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Lesson Plan

Make a Splash! Using Dramatic Experience to "Explode the Moment"

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

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 45-minute sessions plus additional writing time
Lesson Author

Victoria Polega

Austin, Texas

Audra Roach

Austin, Texas


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology





  • Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos (HarperTrophy, 2000)

  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Walker Books, 2005)

  • Holes by Louis Sachar (Yearling, 2000)

  • Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Aladdin, 2006)

  • Transparencies and overhead projector (optional)

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1. Plan a dramatic experience to motivate your students to focus on and write about a specific event. The initial experience should be unexpected and somewhat shocking so you can emotionally hook students into the lesson. Ideas for the dramatic experience include:

  • The school counselor runs in and throws a confetti egg at the teacher or the chart during the lesson (make it a water balloon if you're really brave)!

  • A person in a funny mask or hat runs through the classroom laughing or shouting and steals a special item from the room, such as the flag, the class pet, or the teacher's chair

  • Another class parades through your room in a conga line making funny noises and dancing

  • Stage a disaster that fits with the curriculum you are currently studying (e.g., if you are studying insects, you might stage an ant farm catastrophe using fake ants)
You may need to ask the school librarian, counselor, another teacher, or former students to assist you in staging the dramatic experience. Students should not know that you planned this event for them. Keep the plan a secret throughout the lesson.

2. Select a dramatic excerpt from the books listed in the Resources or a book your students are reading and make an overhead of it. Look for examples that focus on a moment in time and are rich in sensory details, images, and vocabulary. The excerpt should make students feel like they are experiencing the moment with the character. This lesson uses chapter 1 from Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos as an example.

3. Find three to four additional examples of dramatic excerpts in other published works, such as chapter 1 in Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, chapter 20 paragraphs 35-42 in Holes by Louis Sachar, or chapter 1 paragraphs 1-3 in Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Make copies of one excerpt for each pair of students.

4. Make a transparency or a chart of the "Explode the Moment" graphic organizer and make about three copies per student.

5. Review the steps of the writing process. Plan to model revising a piece of your own writing for students.

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