Ann M. Martin's Writing Model
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
One reason readers enjoy the story of A Dog's Life is because the author, Ann M. Martin, makes Squirrel real and believable. The story is not actually told by a dog, but Martin's creativity and insight into a dog's world give the impression that this is a real dog's tale. When preparing to write this story, Martin took notes on her characters and then wrote an outline to use as a guide in her writing. In this activity, students will learn about Martin's writing process and use her model to inspire their own writing.
- Use digital resources to learn about the life of Ann M. Martin, her writing process, and how she develops story ideas
- Record notes and observations that might be useful in developing characters and a storyline for a story-writing activity
- Use a graphic organizer to develop an outline for a story
- Follow the author's writing model to create a story
- Computer — activities can be modified from one computer to a whole computer lab
- Flashlight Readers: A Dog's Life: Ann M. Martin on Writing and Ann M. Martin on A Dog’s Life
- A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin
- KWL Chart (PDF Form)
- Meet the Author
- Discover A Dog’s Life
- It Takes Two!
- Organizational Outline (PDF Form)
- Doggie Grab Bag
- Optional: Printout of A Dog's Life Vocabulary Boosters
- Optional: LCD or overhead projector to display activities
Set Up and Prepare
- Bookmark Flashlight Readers: A Dog's Life on the computers students will use.
- NOTE: If students have limited access to computers, print activity screens and make transparencies to post on an overhead projector.
Step 1: Distribute copies of the KWL Chart (PDF form) to small groups of students. Have the groups list what they already know about Ann M. Martin in the left column of the chart. For example, they may know that she is the author of the well-known Baby-sitter's Club books. Or, if they read the author information in the back of the After Words edition of A Dog's Life, they may know that her favorite color is blue and that she has a dog named Sadie. Then ask students to write in the middle column things they would like to find out about Martin. To help them learn more about this author, invite the groups to go to the computer and explore Meet the Author and the links to the author's Web site. Instruct students to write what they learn in the right column on their chart. Afterward, invite the groups to share and compare the information they gathered. Later, as they learn more about Martin, encourage them to add the new information to their charts.
Step 2: Gather students around a computer, or use an LCD or other projection device to project the Ann M. Martin on Writing slideshow for the whole class to see. View one slide at a time, taking time to discuss the information, experiences, and advice shared by the author. Then show the Ann M. Martin on A Dog’s Life slideshow. Again, view one slide at a time and allow time for students to discuss the information presented on each one. Starting with slide 6, call students' attention to the process that Martin follows when she writes a book. After viewing slides 6–10, recap her story-writing process with students: writing notes about the characters and storyline, developing an outline, using the outline as a guide in writing the rough draft, making revisions and corrections, and finally publishing the story. Then continue the slideshow and discuss with students how Martin found her inspiration for many of the characters and settings in A Dog's Life from real people and places that she knows.
Step 3: To wrap up this part of the lesson, go to Discover A Dog’s Life and have students listen to Ann M. Martin read an excerpt from her book. They can find the excerpts in the book and follow along as the author reads or follow the text on the computer screen.
Step 4: Remind students that Squirrel and Bone are mutts, or mixed-breed dogs. Invite individuals or pairs to visit It Takes Two! to create a dog of their own. Invite students to post their unique dog's picture and a caption on the message board, if desired. Then tell them that they will use their dog as a main character in a story. To help generate vocabulary for their stories, have students create compound words from the "Create a Word" activity in It Takes Two! Provide copies of the Vocabulary Boosters as well.
Step 5: Review Martin's writing process from Step 2: writing notes about the characters and storyline, developing an outline, using the outline as a guide in writing the rough draft, making revisions and corrections, and publishing the story. Discuss with students the role and importance of each step in creating a story.
Using Martin's writing model as inspiration, have students jot down notes about their main character and any supporting characters they want to include in their story. Ask them to also write notes about the plot and what setting and events they might want to include in their story. In their notes, students might include realistic or imaginary things about their characters, setting, and events. During this stage, they should also decide whether they want to use a first- or third-person voice to tell the story. When students finish recording their notes, distribute copies of the Organizational Outline (PDF form) for them to use to develop an outline of their story. After students complete their outlines, collect their pages along with their dog pictures and vocabulary lists.
Step 6: Return students' outlines, dog pictures, and vocabulary lists to them. Have them use the outline to write a rough draft of their story. They can refer to their dog pictures to make sure descriptive words they use to tell about their dog matches the pictured version. Encourage them to refer to their vocabulary lists for words they might use in telling the story. After completing their rough draft, ask students to find a partner to read and edit their story. Then have them make revisions and corrections. Instruct students to once again have a partner read the story to check for parts that might need additional revising as well as for errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics. Have them make the necessary changes or corrections.
Step 7: When students are satisfied with their story, they can publish it. To do this, they can type their final draft on a word processor and print it out, or create a neat handwritten copy of the story. If desired, they can publish their work on the A Dog's Life message board. Then invite students to share their stories and dog pictures with the class. To display the stories, have students glue their pages to the center of a construction paper and then decorate the outer edges of the paper to frame their work.
Supporting All Learners
Language Arts Standards (4th ed.)
- Uses prewriting strategies to plan written work (e.g., uses graphic organizers; brainstorms ideas; organizes information according to type and purpose of writing)
- Uses strategies to draft and revise written work (e.g., elaborates on a central idea; writes with attention to audience, word choice, sentence variation)
- Uses strategies to edit and publish written work (e.g., edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling at a developmentally appropriate level; selects presentation format according to purpose; incorporates photos and illustrations; uses technology to compose and publish work)
- Evaluates own and others' writing (e.g., determines the best features of a piece of writing, determines how own writing achieves its purposes, asks for feedback, responds to classmates' writing)
- Writes in response to literature (e.g., summarizes main ideas and significant details; relates own ideas to supporting details; advances judgments; supports judgments with references to the text, other works, other authors, non-print media, and personal knowledge)
- Provides feedback in a constructive manner and recognizes the importance of seeking and receiving constructive feedback in a non-defensive manner
- Invite students to explore the links in the Doggie Grab Bag activity. Then have them create a dog collage. They can cut out pooch pictures from magazines, use photos of their own dog, or illustrate pictures to use in the collage. Encourage students to use some of the dog-related facts, phrases, and concepts in their collage, as well as any other facts or information they know about dogs. Use their completed collages to create a giant collage display on a classroom bulletin board. Then refer students to the display to search out ideas, information, and inspiration for their dog-related writing activities.
- Remind students that the author's writing is often inspired by her own experiences and observations, people she knows, and settings that she's familiar with. Are there things or people in students' lives that might inspire them in their writing? Ask them to make a list of interesting people, places, animals, events, and so on that might offer inspiration when developing a story. Have students create a scrapbook of these possible inspirations. Encourage them to add new pages as new inspirations come to mind. Then, when students need ideas for writing activities, invite them to refer to their scrapbook for inspiration.
- Ask students to spend some time observing someone or something that can't tell its own story. For example, they might observe an insect, baby, cat, or fish. As students observe, ask them to imagine they are that character. Have them write first-person journal entries about the thoughts, behaviors, actions, and experiences of their character. Later, invite students to share their journals in small groups.
- Informally assess students' understanding of the author's writing process by noting their participation in and completion of steps in the model.
- Review each student's story for content, clarity of ideas, and correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar.