’d like you to revise a seed entry by adding adjectives to help convey
the ideas in a stronger way.
Conference Questions:
 What is the central idea in your writing? What adjectives could you
use to bring that idea into focus?
 Where could you use a lively adjective to put a clearer picture in
the reader’s mind?
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Turn to a partner and share how you used adjectives to convey ideas more
strongly.
Excerpt from Come On, Rain
By Karen Hesse
endless heat
listless vine
broiling alleyway
drooping lupines
crackling-dry path
sizzling heat
ice-chilled glass
swollen sky
moisty green air
Day 18: Use Precise Nouns
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Identify how precise nouns can improve their writing.
 Use precise nouns in their own writing.
 Copies of “Tired Out”
We have worked on choosing adjectives that paint a vivid picture for our
readers. Our choice of nouns can do the same thing.
Today, we are going to talk about how we can use the best nouns possible
to give the reader a picture of what’s going on in a piece of writing.
Let’s read this paragraph together.
Read version 1 of “Tired Out.”
Show them exactly
how to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
This particular writer didn’t use the best possible nouns. Maybe he was
rushed or too lazy, or perhaps he just didn’t know them.
Turn to a partner and identify a noun that could be changed. What
suggestions would you have to make the noun more exact and give the
reader a better picture.
Discuss students’ ideas.
Look what happens if we rewrite this passage using more exact nouns.
Read version 2 of “Tired Out.”
Today, when you write, try to use the best, most precise nouns you possibly
can. When you reread your writing and find words such as thing and stuff,
it’s usually a sign that your words aren’t precise or exact enough to give the
reader a really good picture of what’s going on.
If you don’t know the technical term or precise word you need, take time to
look it up. Do you see how describing a “sharpie” peering out from under
“the folds of skin around her eyes” is more vivid and intriguing then simply
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
referring to a “dog with wrinkles”?
Independent Writing
Conference Question:
 Is there a place in your writing where you used the best noun to
give the reader a picture of what’s going on?
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Share your writing with your partner. Listen to see if your partner uses the
best nouns possible to give the reader a picture of what’s going on.
Tired Out
Version 1
My dad and I were just driving along, la deed a, when suddenly one of the tires started going
thump, thump, thump. Flat tire! We didn’t have time to call Triple A so my father had to fix
it. First he had to find the thing to lift the car up so we could take off the tire. He couldn’t
find it, so he finally had to check the car booklet. It was under the hood. He got it out, and
lifted the car. Then he pried off the wheel cover and tried to unscrew the screws. But they
were all covered with brown stuff, and hard to get off. He finally got them off, and put on
the spare tire. It was so small it looked like a new toy, and I laughed. But by this time Dad
was in a bad mood. He couldn’t laugh about anything. Dad had a tool to measure how much
air was in the tire, but there wasn’t enough. We had to stop at a gas station to pump up the
tire.
Version 2
My dad and I were just driving along, la dee da, when suddenly one of the tires started going
thump, thump, thump. Blowout! We didn’t have the time to call Triple A so my father had to
fix it. First, he had to find the jack to lift the car up so we could take off the tire. He couldn’t
find it, so he finally had to check the instruction manual. The jack was under the roof. He got
it out, and lifted the car. Then he pried off the hubcap and tired to unscrew the lug nuts. But
they were all rusted, and hard to get off. He finally got them off, and put on the spare tire.
(Dad called it the “donut.” It was so small it looked like a toy, and I laughed. But by this time,
Dad was in a bad mood. He couldn’t laugh about anything. Dad had a pressure gauge to
measure how much air was in the tire, but there wasn’t enough. We had to stop at a gas
station to inflate the tire.
Day 20: Use Verbs that Describe
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly
how to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Identify how a mentor author uses descriptive verbs to provide a
vivid picture to their readers.
 Write using strong, descriptive verbs.
 Excerpt from Fox, by Margaret Wild
People say a picture is worth a thousand words. When you write, you use
words to create pictures in the reader’s mind. We have talked about use
strong adjectives and precise nouns.
Today, we will explore how verbs can also paint vivid pictures for our
readers. The verbs you choose-those words that express an action-will make
a big difference in the kind of picture a reader gets.
Let’s read this except from a part of the story Fox, where Fox is running
away with Magpie on his back. Read this quietly to yourself, and find the
verbs that describe Fox’s action.
Display the excerpt from Fox. After the students have read the excerpt,
help them generate a list of the verbs: streak, rip, pelt, exults, runs.
