Writing Lesson of the Month Network

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I have heard of Cynthia Rylant but wasn't aware she was so punctuation focused. I could definitely use this book in the classroom. As an extension piece I would like to suggest a book entitled: Punctuation Takes a Vacation. This is a silly picture book about how punctuation is taken for granted and they decided to leave letters, post cards, etc. and take a vacation. What ensues is maddness when people cannot read what is written because there is no punctuation!!! Check out this book or you might already have it. Enjoy.

Jill Bayliss said:
Persuasive Mentor Text Review: Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant
Synopsis/Review:
For those of you who know Cynthia Rylant, she is a master at manipulating punctuation. She uses commas and semi-colons in this picture book to accentuate her story. As Tulip sees America, she encounters different states in the country and describes for the reader what is unique about each one. The repeating line in the story is, “There is no ___________ like ______________.” Her descriptive detail persuades the reader to believe she is right.
Activity Idea:
These activities are designed to work on the areas of voice and style through the use of conventions. In addition, they are designed to introduce the idea that persuasion comes from describing your perspective in a convincing way.
My idea for this activity is two fold. One, have the students write a paragraph or poem about a place that has a unique quality. They will need to use description to convince their readers that the unique quality is worthy of traveling to that location. Two, have them go back in their rough drafts and add commas and semi-colons to accentuate their ideas. Even if they use just one of each effectively, they will have come a long way toward developing style and voice in their writing.
I've been trying to think of an activity to demonstrate two voices. I think I'll use this.


Diane Frank said:
Title/Author: The Spider and the Fly by Tony DiTerlizzi
Review: The picture book , The Spider and the Fly, is an intriguing look into the world of a spider and how he persuades a fly to enter his web, or home. This book is based on a cautionary tale by Mary Howitt. The book’s setting is foreboding and dark. You see a doll house with one light on but the rest of the room is dark. The spider is dressed very dapper and is very sophisticated in his mannerisms and language. The fly is portrayed as sweet and innocent, who needs help on her journey. By looking at the illustrations, the reader sees the exploits of how good a hunter the Spider is. There are several “ghosts” floating around and bugs of various sorts who are now being used by the Spider. With how many times the Fly resists the temptations of the Spider, the Spider knows that the Fly will eventually return. “The Spider turned him round about, and went to his den, for well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again.” With the persuasion of the Spider, the Fly falls prey to the Fly. The writer ends with a caution for dear little children.

Persuasive Activity Suggestions: I was thinking that because this book has a lot of persuasion on the part of the Spider, I would like my students to use persuasion from the point of view of the Fly. They could use Voice and Style to show that she isn’t as innocent and helpless as she seems. I would like to type out the words of the Spider to show persuasion and have my students brainstorm an argument against it in the voice of the Fly. Because the Spider is a master of persuasion, I would like my students to practice their persuasion techniques. All of our students really do have this skill, we just have to get them to find it. After this practice, I could then have my students make a list of ideas of what to persuade and to whom. For example, “I would like to stay up late on a school night. Here is my reasoning behind this.” Of course, I would caution against boundaries. Once my students have found a passion for a topic, they could then write them and present them to the team or the class. I could also differentiate this by having my students write a poem in two voices. Each student would take on the voice of either the Spider or the Fly. I would also like to discuss cautionary tales and show several examples. My students could then write their own cautionary tales. Also, I was thinking that my students could write a cautionary tale to modern stories and chapter books.
Title/Author: Grandad by Rachel Elliot
Review: The picture book Grandad is a wonderful relationship between a grand father and his grand daughter. In the story, Grandad’s unique character enjoys a loving world of his means, with a passion for simplicity, frolic and wisdom and teaches life is for living “your way.” As grand daughter starts her journey, grandad, expresses his perspective and love of his world he once lived. Grand daughter sees the world through grandads eyes.

Persuasive Activity Suggestion: The book can be used by any age writer, and student’s ability to use persuasive techniques about the topic would become more meaningful as the student became older. I would write “Grandad” on the board before reading the story. After reading the story, I would have the students brainstorm as many ideas about grandad and share on the board. After, the brainstorming the character granddad, I would have the students brainstorm their happy experiences and characteristics about their own grand father. For younger students, I would ask them to write a poem in two voices, both grand daughter and grandad role playing their loving and caring relationship. I would have older students write a short essay on both relationships. And, for the more skillful students, they can write an essay with a introduction, thesis, body and conclusion about their enjoyable experiences with their grand father or other relative. Also, at any age, I would have the student interview their grand father or other relative about his or her life.
The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss’s, The Butter Battle Book is a wonderfully illustrated tale about two communities, Yook and Zook. Unfortunately, the Yooks and the Zooks do not get along because they disagree about how to eat their buttered bread. Yes, that’s right, buttered bread! The Yooks prefer to eat their bread with the butter side up while the Zooks prefer to eat their bread with the butter side down. This may not sound like a huge disagreement but it sparks long held distrust and dislike of one another. The dislike results in the building of a wall separating both communities and finds an armed guard monitoring the Yook side of the wall. When VanItch, a Zook, fires a rock at the Yook guard and breaks his weapon, a greater escalation of weapons build up occurs. Weapons like a Triple-Sling Jigger, a Jigger-Rock Snatchem, and then finally The Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo are created by the “Top-est Secret-est Brain Nest. The Zooks, not be out done, create equally imaginative weapons to defend themselves from possible attack. By the end of the book, both the Yooks and Zooks have “Big-Boy Boomeroo’s” and both sides are prepared to use them to get rid of their enemy. The question, “Who’s going to drop it”, is answered with the very ambiguous statement, “We will see…”.

