- Examine samples from literature for various elements of writer's craft, such as leads, conclusions, and description.
- Practice with each presented element in revision, journaling, or new drafts.
- Create a writing piece that showcases their learning of these elements.
- Selected literature samples to use for modeling lesson (see booklist)
- Writer’s notebooks or other writing folders for students to keep their work
Set Up and Prepare
Locate a literature sample or two that will illustrate the element of craft on which students will work. For the following lesson, adapted from one in Using Picture Books to Teach Writing With the Traits by Ruth Culham, students will work on description using Courage by Bernard Waber.
Read aloud the book Courage by Bernard Waber and discuss the examples that compromise the definition of courage.
Give students another word, such as joy, to define with description. Have students partner or group to brainstorm and write sentences of description that define the word.
Each group should select one of the definition sentences and create versions using a simile, a metaphor, or sensory images. The group chooses their best sentence to share with the class.
Allow students to choose another word to create their own book of descriptive definition. Be sure to have students self and/or peer assess for the trait of Word Choice. The books can be illustrated if desired.
Supporting All Learners
By having students work in pairs or groups, students that struggle can benefit from stronger peers. I also meet with each student as they draft their own definition book and offer support and suggestions when needed.
As part of my Writer's Workshop, I post a word on the board a week. I choose words such as believe, dream, or truth. Sometime during that week, each student writes a journal entry on what that word means to them and experiments with language to convey their meaning, using recent mini-lessons as a focus if needed. Some writers choose to create pieces similar to the Courage book format, while others incorporate this language work into other writing pieces.
A student made the suggestion that they take some of their best descriptive definition words and revise as a tribute to a parent. What a gift!
- Students will work with a group during the guided practice portion of the lesson to develop sentences based on the given word
- Students will create their own descriptive definition piece on another chosen word
Did your students enjoy creating these descriptive definitions as much as mine? Did you see their descriptions come alive as they personalized their writing with carefully chosen words? Think about how you can extend this format for other craft lessons. Consider using more short projects instead of always insisting on major papers to allow students more opportunities to grow in the craft. Then when you do assign a major paper, schedule a lesson about incorporating all of the smaller lessons in the traits into the project.
The most important point is to train students to assess their own writing and use the rubric to lead revision. Almost any writing lesson can be evaluated under more than one trait. Then use the Traits rubric when you assess student work, either for certain traits that reflect the lesson or on all traits if your student writers have created major pieces.