Writing Lesson of the Month Network

...sharing thoughtful, mentor text-inspired lessons your students will love!

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Courage by Bernard Waber
Review –

The book Courage is one that shows how you can overcome anything and everything. In the book, the author takes you through different times where you would have to be courageous. Taking you through times where you might have needed courage as a child an adult or even a pet. From diving off the diving board to seeing the acrobats fly across the stage, this book is a creative way to show its readers that you can overcome. By the end, I, as a reader, am thinking about my fears and the times that I had to face them head on. The pictures are colorful and at points can make you laugh because there is at least one time in the book where you can say, “Hey, I’ve been through that situation.” It also shows how man’s best friend has to overcome their own obstacles by not showing jealousy over the cat’s attention or not showing disappointment when they have to eat the same dinner night after night.

Persuasive Activity suggestion-

This book’s topic is one that could be used across the grades. I would write the topic, “Courage, is it real?” I would have them explore the topic of being courageous. Can we see it? How? I would then have them work in groups to brainstorm a list when they, themselves, have shown courage (possibly give them some examples…standing up for a friend, taking blame for something they did wrong). I would then share with them the book. I would ask them to think about different times that animals would have to show courage. The next day they will have to choose two animals that would have to show courage at some point. They would then have to write a poem in two voices that explores both animals and how they show courage. They would have to find a time in the poem when both animals have to show courage for the same thing. Older students could create persuasive posters about “saving” the dog from eating the same dinner over and over or creating an advertisement for their business that can help you, “abolish your fears.”
The picture book, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, is about the three hungry Billy Goats that want to eat in a green pasture. They have to travel over a bridge to get to this field, but there is a nasty troll who is hungry. This troll wants to eat the goats, and the first goat to go over the bridge persuades him not to eat him since he is small that the next goat to cross the bridge. The second goat crosses the bridge and convinces the troll to wait for the last goat to cross since he is the biggest goat to eat. The BIG Billy Goat gruff comes across the bridge, and as he does so the troll hears the trampling on the bridge. The troll says he is going to gobble him up; however, the Big Billy Goat Gruff bumps him off of the bridge in to the river. The story ends with three fat goats that could barely get home “Snip, Snap, and Snout the tale is told out”!
The activity idea for The Three Billy Goats Gruff will focus on the writing skill of idea development with an emphasis on persuading in the story. The student will select a unique topic to write about, so they can convey their voice in their writing by using strong word choice. The graphic organizer they will use is the film strip with each picture/writing conveying what will occur in their final draft. They will begin the process by choosing what character they will have, and situations will occur by brainstorming or using the options list choice created by the teacher. Once they have their character, setting, plot, and theme thought of the students will then start to assemble their filmstrip organizer to help clarify the idea development. Next, they will use post it notes peer review that are preprinted to rate the use of idea development. After their peer rates the rough draft the writer will go back and try to strength the writing in their weakest areas. After this the writer will begin the final draft.
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! by Fiona Macdonald

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! A Life You’d Rather Not Have, is a book that takes a look at the dark and dirty secret of ancient Greek society. After all, it was the use of slaves that allowed the Greek society to rise to its fullest potential right? This book looks at the issue of slavery in Greek society from the perspective of a slave in ancient Greece. It starts with the history of the slave trade, moving to all of the daily jobs and duties of a slave, to discussing the treatment of the slaves and finally, the end of the slave’s life. This book is an expository text in disguise, which is perfect for tricking your students into thinking they are reading a comic book rather than a book that is actually giving them factual information. The text of the story is great, the narratives from the slaves are real and the pictures are extremely kid friendly and actually a bit humorous, which helps to make a heavy subject a bit lighter for kids to understand.

This is a great book to use while teaching ancient civilizations and for tying content into your reading. This is my first time using this book in my classroom this year and I was originally using it for perspective. One of the 6th grade reading standards focuses on author’s viewpoint and perspective in an expository text, and I feel that this book is a great example of a mentor text that your kids can read to meet that standard. There are other books in the series as well; You Wouldn’t Want to be a Roman Gladiator, Egyptian Mummy, Viking Explorer and Cleopatra, that you could pull from to teach perspective. I am not using all of the books this year; I have only used two for my ancient civilizations unit, but something that my kids are going to be required to do at the end of our unit is to write me a piece from the perspective of someone that you wouldn’t expect. Someone from ancient history that they could give a voice to that probably wouldn’t have one. I am still working out the kinks in the lesson, but I am very excited to see what they put out. If anyone has any extensions or ideas to add on how to use this book in my classroom, please send them my way!
Nothing but the Truth by Avi
The novel, Nothing but the Truth is a book about a confrontation between a teacher and a student in the classroom. The teacher sends out the student for humming the national anthem and creating a disturbance in class. What ensues is a fully waged warfare of battling sides including the school administration, the superintendent, the media, the parents, the community and the other students. Nothing but the Truth is written in play format. It does this because it offers perspectives of all the people in the latter sentence and allows the reader to make up their own mind about how issues ensue in a school district.
Nothing but the Truth serves as a model for perspective because it includes so many different perspectives. My lesson will focus on idea development with the sub-topics: choosing interesting, high quality details to write with when: describing important characters or people, setting, places, objects or things. I also plan to have students use a thoughtful balance of showing and telling skills. I would start out by handing them a jigsaw graphic organizer. The students would have to list each character and also list how the characters action affected another character as well as listing the perspectives. The student when the student writes the essay they must include each character’s perspective and explain how the characters motives had led to the story’s end. Lastly, they need to explain who they felt the final victim was at the end of the story based on the character’s perspectives. As a revision tool, the students will reread their paper using the detail rule of threes. The student must add three details on the character’s perspective or three effects the character created based on their decision to back up there answer. They may also compare and contrast character points of views or perspectives to explain how situations resulted as they did.
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 would suggest giving them a choice in pet, so they can make it personal. As you know some students will not like dogs, and will not care about them eating the same food everyday.

Amy Denise Waters said:
Courage by Bernard Waber
Review –
The book Courage is one that shows how you can overcome anything and everything. In the book, the author takes you through different times where you would have to be courageous. Taking you through times where you might have needed courage as a child an adult or even a pet. From diving off the diving board to seeing the acrobats fly across the stage, this book is a creative way to show its readers that you can overcome. By the end, I, as a reader, am thinking about my fears and the times that I had to face them head on. The pictures are colorful and at points can make you laugh because there is at least one time in the book where you can say, “Hey, I’ve been through that situation.” It also shows how man’s best friend has to overcome their own obstacles by not showing jealousy over the cat’s attention or not showing disappointment when they have to eat the same dinner night after night.
Persuasive Activity suggestion-
This book’s topic is one that could be used across the grades. I would write the topic, “Courage, is it real?” I would have them explore the topic of being courageous. Can we see it? How? I would then have them work in groups to brainstorm a list when they, themselves, have shown courage (possibly give them some examples…standing up for a friend, taking blame for something they did wrong). I would then share with them the book. I would ask them to think about different times that animals would have to show courage. The next day they will have to choose two animals that would have to show courage at some point. They would then have to write a poem in two voices that explores both animals and how they show courage. They would have to find a time in the poem when both animals have to show courage for the same thing. Older students could create persuasive posters about “saving” the dog from eating the same dinner over and over or creating an advertisement for their business that can help you, “abolish your fears.”
Cool idea, one idea you could also use is a word box of strong verbs that students could choose from while completing the activity.

Karen Hintz said:
The picture book, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, is about the three hungry Billy Goats that want to eat in a green pasture. They have to travel over a bridge to get to this field, but there is a nasty troll who is hungry. This troll wants to eat the goats, and the first goat to go over the bridge persuades him not to eat him since he is small that the next goat to cross the bridge. The second goat crosses the bridge and convinces the troll to wait for the last goat to cross since he is the biggest goat to eat. The BIG Billy Goat gruff comes across the bridge, and as he does so the troll hears the trampling on the bridge. The troll says he is going to gobble him up; however, the Big Billy Goat Gruff bumps him off of the bridge in to the river. The story ends with three fat goats that could barely get home “Snip, Snap, and Snout the tale is told out”!
The activity idea for The Three Billy Goats Gruff will focus on the writing skill of idea development with an emphasis on persuading in the story. The student will select a unique topic to write about, so they can convey their voice in their writing by using strong word choice. The graphic organizer they will use is the film strip with each picture/writing conveying what will occur in their final draft. They will begin the process by choosing what character they will have, and situations will occur by brainstorming or using the options list choice created by the teacher. Once they have their character, setting, plot, and theme thought of the students will then start to assemble their filmstrip organizer to help clarify the idea development. Next, they will use post it notes peer review that are preprinted to rate the use of idea development. After their peer rates the rough draft the writer will go back and try to strength the writing in their weakest areas. After this the writer will begin the final draft.
How long do you think this lesson would last? I really like the idea, I'm just trying to get an idea on a time frame.