A strong action very not only tells us what action takes place. It often
includes a description of how it’s being done. Let’s take a look at each
these. When Margaret Wild writes, “Magpie and Fox streak past coolibah
trees,” what image comes to mind?
Discuss and continue for all the other verbs, except runs.
What do you notice about the next verb, runs?
This verb doesn’t show how fox is running. Since the writer chose a verb
that does less work here, she added a description to help us picture the
scene. “Fox runs so fast that his feet scarcely touch the ground.”
When writers choose strong, descriptive verbs, they don’t need to provide
additional description. When the writer wants to give more description, as
Wild does in the last sentence, she may choose to go with a simpler verb.
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Independent Writing
Either way, the reader is getting a clear picture of what is taking place.
I want you to take a minute to read your writing in the way you just read
this excerpt. Underline verbs where action occurs. Look at each of them.
Have you chosen a verb that does a lot of work? If not, can you replace it
with a stronger verb.
Be playful with this idea. Invite students to search and gather lists of verbs
that provide a variety of descriptions around a single action. Post these
charts or have students keep lists of their own.
Conference Question:
 Where have you used an ordinary very in your writing that you
could replace with a stronger verb.
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Turn to a partner and share a place where you feel you used a strong,
descriptive verb.
Excerpt from Fox, by Margaret Wild
While Dog sleeps, Magpie and Fox
streak past coolibah trees, rip through
long grass, pelt over rocks. Fox runs so fast
that his feet scarcely touch the ground,
and Magpie exults, “At last I am flying.
Really, flying!”
Day 27: Use Editing Checklist
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly
how to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Edit their own writing using a checklist.
 Describe a process for editing writing.
 Editing Checklist
 One piece of student writing to mode how to use editing checklist
We have revised our writing to improve our ideas, organization, and word
choice. We also need to edit for conventions to make our writing easy to
read.
Today, we’re going to talk about getting your writing ready for a reader.
First, you need to make sure your writing is complete. Does it say what you
want in the way you want to say it? If so, you’re ready to read it with eyes
of an editor.
This process is called editing. Some of you may be more familiar with the
term proofreading.
You’ll use a simple checklist to guide you through the process.
Hand out copies of the Editing Checklist. If appropriate, have students take
notes. Remember you are demonstrating the act of editing for sentence
writing, usage, and spelling not teaching the skills. Keep it simple so
students stay focused on the task they being taught to do.
You will fill out a checklist like this each time you edit. You’ll notice there are
three skills. These are the things you’ll check for. The skills will change
during the year, depending on what you most need to focus on. There will
never be more than four or five at a time.
Here’s how it goes. If there are three tings to check for, as there on this list,
you will read your writing three times, each time paying attention to one of
the things listed.
Let me show you what that looks like using a sample piece of writing. I’ll
need a pen to mark on the writing. When you do this, you’ll want to use a
pen or pencil that will stand out from the writing on the page.
The checklist asks me to check sentence sense first. I’m going to read this
piece of writing, sentence by sentence, and listen carefully to see if it makes
sense.
Read and think aloud so students see your work. When something doesn’t
make sense, reread, punctuate, add or delete words so that it will.
I’ll put a check in the box on this line of the checklist where it says student
to show that I’ve completed this as well as I can. Now I’ll move on to capital
letters. I’m going to look for capital letters at the beginning of sentences,
for names of people or places, and in titles. Watch how differently I’ll be
reading.
Look first at the title and simply check it over. Next, trace your finger along
the page, stopping at the end of each sentence and then quickly look at the
first word of the next sentence. If it isn’t capitalized, correct it right over
the letter. Go back and look for names of people and places.
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Okay, done. I’ll check it off and go on to the next item, spelling.
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
That’s it. When you finish editing a piece of your writing, you’ll clip the
checklist to the writing and give it to me. Your marks will show me what
you can find on your own. We’ll then work together to get it published. I’ll
have copies of the checklist for you to pick up each time you need one.
Independent Writing
In most cases, students won’t find all of the errors in their work. They
should, however, be expected to edit to the best of their ability. What you
learn from a student’s own editing marks will guide your next step. Read
over their work and select one, possibly two skills to address in an editing
conference. If appropriate, write the specific skill onto a new checklist so
the students can continue to work on it when editing in the future.
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
This time, reading backward, I’ll point to each word and circle it if the
spelling looks wrong.
Have students help you go through each word reading backwards to check
for spelling. Check off the box when you’re finished.