If this situations sounds absurd yet familiar, good for you! This is an allegory for the Cold War weapons build up that resulted in not only the building of the Berlin Wall but of a distrust and dislike between communist USSR and the capitalist United States that resulted in decades of nuclear arms build up. The same question, “Who’s going to drop it”, was one on everyone’s mind as two superpowers raced to be the superpower. I would use this book to introduce students to the idea of the Cold War; a concept difficult for many of them to grasp. War means battles and blood in their minds and the cold war concept of building up weapons to fight but not fighting is difficult to grasp. I would have students fill in a graphic organizer as I read the book drawing them through point-of-view and the basic ideas of building up arms. My ultimate goal would be to use a secondary text, as of yet unknown, to complete a compare/contrast activity about the Cold War. Once students understand the concept of what happened, I can include standards based content. Readers, do you have any suggestions?
There are also several books in the series that deal with U.S. History as well. Such as I Wouldn't Want to be a Mill Worker and, I believe, I Wouldn't Want to be an Astronaut on Apollo 13. I have several of these books and have wondered about how to use them with an older High School crowd. I like the idea you have about perspective and will work on something for my juniors. Thanks!
Sounds like an assignment that could turn into a piece worthy of giving as a gift. We often "gift" our writing pieces throughout the year and often receive wonderful letters back from the "giftee" thanking us for having the assignment.

William B. Marchuk said:
Title/Author: Grandad by Rachel Elliot
Review: The picture book Grandad is a wonderful relationship between a grand father and his grand daughter. In the story, Grandad’s unique character enjoys a loving world of his means, with a passion for simplicity, frolic and wisdom and teaches life is for living “your way.” As grand daughter starts her journey, grandad, expresses his perspective and love of his world he once lived. Grand daughter sees the world through grandads eyes.

Persuasive Activity Suggestion: The book can be used by any age writer, and student’s ability to use persuasive techniques about the topic would become more meaningful as the student became older. I would write “Grandad” on the board before reading the story. After reading the story, I would have the students brainstorm as many ideas about grandad and share on the board. After, the brainstorming the character granddad, I would have the students brainstorm their happy experiences and characteristics about their own grand father. For younger students, I would ask them to write a poem in two voices, both grand daughter and grandad role playing their loving and caring relationship. I would have older students write a short essay on both relationships. And, for the more skillful students, they can write an essay with a introduction, thesis, body and conclusion about their enjoyable experiences with their grand father or other relative. Also, at any age, I would have the student interview their grand father or other relative about his or her life.
Hello Diane, I like this idea and think the kids would like it as well - especially crafting a piece they could use to persuade mom and dad with!

Martha Schwalbe said:
I've been trying to think of an activity to demonstrate two voices. I think I'll use this.


Diane Frank said:
Title/Author: The Spider and the Fly by Tony DiTerlizzi
Review: The picture book , The Spider and the Fly, is an intriguing look into the world of a spider and how he persuades a fly to enter his web, or home. This book is based on a cautionary tale by Mary Howitt. The book’s setting is foreboding and dark. You see a doll house with one light on but the rest of the room is dark. The spider is dressed very dapper and is very sophisticated in his mannerisms and language. The fly is portrayed as sweet and innocent, who needs help on her journey. By looking at the illustrations, the reader sees the exploits of how good a hunter the Spider is. There are several “ghosts” floating around and bugs of various sorts who are now being used by the Spider. With how many times the Fly resists the temptations of the Spider, the Spider knows that the Fly will eventually return. “The Spider turned him round about, and went to his den, for well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again.” With the persuasion of the Spider, the Fly falls prey to the Fly. The writer ends with a caution for dear little children.

Persuasive Activity Suggestions: I was thinking that because this book has a lot of persuasion on the part of the Spider, I would like my students to use persuasion from the point of view of the Fly. They could use Voice and Style to show that she isn’t as innocent and helpless as she seems. I would like to type out the words of the Spider to show persuasion and have my students brainstorm an argument against it in the voice of the Fly. Because the Spider is a master of persuasion, I would like my students to practice their persuasion techniques. All of our students really do have this skill, we just have to get them to find it. After this practice, I could then have my students make a list of ideas of what to persuade and to whom. For example, “I would like to stay up late on a school night. Here is my reasoning behind this.” Of course, I would caution against boundaries. Once my students have found a passion for a topic, they could then write them and present them to the team or the class. I could also differentiate this by having my students write a poem in two voices. Each student would take on the voice of either the Spider or the Fly. I would also like to discuss cautionary tales and show several examples. My students could then write their own cautionary tales. Also, I was thinking that my students could write a cautionary tale to modern stories and chapter books.

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