Grade Appropriate units:

The following Writing with Writers units are appropriate for students in grades 1–3. Follow the following links for specific guides for each unit:

  • Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky
  • Poetry Writing with Jean Marzollo
  • Folktale Writing

The structure of the lesson remains the same for all the above genres and each can be completed in 8–11 class periods.

Lesson Introduction:
The focus for students in this age group is to introduce different writing genres and improve writing skills in these areas.

Background (1 Day)
Invite students to discuss what they know about the chosen genre.

For Folktales: Ask students to discuss what they think folktales means. Point out that folktales are stories passed on from one person to the next by word of mouth or by oral tradition. Read aloud a favorite folktale (you can use any or all of the examples in Step 1: Folktales.) and discuss defining elements of folktale. Have students point out the characteristics of a folktale, for example: takes place anytime, tales place anywhere, animals can talk, etc.

For Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky or Jean Marzollo: Go through a few well-known poems with students, and read some favorites aloud. Have students discuss poems that they know. Ask: How are poems different from stories?

Introduce students to the poetry styles of the author that best suits the needs of your class: Jack Prelutsky or Jean Marzollo. As a class, read examples from the two authors, and allow students time on their own to visit the pages and read author bios or print-out pages from independent reading. You may wish to read aloud with individual students.

Pre-writing (2–3 Days)
Let students know that they will be writing original pieces. Point out that each writing genre has its own rules, and that these rules will help students construct their own pieces. Encourage students to visit the brainstorming and tips page for the genre they are working with.

Folktales: Read the Step 2: Brainstorming and Step 3: Write Your Own Folktale with the whole class or in small groups. Use "Half-Chicken" or "The Shark God" as a model to illustrate tip ideas as you read them. For example, when reading that the folktale genre entails imagining the world that acts as the setting, remind students that rivers and fires can speak in Half-Chicken's world. Then suggest students work in groups to go through Step 3 again, and write down ideas for their folktales.

Jack Prelutsky
Work with students as a class to develop the first tip. Create a rhyming wall on the chalkboard. Divide it into three columns, one for each "syllable" word. Encourage students to use made-up words as well. Discuss why rhyming might be a good tool to use in poems. Then suggest students work in groups to do the activities in the brainstorming section.

Jean Marzollo
Visit her "Write Your Own Poem Riddle" page for riddle writing tips or Riddle Writing Hints. Share an I Spy book with students, if possible, to familiarize them with the poetic style. Tap out the rhythmic pattern with students as they read. Read aloud Jean Marzollo's "Riddle Writing Tips" page with students. Encourage students to view the published pieces of poetry to use as models for their own work. Invite them to tour the I Spy gallery for models.

Drafting (1–2 Days)
Now, it's time for students to draft their poem or folktale. As a class review the tips aloud and give students clear instructions on how you want them to write their poem or folktale. Post the writing rubric in the classroom for students to use as a guideline for what is expected of them.

Jack Prelutsky: Have students refer to Jack Prelutsky's "Write Your Poem page" Suggest that they read all three poems first. Then after choosing the one they like best, have them extend it to create their own version of the poem.

Jean Marzollo: Suggest that they re-read the ideas presented in Jean Marzollo's "Riddle Writing Tips" page before they attempt their own work. Encourage students to draw their picture as they write four lines of a riddle poem (see More Tips in Step 2). Remind them to notice the placement of rhyming words and punctuation.

Revising (2 Days)
When students are done with their drafts, have them exchange papers with a peer for comments. Partners can write their comments on the draft itself. Then have students follow the revising guidelines on the tip writing page of each section. If you are working with a Classport partner class, exchange drafts via e-mail for peer review and comment. While students revise their drafts, have them check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.

Publishing (1 Day)
Once students have completed their revision, have them follow directions to Publish Online with Alma Flor Ada and Rafe Martin for folktales, Jack Prelutsky for poetry or Jean Marzollo for ISpy Riddles.

Project Wrap-Up (2–3 Days)
Give students time to complete any unfinished work. Use this time to schedule a performance day. Assess students' proficiency with the writing activity by consulting the appropriate rubric in assessment and evaluation.

Folktale's Writers Workshop with Alma Flor Ada and Rafe Martin

  • What were your favorite folktales that you read? What was it that made you like them?
  • What helped you best in brainstorming for the folktale?
  • What was different between the first and second draft of your folktale?

Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky

  • Did you like writing a poem on an every day object? What was hard and what was easy?
  • What are some of the synonyms you came up with in your brainstorming sessions?
  • What helped you best in brainstorming a new poem?
  • What were some of the difficulties in editing and re-writing a poem?

Poetry Writing with Jean Marzollo

  • What was the hardest part of writing a poem that had to be in one pattern?
  • Which was harder to do: write the poem or draw the picture?
  • Did you learn some interesting words in writing an ISpy riddle? What were they and what makes them interesting?

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