Writing Lesson of the Month Network

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The Rainbow Fish by Mark Pfister is a story about a unique fish that has rainbow scales. This fish, while valued for his individual beauty, finds that the creatures of the ocean also want a small piece of uniqueness. When asked if he will share his beautiful scales, he refuses and soon finds that he has no friends. After talking with the great wise octopus, he is guided to share his beauty and realizes the value of friendship and that being different is not so great.

I was attracted to this book because it approaches one of the themes in The Giver by Lois Lowry in a more simplistic way. The imagined community in the novel abhors individuality. When the main character Jonas is appointed to the respectable position as memory keeper, he finds that he is very unique indeed and his entire reality has been a lie. Being the memory keeper requires Jonas to store all the good and bad memories for the entire community. The burden of this task and the great joy of knowledge leave Jonas realizing that ignorance is not bliss and he must share to release his burden and benefit others.

Combining the themes from The Rainbow Fish and The Giver, I was thinking of asking students to pick something that makes them unique to create a commercial advertisement/radio campaign. However, the spinoff would be that students must pick something that nobody would want (for example: a reoccurring nightmare, a bad habit, or an overbearing older sibling.)

I would first begin by having students examine a few well constructed commercials/radio advertisements while giving them a list of techniques (see fallacies below) used to persuade the consumer. On a graphic organizer students would identify the emotion/feeling that the advertisement is trying to make the audience feel, what slogans/catchphrases/catchwords motivate the audience, and then identify which techniques were used to grip the consumer. These examples will serve as models for student created products.

The following is a list of “top 10 fallacies used in advertising” according to
http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/ (which are also often used effectively or ineffectively in persuasive essays writing.)

1. Ad hominem (meaning "against the person")—attacks the person and not the issue
2. Appeal to emotions—manipulates people's emotions in order to get their attention away from an important issue
3. Bandwagon—creates the impression that everybody is doing it and so should you
4. False dilemma—limits the possible choices to avoid consideration of another choice
5. Appeal to the people—uses the views of the majority as a persuasive device
6. Scare tactic—creates fear in people as evidence to support a claim
7. False cause—wrongly assumes a cause and effect relationship
8. Hasty generalization (or jumping to conclusions)—draws a conclusion about a population based on a small sample
9. Red herring—presents an irrelevant topic to divert attention away from the original issue
10. Traditional wisdom—uses the logic that the way things used to be is better than they are now, ignoring any problems of the past

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Replies to This Discussion

Wow, shat a great lesson. I really like how you connect a picture book and novel. Neat idea of having them write about a habit that no one else would want! I don't have any ideas for extending or clarifying. However, after you finish it would be great to share a student sample with some of our teachers. Thanks.
You've already put quite a bit of thought into this. Using the picture book to illustrate the larger theme on a more simplistic level is great. You could extend this further by having the kids make their own children's book. They would have to persuade focusing on 1 of the 10 fallacies. They could read them to siblings or younger children at a feeder school and then compare and contrast what their reader was persuaded to think. Were outcomes as expected?

My only criticism of your lesson is that the student has to focus on a negative. This may feel too personal for a kid who's not self-confident enough. An alternative would be to let the student do the same activity with a character from either novel. This could give them the distance they need to feel safe in expressing their ideas.
Starting with a picture book to teach theme is a method I use with my students. The connection that Jennifer made between these 2 books is something I never thought of. Sandra makes a valid point about the negative. I thought a possible extension could be with character. One of the first things I review with my students is that protagonists and antagonists are flawed, neither character being purely good or bad. What if you applied that to this writing so that the students understands more about themselves as an individual (an idea in both books) and add that positive piece and a text to self connection.
I'm not sure I understand this lesson entirely.  Have you presented this to your classroom and do you have a sample of an advertisement that you could share?  Thank you so very much.

Shel Silverstein has a great poem called, "One Sister for Sale." You might try using this as a class example also.




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