Write like a Book Author

A great way to encourage good writing is to have students write like a book author. Some of my favorite novel study writing activities require students to analyze sections of the author’s writing and mirror the style from a favorite passage in their own work.

At the end of the year, my students reviewed Lois Lowry’s descriptions of pleasant memories in The Giver. They recalled a favorite memory of their own and brainstormed verbs, adjectives, and other descriptive words that went with the special recollection. Using Lois Lowry’s description of a sled ride as a starting place, they wrote their own version of a personal memory. By following Ms. Lowry’s sample, the students were able to successfully practice descriptive writing at a high level.

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How to Write Like a Book Author

  • Describing a Person: Find an example of an in-depth description of a book character. Pull the descriptive passage(s) out of the book or story and remove key words. Replace the key words with a blank line and label the space with the type of word or part of speech that should go in the blank. Basically, build a literary Mad Lib. To see my Mother’s Day activity inspired by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and download a free activity page, CLICK HERE.
  • Describing a Place: I have a descriptive writing activity about the setting in my full novel unit for The Cricket in Times Square available HERE. Students read Chester’s description of Times Square in New York City and list the details about how this famous landmark looks, feels, smells, sounds, and tastes (the 5 senses) based on the author’s words. Then, students recall a place they have visited personally and describe the new place using their own word choices.
  • Describing a Memory: Find an example of an in-depth description of a scene. In my example from The Giver, it was a vivid description of one of The Giver’s memories. Using a handout like THIS ONE, have students brainstorm a list of adjectives, verbs, and nouns that relate to a chosen personal memory. Once the list is created, students return to the original passage in the story. Using the passage as a frame, students replace verbs, adjectives, and key phrases with their own words to create a unique writing sample that mirrors the professional writer but is their own ideas.
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Using published writing as a starting place helps students build confidence in their writing abilities. If you create a Mad Lib style template, you can reinforce grammar skills at the same time since students need specific types of words to re-build the paragraphs. By creating word banks and brainstorming prior to writing, students stretch their vocabulary and practice word choice skills. This activity can also be used to reinforce the concept of “mood” in literature. You can ask students to change the feeling of a passage from happy to scary or sad to exciting. My students always find success when using a published author’s writing style as inspiration for their own writing.

To purchase my complete Giver novel unit with additional reading and writing activities, CLICK HERE!

write-like-a-book-author

Fresh Ideas for Publishing Student Writing

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Students can always write or type on a plain piece of paper for their writing, but what is fun about that? If you want student writers to really feel proud of something they wrote, publish it on special paper or in a unique way. It makes the writing stand out and look fresh. Ignite students’ interest in their writing by showing them how professional their writing can be.

native-american-magazines

One of my favorite ways to publish student writing is on glossy brochure paper like THIS ONE by HP that has the same texture as a magazine. The printed product has a quality finish to it that makes it seem as if we went to a professional publisher to print. I won’t even make teacher marks on the paper when grading! It’s that special. We recently completed a magazine article style writing project, but you could complete any style of writing. To see more about the magazine feature article activity, CLICK HERE.

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Another fun paper option is a cardstock weight tri-fold brochure paper like THIS ONE. The paper is pre-scored, so when you are ready to fold, it bends into 3 even sections every time. I opt for the matte finish on this one, but the tri-fold paper is available in glossy finish too. We created state brochures that we folded and mailed to our school alum. The final product looked like a real mass mailing from a legitimate business. We were all impressed.

narnia map and journal sample

If you don’t have access to a color printer (or any printer), antiquing paper can be fun. I usually have students type their writing and choose an old-fashioned looking font. We print with a laser jet printer (ink-jet will smear later) and then stain the paper with wet tea bags. If you do not have a printer, or you would prefer that the students hand write the assignment, you can stain the paper first and have students write by hand after the paper dries. For full directions about staining paper, CLICK HERE.

For more fresh ideas, click the logos in the picture below.

 

Cinnamon's Classroom Amy Mezni Kirsten's Kaboodle ELA Buffett Mrs. Russell's Room The Room Mom Study All Knight Brittany Washburn Miss Stefany Meredith Anderson Image HTML map generator

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Native American Magazines

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I love culminating projects that wrap lots of skills together in a tidy finished product. Before the holidays, my students finished our Native American unit with a research project focused on one aspect of a Native American group from a specific region. They presented the information in a magazine style feature article. The project checked off a lot of boxes for me. Research skills (check). Technology skills (check). Expository writing (check). Non-fiction text features (check). Really cool looking writing piece printed on fancy paper (check).

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The students started the project by reviewing their textbook, readings, and graphic organizer notes for the different regions and tribes we studied as a group and chose a favorite area on which to focus. I had multiple topics ranging from the Inuit and igloo building to the Navajo and turquoise jewelry to the Iroquois and the game of lacrosse. Once students selected a topic, they generated three sub-topics that guided their research. I had the students use THIS ORGANIZER to help focus their reading and note taking.

Once students gathered information and were ready to begin writing the magazine style article. We looked at many professional writing samples in various magazines targeted at children in upper elementary grades (Kids Discover, American Girl, Muse, National Geographic for Kids, Boys’ Life…). Specifically, we looked at the titles of the feature articles, the first sentences in each article, and the layout of the page.

sample hook sentences from magazines

We spent one class period using THIS ACTIVITY PAGE and writing first sentences from several articles. The students met in groups to compare first sentences and determine what the sentences might have in common. The idea was for students to replicate a good “hook” sentence in their own article. Some key ideas emerged. Many opening sentences contained an unusual fact or an idea that grabbed our attention. All of the sentences used interesting vocabulary. We also noticed that the length of the sentence varied– we found short and long sentences that were effective.

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To create the article, students used MSPublisher documents. Each person started by setting up a text box and changing the formatting to two columns. Each article was three paragraphs long matching the three sub-topic boxes in the notes organizer page. After typing the article, the students inserted a fancy header and developed a catchy title and sub-title, added images with captions, and chose a colorful background. Finally, I purchased shiny paper that felt the same as magazine paper, so the printed masterpiece really looked like a true magazine article. We were all impressed with the quality of the final product and are ready to write for a real publisher.

To see another activity idea for non-fiction text features CLICK HERE. To see my Native American teacher resources, CLICK HERE to visit my TpT store.