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Brittany Nyhus

Writing Unit Plan

Overall Unit Theme: Word Choice in Descriptive Writing
Grade: 5
Common Core Standards:

Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences
and events precisely.

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using

effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Continuum Goals:

Experiment with literary language (powerful nouns and verbs, figurative


Select meaningful topics

Mentor Texts:
Guts: The True Stories behind Hatchet and the Brian Books by Gary Paulsen
Beginning of chapter on page 30, read the excerpt of Hatchett and then continue to Pg 33
35 There was still snow in patches and I was studying a large plot of old snow
Pg 42-45 I went to sleep in an old vehicle used for a shelter.
I picked this text because it so perfectly fits writing about events that have
happened to us and that have made an impression on our lives. This passage in
particular was about how Gary Paulsen has survived many moose attacks in his
life experiences. I want students to write about something that they know well,
and that is meaningful to them. This text fits in with those ideas.
Loot by Jude Watson
Page 1-4
No thief likes a full moon. Like mushrooms and owls they do their best work in the
The prologue of Loot makes the reader feel emotions. You can see the
desperation, the increased heart rate, the quickness and adrenaline running
through the characters. Jude Watson doesnt just come out and say these things;
instead her writing gives us these emotions. Instead of just using, I felt happy, or
sad in their papers I want students to convey emotions in their writing through the
story, and through their choice in words. Watson really helps the students see how
authors portray emotions.
Tripping Over the Lunch Lady and Other School Stories edited by Nancy Mercado
Science Friction by David Lubar
Page 60 61 and page 63
Oxygen met hydrogen. Phaboom!
Excellent. Im not just a science geek, Im also a math geek. I eat problems like that for
This text is helping students see how literary language can be used in writing.
Onomatopoeias, metaphors, strong verbs and adjectives can all be found in this
selection. The story relates to what students are feeling in those upper
elementary/middle school grades so I liked the content. Even more than that, the
story is packed full of examples for showing students what good literary language
looks like in text.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone by J.K. Rowling

Page 8, Page 14, Page 19-21
Nothing like this man had ever been seen on Privet Drive. He was tall, thin, and very old
judging by the silver of his hair and beard which was both long enough to tuck into his
If the motorcycle was huge it was nothing to the man sitting astride it.
When he was dressed he went down the hall into the kitchen. The table was almost
hidden beneath all Dudleys birthday presents.
I chose these passages because they clearly paint a picture of what people look
like. Our narratives may include people, at least mine does. I want students to see
how to describe people so clearly that we can exactly what they look like. In the
next passage the students see how you can write about someones personality or
the way they act. I think this will be powerful for students as they start to write
narratives, especially if they include individuals.
Overall project write about something meaningful using literary elements and focusing on
word choice
Day 1
Topic: Choosing a meaningful Topic
Resource: Mentor Text Guts by Gary Paulsen
Teacher Actions: Reading mentor text to students and modeling how I choose topics to write
about. I will generate a list in front of the students and explain my rationale behind why I would
write about these events.
Student Actions: Students will listen to the reading of the mentor text and engage in class
discussion. They will also be brainstorming topics that are meaningful to them and that they may
want to write about.
Materials: Mentor Text, flipcharts/markers, paper and pencils
Day 2
Topic: Words give us feeling
Resource: Mentor Text Loot
Teacher Actions: Reading mentor text, asking students questions and facilitating a discussion
about words that have emotion. I will also share resources that students can use to find words for
more emotions.
Student Actions: Engaging in class discussion. They will be generating lists of emotions that the
author is portraying through the text without explicitly stating scared or happy. The students
will also be discussing the emotions that match the topic they choose to write about, and how to
express that emotion in their writing. They will continue brainstorming and move towards
picking a topic to write about.
Materials: Lists of words that express emotion in writing, mentor text, flipchart/markers
Day 3
Topic: Conferring with Students
Resource: None needed
Teacher Actions: I will be walking around and conferencing with students, asking where they are
at, making sure they have picked a topic.
Student Actions: Students will use this time to finalize a topic if they have not already done so

and begin drafting their piece of writing.

