Getting Ready to Write
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Create their own notebooks of ideas for a story they choose to write
- Collect ideas and inspiration from a variety of sources
- Organize plot in a systematic way using graphic organizers
- Cornelia's Writing Room
- Meet Cornelia
- Flashlight Readers: Inkheart
- Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
- Computer: activities can be modified from one computer to a whole computer lab
- One-inch three-ring binders with clear cover sleeve (five or six depending on how many student groups you form)
- Video interview with Cornelia Funke
- Cornelia Funke biography
- Idea Web (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Bookmark Flashlight Readers: Inkheart on the computers students will use
- NOTE: If students have limited access to computers, print activity screens and make transparency copies to post on an overhead projector.
Step 1: As a class, watch the online slideshow called Cornelia's Writing Room on the Inkheart Flashlight Reader. Make sure students have access to this slideshow by bookmarking it for future reference.
Step 2: Go through the slideshow once again, but this time stop at each slide and ask the following questions to guide a discussion:
- Slide 2 — What do you think Cornelia Funke meant when she said that her "characters had decided something else"?
- Slide 3 — Do you think the trilogy was planned from the very beginning? Why or why not?
- Slide 4 — Is Inkheart Cornelia's first book? Do you think she could have written Inkheart 15 years ago? Why or why not?
- Slide 5 — Why did it take Cornelia so long to begin to write Inkheart? Is it hard for you to "wait" to write a story? Are there advantages to waiting?
- Slide 6 — Did Cornelia Funke do all of her research first before writing or did she research while she was writing?
- Slide 7 — What does "inspire" mean? What inspires you when you write? Do you think inspiration is important?
- Slide 8 — Cornelia did sketches while she planned and wrote her books. Is this necessary? Why or why not? What if you can't draw?
- Slide 9 — Is WHERE you write important? Why or why not?
- Slide 10 — Cornelia Funke did not start writing in a "writing house," but in a small room. What if you only have the corner of a kitchen table to write on? Can you write something wonderful on a kitchen table?
- Slide 11 — Look at Cornelia's way of organizing her thoughts about her book. Do you see an advantage to the way she does things? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it? If you don't prefer colorful sticky notes or index cards, what could you use instead to organize your story?
- Slide 12 — Cornelia said, "Of course, the plot evolves with every draft." What does that tell you about her writing process? Why would she revise so much?
- Slide 13 — What did Cornelia mean when she said she polishes every sentence? How would you do that?
- Slide 14 — The idea for a notebook to keep about the book or story you're writing is a very practical and smart thing to do. We're going to keep idea notebooks for our stories as well. Start thinking about what kind of notebook you'd like to use.
- Slide 15 — Why do you think Cornelia named her computer?
- Slide 16 — What language would you love to see your book translated into?
Step 3: Explain to students that they are going to prepare to write a book as a group. Before the book can be written, they will have to do research, collect ideas, find inspiration, find a place to write, come up with a way to keep their ideas and story organized, and keep all their notes and inspiration in a notebook. Their completed notebook will be their assessment. Distribute a rubric you design yourself to help students know from the very beginning what is expected. You may want to include expectations such as:
- Students design a cover that illustrates their story idea or the topic of their story.
- Students include inspiration about characters, plot, time, place, and mood.
- Students include brief paragraphs of story line, dialogue, and character description.
- Students came up with a way to organize their story (i.e., concept map, sticky notes, note cards, separate notebook, or other idea). They should include samples of these organizational tools in their notebook.
- Students include drawings or illustrations, pictures, or photographs for visual inspiration.
- Students include textures or textiles for kinesthetic inspiration.
- Students include music or audio recordings of voices, sounds, or noises for auditory inspiration.
Creativity is key! Neatness does NOT count!
Step 4: Conduct a class brainstorming session for story ideas. Allow students who may have already started a story to contribute as well. Leave these story ideas posted so students can have a starting point.
Step 5: Group students in groups of four or five. Make sure that each group has someone who is artistic or at least highly visual. Distribute three-ring binders to groups. Have each group choose a "keeper of the notebook." Then have each group choose a story idea that they will research. They are not required to actually write the story, but for those ambitious writers, this may be an extension activity. Encourage each group to do different story ideas; if two groups choose the same story, allow it. You'll be surprised at how the same story idea is treated completely differently by different groups.
Step 6: Allow students to meet together for approximately 20 minutes to brainstorm a basic set of characters and a plot. The plot can consist simply of a beginning, a middle, a climax, and ending. Have them choose a setting that consists of both time and place. The first page of their notebooks should include this information. Use the Idea Web (PDF) to help students organize their brainstorming.
Step 7: Encourage students to search the Internet and magazines for pictures that depict elements of their story and characters. If they have things to bring in from home, encourage them to do so. If they have music that sets the mood for the story, they should bring that in as well. If someone in the group is artistic and can draw ideas, let them go for it! Anything they can think of will be important. Give this step approximately three days. At the end of every day, ask a group reporter to tell the rest of the class about the progress they've made. It may "inspire" others.
For older students:
- Encourage students to do research on their own at home or at the library for more information on the ideas surrounding their chosen story.
Step 8: This is the only required writing for this lesson. Have each group come up with an opening to their story of no more than 250 words. It will be interesting to see what they come up with AFTER their prewriting exercises. Students should place this page in the front of their notebooks.
Step 9: Set aside time for each group to read aloud their story openings as if they were doing a "reading" of their published work in front of an audience. Serve refreshments and display their notebooks for all to see. You may even want to invite parents to this "event" by having students create appropriate invitations.
Step 10: Have students write a brief reflection about this process and make sure each member includes his or her reflection essay at the end of the notebook.
- Reflection prompt: What did you learn about the process of writing a best-selling book through this experience? Will it affect how you plan your own writing in the future? Why or why not?
Supporting All Learners
Language Arts Standards (4th Ed.)
- Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics (e.g., magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, schedules, journals, phone directories, globes, atlases, almanacs, technological sources)
- Organizes information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways (e.g., timelines, outlines, notes, graphic representations)
- Prewriting: uses a variety of prewriting strategies (e.g., makes outlines, uses published pieces as writing models, constructs critical standards, brainstorms, builds background knowledge)
- Students who already love to write should be encouraged to either write the story that their idea notebook revolved around or begin their own notebook for their own story.
- Advance student experiences by inviting them to participate in the Scholastic Storytelling Workshop. Although this workshop is primarily about plot, it is the logical next step in the writing process.
Evaluate group notebooks. Give students credit for their individual reflections as well.