At last! You’ve found a writing workshop unit with high quality, differentiated mentor texts. Six excerpts from The Wind in the Willows
illustrate effective narrative writing techniques. Students read, discuss, and then apply those techniques in their own writing. At the end of six sessions, students consider which of their six pieces to publish. They choose one and shape it into a polished story.
Created by master teacher Brenda Kovich
, this set of activities is classroom tested and kid approved.
Part One: Writing in Response to Mentor Texts
In the first part of the writers workshop, students read the story of Mole and Rat, explore techniques used by effective writers, and respond each day with stories of their own.
• Session #1 – “Spring” Students explore techniques for introducing characters, setting, and situation. In response to the mentor text, they write about a time the weather made them feel happy or sad.
• Session #2 – “The River Bank” As a new character is introduced, students explore how writers present relationships that resemble real life, especially by what characters say and do. They write about a time they made a friend.
• Session #3 – “Rowing” The author builds tension and presents a problem. In response, students write about a time they were impulsive and risked a friendship.
• Session #4 – “The Rescue” Rat’s true character is revealed through his response to the problem. Students write about a time that a friend responded to a problem.
• Session #5 – “The Apology” In the mentor text, characters take steps toward resolution. Students show how characters struggle as they write about a time they mended a friendship.
• Session #6 – “Rat’s House” Mole and Rat have resolved their problem. The story’s resolution finds them enjoying one anther’s company at Rat’s house. Students write about a comfortable moment with a friend.
The story unfolds naturally, allowing connections to elements of an effective narrative and the story arc.
• Six one-page mentor texts, each written at three reading levels (high, average, low)
• Six easy-to-follow one-page lesson plans (one for each day of writing with mentor texts)
• Six “What Did the Characters/Narrator Say and Do?” sheets to guide discussion
• Six writing prompts
Part Two: Writing a Personal Narrative
In Part Two, students choose one of their six writing pieces and shape it into a polished story.
• Session #7: Choosing a Topic – The class discusses the story arc and determines how the story from The Wind in the Willows
fits this structure. They analyze their own writing pieces to determine which piece has potential for a good story.
• Session #8: Planning – Using a storyboard, students draw four frames to show the main parts of their story. When they finish, the teacher asks them to select one frame that shows the most compelling part of the story. Although students may use information and events from other frames, the bulk of the story must come from the chosen frame. They fill out story arcs to plan their stories’ exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.
• Sessions #9 & #10: Drafting – After reviewing effective techniques, students write their stories with no interruptions.
• Session #11: Revising How the Story Unfolds – Students use a revision sheet to evaluate and revise their own work. Then they use the same sheet for peer revision.
• Session #12: Revising Words – The teacher uses visualization techniques to show the importance of specific word choice. Then she explains how to use transition terms to move the story along. Students improve word choice and add transitions.
• Session #13: Editing Paragraphs and Dialogue – The teacher reviews/teaches how to write direct quotes. She explains that new paragraphs are needed every time a new character speaks – or when a new setting or event is introduced. Students edit their pieces, focusing on dialogue and paragraphs.
• Session #14: Publishing – Students finalize their work with a purpose for publication: as a class book, hall display, website feature, etc.
• Session #15: Sharing
• Six easy-to-use one-page lesson plans (choosing a topic, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing/sharing)
• The Story Arc (mini poster)
• Choosing a Topic (criterion table)
• My Story Arc (student sheet)
• Self/Peer Revising (student sheet)
• Word Choice (sample lesson – visualization)
• Transition Terms (comprehensive list)
• Writing Dialogue (guiding document for instruction and/or to distribute)
• Rubric (assessment option 1)
• Student/Teacher Checklist (assessment option 2)
• Link to complete text of The Wind in the Willows
Kids in my classroom loved writing in response to the heart-warming adventures of Mole and Rat. Writing about their own experiences was a natural extension. I hope your students like this unit as much as mine have.