Materials: None needed
Day 4
Topic: Using literary language
Resource: Mentor text Tripping Over the Lunch Lady
Teacher Actions: Reading the mentor text and pointing out onomatopoeia, metaphors, and
figurative language.
Student Actions: Engaging in class discussion, finding more literary language examples.
Conversing with peers to figure out how they can incorporate literary language into their pieces
of writing. Students will continue writing keeping in mind the idea of literary language.
Materials: Mentor Text, highlighters, copies of text
Day 5
Topic: Using vivid descriptors, focusing on people
Resource: Mentor Text Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
Teacher Actions: Reading of the mentor text, personal example of writing and how I described
the person within my writing. I will model writing about a specific person in front of the student
using vivid descriptors. Students will write and revise the descriptions of the people or characters
in their narrative.
Student Actions: Engaging in reading of the text.
Materials: Mentor text, paper, pencils, overhead
Day 6
Topic: Authors change their word choices
Resource: Excerpt from John Green Interview See below
Teacher Actions: Explaining the importance of revising what has been wrote. Conferring with
students about how they can make their writing better through revisions.
Student Actions: Revising their writing pieces, peer editing will be an option if the students so
Q. How many drafts do you do?
A. That really depends on how you define draft. I believe that all writing is rewriting
even when youre writing something down for the first time, its still an act of translation
in a way because youre trying to use text to bring life to this thing that exists in your
mind. And Im a big believer in revision: I almost always delete most of my first drafts
(often as much as 90%). But there are many mini-drafts along the way, so its hard to talk
about the process quantitatively. I do try to save the file with a different name each time
Ive made some dramatic changes I fear I might later regret, so thats some measure,
maybe, of how many drafts there are. The final copy of Katherines on my hard drive is
called aok284; the final copy of TFiOS is called okay192.
Q. Do you talk about what youre working on with your editor or wife?
A. Yes, both. Ive been working with my editor and publishing, Julie Strauss-Gabel, for
more than a decade now, and I often show her scraps and chapters and excerpts and all
variety of unfinished things. But when I get on a roll, she usually doesnt hear from me

for a while, because I like to send her at least something of a finished manuscript once we
agree that Im on the right track.
I also read a lot to my wife, Sarah, who has informed and shaped all my books in
uncountable ways. (Many of the most quoted lines in books are actually Sarahs, and in
general our conversations about art and meaning and everything else are hugely
important to me.)
Differentiation: For students who need extra assistance I will provide extra materials with
literary language, words to use for emotions, and strong verbs and adjectives. These will be
available for all students, but those who need extra assistance will be explicitly guided towards
the materials. Peer conferencing will be important for scaffolding students to a higher level. Each
day we will close the writing block with a five to ten minute discussion about what was done.
This may be in the form of a whole class discussion or individual peer conferences. In the past
when working with struggling readers and writers Ive noticed they have the most difficult time
coming up with content when they actually have to write it down. I will provide a list of
questions that the students can answer to organize their thoughts. If the students still dont feel
comfortable or are unable to write their answers they can record themselves speaking and
transcribe their thoughts at a later time.
In order to extend the thinking of higher level students I will have them focus on word choice as
well as making their voice come through.
Part of my assessment will take place during the discussion ending every writing block that I
mentioned above. There will also be time for myself to confer with students, and students to
confer with peers.
Students will be assessed with a checklist over a rubric. Their participation and on-task behaviors
will also be recorded. I want students writing to be authentic and not just created to the
parameters of a rubric which is why I included a checklist of what they need to include.
The narrative is a personal story meaningful to the writer ______
Writer revamped and edited the content of their narrative _______
Writer can highlight how they included thoughtful word choice _______
Literary language is included (i.e. metaphors, onomatopoeia, similes, strong verbs, adjectives
etc.) ________
Writing is clear and complete; the narrative has an ending _______
Writing has been edited for spelling and punctuation errors ______
Example Narrative:
The Cat Named Eddie
It was fall in Iowa. The combines were rolling, leaves were changing, and the Jurgemeyer
household was about to have a special guest. Set way back in the country, down a dusty gravel
road lined with corn fields our house was a perfect spot to drop off unwanted stray cats. This
heartless act of cat dumping as my family and I called it made me curl my fists with anger at
those who would abuse and then abandon an animal.
I always was an animal lover. With a heart that melted like butter when I held a newborn piglet,
or saw a puppy I was determined to love every animal I came across. When I first met Eddie it
was no different.

Merooowwww! Could be heard through the glass door. Sitting on the cold concrete was a pint
sized kitten. He looked like a Holstein cow, and had eyes that could turn the biggest hater of cats,
into a cat lover. Friendly from the start, and skinny as can be, Eddie was determined to weasel
his way into our hearts; but not before he caused some trouble.
Eddie was friendly, but not ready to completely trust humans again after a harrowing experience
with some less than kind owners. One morning I went looking for Eddie to give him his
breakfast. He was nowhere to be found. I searched high and low, or so I thought. It wasnt until I
heard his plaintive Meoooowwww! That I looked high enough. Eddie had found his way to the
very top of an electrical pole, his white tipped tail inches from the high wire. We called, we
cajoled, we shook food; all were met with sad meows. The pole was too high for a ladder the
only thing we could do was wait. Miraculously Eddie found his way down off the pole. The next
day he was sitting by the backdoor wanting food, meowing constantly.
After his harrowing climb, we decided Eddie would be better off a housecat. Eddie was
welcomed into the family and moved from the country house to a third floor apartment. He still
has a love for heights, and causes my heart to stop when he peers through the posts of my
balcony. This skinny cat with his black spots, and soulful eyes was lucky enough to be dropped
off at a house where a family would take him in, and love him and give him way too much