Turn to a partner and share the process you used for editing your draft
today.
Editing Checklist
Title___________________________________
Name_______________________
Date________________________________________
Skill
Sentence Sense
Capital Letters
Spelling
Student
Teacher
Conventions
You will find a Conventions Checklist for each grade level (K-5). The idea is that each
student will have an ongoing checklist throughout the school year.
By the end of the school year ALL grade level conventions should be mastered, unless
otherwise noted. If a convention should be mastered during a specific quarter, that box
will be unshaded. Shaded boxes indicate that it is not necessary to cover that convention
at that time. Please note that conventions may be taught as the students have need.
These quarterly suggestions are intended to ensure all conventions are covered through
the year.
Once taught, the convention is expected to continue to be used and the teachers must
hold the students responsible for those conventions in student writing throughout the
year.
3rd Grade
3rd Grade Language Conventions Checklist
Language Conventions are used as a mastery checklist. The recommendation is to cover
3-5 skills per quarter to ensure that students master all grade level conventions by the
end of the year. A check ( ) represents mastery, a slash (/) represents developing, a
blank ( ) represents not assessed at this time.
Convention
Explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs,
adjectives, and adverbs in general and their
functions in particular sentences.
Form and use regular and irregular plural nouns.
(e.g., mice, teeth, geese)
Use abstract nouns - A type of noun that refers to
something a person cannot physically interact with
(e.g., childhood, gossip, beauty).
Form and use regular and irregular verbs. (e.g.,
irregular verbs - child; children)
Form and use the simple verb tenses. (e.g., I
walked; I walk; I will walk)
Ensure subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent
agreement.* (An antecedent is a word for which a
pronoun stands for e.g., President Lincoln - his)
Form and use comparative and superlative
adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them
depending on what is to be modified. (They are
better. - He is the best.; lovely, lovelier, loveliest)
Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.(
Coordinating - and, but, for , nor, or so, yet -Subordinating - although, after, until.)
Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences.
Capitalize appropriate words in titles.
Use commas in addresses.
Use commas and quotation marks in dialogue.
Form and use possessives.
Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and
other studied words and for adding suffixes to base
words (e.g., sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).
Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g., word
families, position-based spellings, syllable patterns,
ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing
words.
Consult reference materials, including beginning
dictionaries, as needed to check and correct
spellings.
1st Qtr.
2nd Qtr. 3rd Qtr. 4th Qtr.
4th Grade
4th Grade Language Conventions Checklist
Language Conventions are used as a mastery checklist. The recommendation is to cover
3-5 skills per quarter to ensure that students master all grade level conventions by the
end of the year. A check ( ) represents mastery, a slash (/) represents developing, a
blank ( ) represents not assessed at this time.
Convention
Use relative pronouns (who, whose, whom, which,
that) and relative adverbs (where, when, why).
Form and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I
am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses.
Use modal auxiliaries (e.g., can, may, must) to
convey various conditions.
Order adjectives within sentences according to
conventional patterns (e.g., a small red bag rather
than a red small bag).
Form and use prepositional phrases.
Produce complete sentences, recognizing and
correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to,
too, two; there, their).
Use correct capitalization.
Use commas and quotation marks to mark direct
speech and quotations from a text.
Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a
compound sentence.
Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting
references as needed.
1st Qtr.
2nd Qtr. 3rd Qtr. 4th Qtr.
5th Grade
5th Grade Language Conventions Checklist
Language Conventions are used as a mastery checklist. The recommendation is to cover
3-5 skills per quarter to ensure that students master all grade level conventions by the
end of the year. A check ( ) represents mastery, a slash (/) represents developing, a
blank ( ) represents not assessed at this time.
Convention
Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions,
and interjections in general and their function in
particular sentences.
Form and use the perfect (e.g., I had walked; I have
walked; I will have walked) verb tenses.
Use verb tense to convey various times, sequences,
states, and conditions.
Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb
tense.
Use correlative conjunctions (e.g., either/or,
neither/nor).
Use punctuation to separate items in a series.
Use a comma to separate an introductory element
from the rest of the sentence.
Use a comma to set off the words yes and no (e.g.,
Yes, thank you), to set off a tag question from the
rest of the sentence (e.g., It’s true, isn’t it?), and to
indicate direct address (e.g., Is that you, Steve?).
Use underlining, quotation marks, or italics to
indicate titles of works.
Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting
references as needed.
1st Qtr.