Scott Nelson said:
Nothing but the Truth by Avi
The novel, Nothing but the Truth is a book about a confrontation between a teacher and a student in the classroom. The teacher sends out the student for humming the national anthem and creating a disturbance in class. What ensues is a fully waged warfare of battling sides including the school administration, the superintendent, the media, the parents, the community and the other students. Nothing but the Truth is written in play format. It does this because it offers perspectives of all the people in the latter sentence and allows the reader to make up their own mind about how issues ensue in a school district.
Nothing but the Truth serves as a model for perspective because it includes so many different perspectives. My lesson will focus on idea development with the sub-topics: choosing interesting, high quality details to write with when: describing important characters or people, setting, places, objects or things. I also plan to have students use a thoughtful balance of showing and telling skills. I would start out by handing them a jigsaw graphic organizer. The students would have to list each character and also list how the characters action affected another character as well as listing the perspectives. The student when the student writes the essay they must include each character’s perspective and explain how the characters motives had led to the story’s end. Lastly, they need to explain who they felt the final victim was at the end of the story based on the character’s perspectives. As a revision tool, the students will reread their paper using the detail rule of threes. The student must add three details on the character’s perspective or three effects the character created based on their decision to back up there answer. They may also compare and contrast character points of views or perspectives to explain how situations resulted as they did.
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.
Mentor Text Review of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout” By Teri Sloat

Synopsis/Review- This story continues with the wild, crazy and amazing things a person will eat! She is an awesome lady who shows the wild life of the Pacific Ocean and the natural order of species. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “There was an old lady who swallowed a porpoise. She did it on purpose; she swallowed the porpoise.”
Activity Ideas- If you need a quick lesson it is at your figure tips! You can sort, compare in size, play with the style of the many authors who use this same idea. Students can publish their own there was a student who swallowed….. Or there was a leader, explorers and ancient civilizations for the social studies lovers, who swallowed…… Or in science you can use it for -cell division, DNA, mitosis, plants and the planets that are swallowed….. In math the process lends itself to so much like- order of all operations, fractions, which swallowed…….
I like perspective writing and I have used this technique in my writers workshop. I get really good writing from the girls for some reason when they are writing from more than one perspective. I have had them write from two and sometimes three perspectives and they have the choice to write about whatever they want to write about. It does require them to use some higher level thinking when writing from perspectives, but they seem to enjoy it.

Scott Nelson said:
Nothing but the Truth by Avi
The novel, Nothing but the Truth is a book about a confrontation between a teacher and a student in the classroom. The teacher sends out the student for humming the national anthem and creating a disturbance in class. What ensues is a fully waged warfare of battling sides including the school administration, the superintendent, the media, the parents, the community and the other students. Nothing but the Truth is written in play format. It does this because it offers perspectives of all the people in the latter sentence and allows the reader to make up their own mind about how issues ensue in a school district.
Nothing but the Truth serves as a model for perspective because it includes so many different perspectives. My lesson will focus on idea development with the sub-topics: choosing interesting, high quality details to write with when: describing important characters or people, setting, places, objects or things. I also plan to have students use a thoughtful balance of showing and telling skills. I would start out by handing them a jigsaw graphic organizer. The students would have to list each character and also list how the characters action affected another character as well as listing the perspectives. The student when the student writes the essay they must include each character’s perspective and explain how the characters motives had led to the story’s end. Lastly, they need to explain who they felt the final victim was at the end of the story based on the character’s perspectives. As a revision tool, the students will reread their paper using the detail rule of threes. The student must add three details on the character’s perspective or three effects the character created based on their decision to back up there answer. They may also compare and contrast character points of views or perspectives to explain how situations resulted as they did.
This lesson plan sound fasinating. I can't wait to see it after the kinks are worked out. Some of the cool extentions I have seen is that students make models of ancient times to reflect a place or person. The visual aspect grabs the type of learner who are kinestice/visual learners.

Kim Price said:
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! by Fiona Macdonald

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! A Life You’d Rather Not Have, is a book that takes a look at the dark and dirty secret of ancient Greek society. After all, it was the use of slaves that allowed the Greek society to rise to its fullest potential right? This book looks at the issue of slavery in Greek society from the perspective of a slave in ancient Greece. It starts with the history of the slave trade, moving to all of the daily jobs and duties of a slave, to discussing the treatment of the slaves and finally, the end of the slave’s life. This book is an expository text in disguise, which is perfect for tricking your students into thinking they are reading a comic book rather than a book that is actually giving them factual information. The text of the story is great, the narratives from the slaves are real and the pictures are extremely kid friendly and actually a bit humorous, which helps to make a heavy subject a bit lighter for kids to understand.

This is a great book to use while teaching ancient civilizations and for tying content into your reading. This is my first time using this book in my classroom this year and I was originally using it for perspective. One of the 6th grade reading standards focuses on author’s viewpoint and perspective in an expository text, and I feel that this book is a great example of a mentor text that your kids can read to meet that standard. There are other books in the series as well; You Wouldn’t Want to be a Roman Gladiator, Egyptian Mummy, Viking Explorer and Cleopatra, that you could pull from to teach perspective. I am not using all of the books this year; I have only used two for my ancient civilizations unit, but something that my kids are going to be required to do at the end of our unit is to write me a piece from the perspective of someone that you wouldn’t expect. Someone from ancient history that they could give a voice to that probably wouldn’t have one. I am still working out the kinks in the lesson, but I am very excited to see what they put out. If anyone has any extensions or ideas to add on how to use this book in my classroom, please send them my way!

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