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Lesson Plan

Improve Students' Writing Using Online Workshops

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time At least three 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sonja Mack

Ellsworth, Michigan


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: If Statements, Read-Aloud, and Readerís Log

Session 2: Posting Drafts Online and Working With Writing Groups

Session 3: Writing a Final Draft


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Use prereading and previewing strategies (prior knowledge, connections, questions, predictions, extensions, and reflections) to make conscious choices about how to approach a text

  • Demonstrate an understanding of literary language by discussing, imitating, and extending hypothetical statements from a literary text

  • Interpret the meaning of written text by drawing on different cultural, theoretical, and critical perspectives, including their own personal understanding

  • Respond to literature by modeling their writing after a specific text

  • Practice using the idea writing trait for an if statement by providing detail, a problem, and a thoughtful resolution

  • Practice the peer review process by offering feedback and discussing it using an online tool

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Session 1: If Statements, Read-Aloud, and Readerís Log

1. Ask students, "How many of you are or used to be afraid of the dark?" Encourage students to discuss other things they have been or are afraid of.

2. Ask students what type of language they might use to write about a problem that they want to solve, bringing the discussion around to the idea of if statements. Write the word if on the board or a piece of chart paper and suggest a few examples (e.g., "if I fell down..." or "if I failed a test..."). Encourage students to come up with possible responses to these statements; record these responses as well.

3. Ask students to think about other emotions they might experience that would lead them to if statements, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Enjoyment
  • Nervousness
  • Doubt
  • Loneliness
  • Joy
  • Heartbreak
  • Loss
4. Read aloud If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow by Cooper Edens. While reading, students should keep a reader's log. Remind students of strategies to keep in their logs. You may want to read the book more than once. Questions for discussion include:

  • What surprised you most about this statement?

  • What did you notice about the author's style?

  • What is the main idea of the book?

  • How does this book connect to other things we have read?

  • Did the illustrations help you understand the statements better? Why or why not?
5. Discuss students' reactions to the text, drawing their attention both to the if portion of each sentence and the response suggested by the author. Some things to consider pointing out or questioning:

  • Are the sky falling or the sun never shining real concerns? What might this language symbolize?

  • Have you ever experienced frustration or the feeling that something is stuck? What did you do?

  • How would inviting butterflies (or things that make you nervous) "into your heart" make you feel better?

  • Have you ever had that lump stuck in your throat? What caused this to happen?

  • What might a pebble have to sing about?

  • Think about losing your memories. Is this a frightening thought? Why or why not? Are there some memories you would want to lose?

  • What do you usually do when you lose something? Why is the author suggesting throwing something else away in response?

  • What do you think it means to "dance backwards?"
Record students' responses on a piece of chart paper for reference.

6. Distribute the If Statements Prewriting handout, explaining to students that this assignment is intended to help them begin drafting if statements and responses for a class book. Give students the chance to ask questions before they begin working.

7. Have students fill out the If Statements Prewriting handout, to be completed by the beginning of Session 2. (Students may need to complete this handout for homework, or you may offer them class time to meet in writing groups to discuss and offer each other feedback.)

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Session 2: Posting Drafts Online and Working With Writing Groups

Note: If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, this session should take place in your school's computer lab.

1. Ask students to write a reflection about creating their if statements. What aspect of the assignment was difficult for them? What was easy? What kinds of responses did they come up with?

2. Have students share any statements they rejected. Ask them to explain why they decided not to use the statement.

3. Explain to students that they will be reviewing each other's work and offering constructive feedback. Encourage students to offer content changes or ideas, not necessarily proofreading fixes. Questions to consider include:

  • Is the idea clear?

  • Would a different word work better?

  • How might an illustration lend itself to this writing?

  • How could the statement be more fantastical?

Encourage students to offer ways to make each other's statements more creative and expressive.

4. Have students log into your online classroom at Nicenet using the username and password they selected previously (see Preparation, Step 6). Ask each student to post a draft if statement as follows:

a. On the left side of the homepage, they should click on Documents.

b. They should choose If Statement Draft from the drop-down menu and then click the button that says Turn In.

c. Students should then enter a title (or simply If Statement Draft) in the Document Title box and their if statements and responses in the Document Text box. (Note: You may want to have students type their titles and statements in a word processing program first, and then cut and paste their work into the boxes.)

d. Once the statement is entered, ask students to proof their work one last time.

e. Students should click in the box next to the phrase "Create a conferencing topic associated with this document" before clicking the Add Document button at the bottom of the page.

Students should then click on Documents to make sure their statement is posted.

5. Have students get into their writing groups to read and respond to each other's if statements using the online classroom:

a. Click on Documents at the left of the screen and read the statement for each member in the group.

b. When they are finished reading, they should click on Conferencing. The document will show up in the Topics list under the title the writer has given it.

c. After clicking on the appropriate document under the Topics list, students should click on Post New Message and respond with two stars and a wish. (Note: You may have students take notes in a word processing program while they read the original document, and then copy and paste their responses. Decide on minimum length requirements and share them with the class.)

6. While students are working, they will be tempted to discuss the statements aloud. Encourage them to use the message function to ask questions or clarify their responses. This will help keep the peer review responses in a written, formal format. If necessary, students can print off the messages written by their peers by clicking on the Print View link.

7. While students are working, support them by answering questions as necessary until they are comfortable with the online Nicenet tool. You should also respond to students' drafts and their comments using the Personal Messages link on the left of the screen. You may also choose to have face-to-face conferences with students who are struggling.

Homework: If students do not have time to finish commenting on each other's work, they can finish for homework. Make sure that every student has access to a computer with an Internet connection as necessary. You may also want to finish commenting on students' drafts.

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Session 3: Writing a Final Draft

Note: If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, this session should take place in your school's computer lab.

1. Ask students to discuss what they still need to do before they complete their final draft. They may need more time to look at your comments or for further peer review, revision, or editing in writing groups and independently. Tell students that each member of the writing group should be satisfied with the work the others have completed before they are finished. If a member is late with his or her work, you and the group will have to decide how to continue.

2. Distribute the If Statement Rubric to students. Explain that you will use this rubric to evaluate their work and check their final drafts. Students should look for a strong problem and a creative resolution.

3. Once students are happy with their statements, they should print them off and illustrate them using the art supplies you provide. These might include materials to create collages as well as drawing or painting materials. Allow students to look at If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow while they are working and to imitate this style as they choose.

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  • Once you have created a class book, read it aloud, asking students to share their thoughts and reactions. Students can read the pages they wrote.

  • Assign a problem/solution paper to follow this assignment.

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  • Review and assess studentsí reading logs. Before you do so, ask students to make comments about their own logs and provide two stars (things theyíve accomplished well) and one wish (an aspect still in need of improvement) to work on for next check. You should comment and suggest when elements of reading strategies are strong or lacking, paying particular attention to the elements they have reflected upon.

  • Check the online writing groupsí discussion of each otherís ideas and drafts, commenting particularly when writing groups need to formulate more considerate or constructive responses.

  • Evaluate studentsí final if statements using the If Statement Rubric. You might also choose to look at studentsí progress by collecting the completed If Statements Prewriting handouts.

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