2nd Qtr. 3rd Qtr. 4th Qtr.
Skills to Include on an Editing Checklist
This list suggests a range of editing skills. Select three or four at a time. Aim for skills that represent the
just-right level for your students-those that are not too easy or too hard.
Primary Writers




Did I write my name and date? Have I given my piece a title? Have I reread, pointing to each
word? Can I hear any more sounds?
Can I add any words I may have left out?
Did I begin each sentence with a capital letter? Did I end each sentence with a period?
Did I use capital letters in all the important words of the title? Did I underline three words I’d
like to see the correct spelling of?
Elementary Writers



Have I used capital letters for the names of specific people or places? Did I end each sentence
with proper punctuation?
Have I fixed sentences that are strung together with phrase and then? Am I using commas for
lists?
Have I circled incorrect words and found the correct spellings? Have I used quotation marks to
show when people are speaking? Did I get rid of any unnecessary words?
Intermediate Writers









It is important to move beyond the basics with older writers and show them how editing can
fine-tune their writing in more sophisticated ways.
Have I used commas for compound sentences?
Have I correctly written dialogue in paragraph form?
Have I indented paragraphs when needed?
Have I avoided passive tense whenever possible?
Have I varied the pace of sentences to get the effect I want?
Have I pruned out the small words that qualify how I feel and think (a little, sort of, kind of,
quite, pretty much in a very real sense)?
Have I cut clutter and tightened my writing by using precise language? Have I chosen strong
verbs?
Have I used contractions when appropriate to bring a more natural voice to the writing?
Spell Check
Spell check is a process in which students work on the words they misspelled, which were circled either
by you or them during the editing phase. A three column format, as demonstrated on the following
page, encourages students to rethink their spelling, while also offering teacher support if the first two
attempts are not successful.
Extension Suggestions for Spell Check Words
If there was too much pressure to spell everything correctly, students would not be able to produce the
craft and fluency we are asking them to.
The use of spell check should go further than the actual draft. At the end of the spell check process,
students will have an individualized list of words that could be used in their own “zone of proximal
development”. This is a golden list. In order to read the benefits of it, there has to be accountability and
follow up. This does not mean you have to give 25 different spelling tests- that would be unrealistic.
Here are some suggestions of how to use this list without creating an unnecessary amount of work.



After the first draft is corrected, have students copy their words into a personal dictionary,
whether it is a blue book or a small section of their writer’s notebook. (If you want to control the
quantity of words they write, you collect their spell check sheets and circle 10-15 words.)
Once a week or twice a month during writing workshop, have students study their list for 5
minutes.
Then, have them swap dictionaries with a partner. Partners quiz each other for 5-10 minutes.
You would, of course, have to have a mini-lesson demonstrating the expectations for this procedure and
why you are having them do this activity. You could also do this kind of partner work during 10-15
minute periods at the start of end of the day.
Spell check is not meant to replace any kind of word study/spelling you might already have in your
classroom.
Spell Check
First Try
Second Try
Okay
Mini-Lesson to Introduce Spell Check Procedure
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Use a procedure to edit their draft’s spelling.
 Attempt different spellings for misspelled words.
 Circle misspelled words on students’ drafts.
If you have circled words on your rough drafts, it means you are reaching for
bigger words, which is very important to do as a writer. You could write, “We
had a nice party” and spell it perfectly. But, I’d rather have you reach for “We
had the most amazing birthday celebration” even if you may not know how to
spell each word perfectly.
Today, we will learn a procedure to help you spell words that are incorrect.
We will use a three column chart for our “Spell Check” procedure. The “First
Try” column is for trying to spell their circled words in a different way.
Think out loud as you model on the board, “Hmm, I know bootiful is not right.
Maybe, I’ll try butiful.” Say the word out loud several times. Repeat this step
with a few more words.
Tell students they cannot go on to the “Second Try” until you have checked
the words they wrote so far. I’ll walk around and when I come to you, I’ll do
one of two things. If it’s right, I’ll check it. If you still need another try, I’ll circle
it.
Model with the words on the board saying think like, “Chair is right so what
do I do?...Butiful is still not right so what would I do?”
Demonstrate the second step of spell check (in a similar way as described
above) with what they should do with the second try column. I tell them that
if it’s right, I’ll check it. If it’s still not right, I’ll just write it for you under the
okay column.
Today, I’d like you to give “Spell Check” a try for the misspelled words in your
drafts.
