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.

Write-like-a-book-author

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.
write-like-a-book-author

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

Pinterest Page Writing Activity

A Pinterest page writing activity can be a great way for students to summarize and share key information on a topic you have been studying in class. My students recently designed a Pinterest page to show what they learned about Native Americans in the Southwest, but I have also used this writing activity with novel studies. My students were able to double up on some technology skills too, but the activity could be used with a printable template and handwritten if you don’t have access to computers.

Pinterest Writing Activity for social studies or novel studies

A Social Studies Pinterest Page

  • I started the activity by giving my students THIS PLANNING PAGE in order to brainstorm. They chose the Southwest group on which they wanted to focus, selected four sub-topics based on our class readings and notes, and jotted their notes down on the planning page.
  • Students needed a general description of the Native people that included the region and climate where the people lived. This is the equivalent to the profile information in a real Pinterest account.
  • Next, students sketched a simple drawing of the item that would be the image for the pin and a brief description (about three sentences) for the image on the planning page. Each pin represented a specific aspect or attribute of the Native American group. For example, my students who were creating a Navajo Pinterest board might have pins for weaving, a hogan home, turquoise jewelry, or sheep because these were some of the key details we read about in our textbook and supplemental readings.
  • Since we were also reviewing how to identify topic, main idea, and details, many students recognized how this project broke their information into topic (the name of the board), main idea (each pin topic), and details (the description with the pin).
  • THIS PINTEREST TEMPLATE could be used for any social studies topic. Students open the PowerPoint document and click in the text boxes to add their text using the ideas from their planning/brainstorm page. They can delete the blank rectangle image place holders and insert their own images or leave the rectangles, print, and hand draw pictures. If you want students to handwrite the entire activity, use THIS PRINTABLE TEMPLATE.

Pinterest Writing Activity for social studies or novel studies

A Book Character Pinterest Page

  • The character Pinterest page is a unique writing activity for students to share what they know about a favorite book character. It requires students to identify key character traits and design a board that represents the book character. I tried this activity for the first time last year, and it was a good challenge for the students to explain why a character would choose to “pin” a certain item. The thinking process involved in designing the character Pinterest page was more involved than it appears at first glance.
  • I give the students THE PLANNING PAGE. They choose a key character from a book and think about specific traits for that character. The trick is to identify traits that define the character and translate that into a pin image with a description that shows understanding of a character. For example, Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web might pin the latest edition of a thesaurus because she needs word ideas to help Wilbur. We created Pinterest boards for the main characters in a graphic novel called Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise. Next to the profile picture, students wrote a general description of the character and then dug deeper into the character with the pin choices and descriptions.
  • THIS CHARACTER PINTEREST TEMPLATE could be used for any novel or story. If you want students to handwrite the entire activity, use THE PRINTABLE TEMPLATE.

Pinterest Writing Activity for social studies or novel studiesFor even more fun writing activities you can use in your classroom, CLICK HERE.

Writing Tall Tale Short Stories

It’s the end of the school year. I don’t have time to start and finish a quality novel with my students and complete reading comprehension and writing activities to support good “thinking” about the book. We get interrupted often during the last few weeks of school, and I don’t have reliable blocks of time. To maintain continued reading instruction, I switched over to short stories. Tall tale short stories to be specific. They are hilarious, and we have loved every minute of it.

One of the key traits in a tall tale is the use of exaggeration or hyperbole. Hyperbole is used to solve the story problem in a funny way. To really cement the tall tale characteristics in the students’ minds, they are writing their own tall tales. We will add their creative stories to our end of year writing portfolio as the final writing piece. It will be the perfect fourth grade writing finale!

To get the students started, we brainstormed everyday problems students might have. The students had lots of ideas. There is the common problem of not wanting to do weekly chores at your house (inspired by Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout by Shel Silverstein and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books). We have school problems such as bookbags that are too heavy or teachers who give too much homework (inspired by A Fine, Fine School by Creech). We also discussed pet problems (inspired by Those Darn Squirrels! by Rubin).

Once students had a place to start, they completed THIS BRAINSTORMING PAGE to gather their ideas and map their story plot. Students identified key events in their story and then made choices about how they could exaggerate the events to create humor. Using a side by side chart to outline the story plot helped the students maintain a believable “voice” while writing. It reduced the likelihood of a story that was so ridiculous that the reader lost the meaning. I’ve been conferencing with the students, and while there are some stories that are more successful than others, most make me laugh out loud.

To download my tall tale creative story brainstorming page, a rubric, and lined paper that could be used to handwrite the story, CLICK HERE.

To see the tall tale stories we used and to purchase activity ideas for tall tales, CLICK HERE to visit my teacher store.

Extension Idea

  • We typed our essays in MS Word, so I was also able to incorporate a lesson on formatting a document. Students changed font and font size. They centered the title and changed the spacing to double space. They also added images and learned about wrapping text around an image.

Native American Magazines

native-american-magazines

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).

wampum-magazine

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.

lacrosse-magazine

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.

Facebook Character Activity

facebook-group-samples

A few years ago, my students designed a Facebook page for a favorite character in the book, Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise. I was surprised how much critical thinking was involved. The students needed to pick a significant scene from the story, summarize it from the point of view of a character in the form of a Facebook post, and then respond to the post from the point of view of a different character.

facebook-sample-jack

It was challenging for students to think about one story event from several angles. The finished writing activity reveals quite a bit about a student’s understanding of events in the story, character traits, and character interactions and motivations. It is a short activity but packed with reading skills, and the results are completely entertaining! It also had the bonus of incorporating technology skills since my students completed the Facebook page digitally.

facebook-page-samples

I recently assigned the activity again, and it did not disappoint. My students were in three separate reading groups this time around, but all students completed the Facebook page based on a character from their assigned book. It is such an easy activity to adapt to any novel study.

facebook-pp-template

In my classroom, I inserted the blank FACEBOOK TEMPLATE that I designed as a background in a PowerPoint slide and then added text boxes as placeholders on top of the background. I shared the template with my students, and they clicked in the text boxes to add their writing. They also inserted pictures, used bullet points, and changed font sizes (potentially tricky technology skills for 4th graders).

facebook-sample-post-seymour

For younger students or classrooms/homes without computer or printer access, the activity could be handwritten using THE TEMPLATE. The basic Facebook page with the text box outlines can be printed, and students draw profile pictures and neatly write posts, likes, and replies.

facebook-sample-post-jack

The samples above are related to the novels, Dying to Meet You, Love That Dog, and Hate That Cat. Complete novel units are available for purchase in my teacher store. Click the book names to see more details about the novel studies.