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Independent Writing
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
Students apply “Spell Check” to their rough drafts.
Turn to a partner and share the procedure for “Spell Check” with a partner.
Be Aware of Words You Commonly Misspell
Focus Lesson Topic
Materials
Connection
Connect the lesson to
what students already
have learned or
something specific that
you have noticed.
“Yesterday we learned
how to…”
“I have noticed…”
“Many of you have
asked…”
Teaching (I do!)
Tell them what you will
reach today.
“Today I am going to
teach you how to…”
Show them exactly how
to do it.
“Watch me do it…” or
“Let’s take a look at
how (author) does this
when s/he writes…”
Objectives:
Students will be able to:
 Create a list of words they commonly misspell.
 Develop awareness of their own misspelling of words.
 A Personal Word List for each student (Students can instead write this
list directly in the writing folder or on a page in their writer’s
notebook.)
I have noticed that sometimes you misspell words that you should know.
Today, we’ll start a procedure for words you commonly misspell.
I want to talk today about editing for spelling. There are two kinds of spelling
errors you typically make when you write. Sometimes you misspell a word
because you simply don’t know how to spell it. Maybe you haven’t see or used
this word before. Maybe, it is a tough word to spell.
Then, there are words that you sort of know how to spell but you get them
wrong because you don’t stop to think about it at the time you are writing.
These mistakes are harder to catch when you edit, because you aren’t really
looking for them. Instead, you are paying more attention to those challenging
words you expected to get wrong.
All of us have words we use a lot but typically misspell. It doesn’t matter so
much if you get them wrong while drafting, but it is important to correct them
before your writing gets to the reader. You will be a better spelling editor if
you know your own bad habits.
Active Engagement
(We do!)
Ask them to try it with
you, or with a partner,
for a few minutes.
“Now you all try it with
me…”
Turn to a partner and share some common words you often get wrong.
Invite students to share words they have trouble spelling.
Hand out Personal Word List.
Send Off (For
Independent Practice)
Link (You do!)
“So for the rest of your
lives I want you to
remember that good
writers…You might
want to try it today or
some other time and
see if it helps you…”
Independent Writing
Group Wrap Up
(Share)
“Did anyone try out
what was taught
today?”
I’d like each of you to start a list of these words. You can record your words in
the first column of this sheet. Your list will have words such as they, because,
their/there, enough. These are the kinds of words you use often in writing.
It probably won’t have words such as refrigerator, magnanimous, or
crustaceous because these challenging words aren’t words you use over and
over again.
Your list should be short and true to your own pattern of commonly misspelled
words. You’ll keep this list all year, and your challenge will be to drop as many
words as possible as you move from one quarter to the next. Keep this in a
safe place and refer to each time you edit.
Personal Word List
Title _________________________Name__________________
Date_________________________
First Quarter
Second Quarter Third Quarter
Fourth Quarter
Final Draft and Publication
After using the spell check sheet to correct misspelled words in their draft, students copy over their
drafts to their final draft paper. This paper can then be published in a variety of ways, both in terms of
the presentation of the actual draft and how students publicly share their drafts. All students, regardless
of their ability, should be part of the publishing and celebration stages.
At every celebration, you can consider inviting staff of the school, including the principal, nurse and
custodian, as well as parents. You also can always provide some sort of food or snack to heighten the
sense of celebration. Don’t feel, however, that you need to do this every time. Not every celebration
should feel like a bog production with lots of prep time.
Below are different ways you can publish and celebrate.
Students create an illustrated cover or accompanying illustrations.

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

Students create an illustrated cover or accompanying illustrations
Student staple draft onto colored construction paper
Student can dress up for publishing day
Cross grade celebrations-For example, half of a second grade class can switch with half of fifth
grade class and student share.
Class poem-After sharing completed published pieces in partners, all students choose their
favorite sentence. Then, students stand in a line at the front of the room and each take a turn
reading their line out loud.
Silent Musical Chairs-In this celebration, each student should get a “celebration sheet” with
space to write their name, the title of their final draft, and space for comments. This sheet stays
on their desk next to their draft. Then, students move to a different desk, read the draft there
and, when time is up, they write a positive comment on the celebration sheet. Students can
move three or four times before returning to their own seat to see what people wrote. It’s a
good idea to have a mini-lesson on “feedback” so students know it should be positive. You can
also explain how students comment on craft that has recently been taught rather than to just to
write, “I like your writing.”
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Grade 3-5 Unit 2 Personal Narrative