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Lesson Plan

Picture Books as Framing Texts: Research Paper Strategies for Struggling Writers

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Picture Books as Framing Texts: Research Paper Strategies for Struggling Writers

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions plus independent writing and research time
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students use picture books as frames for structuring research projects. They read the framing text, brainstorm the details included in the text, and discuss what the writer has chosen to include and leave out. Students are given a research assignment and identify key questions to answer as they research. They return to the framing text and analyze its structure, looking for elements of organization and the kinds of information included on each page. They use the structure of the framing text to create a guiding pattern for their own pages. Students write drafts of their pages, then again return to the framing text, this time exploring the language—similes, sentence variety, etc. They apply the same analysis to their own writing. Finally, students revise and publish their pages in the style of the framing text, create a bibliography, and compile the pages into a class book.

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Possible Framing Texts for Research Projects: The picture books on this booklist are suitable texts for framing student research papers.

Sample Detail List and Search Guide: Use this list, based on Megan McDonald's My House Has Stars, as a sample when students are brainstorming details and writing guiding questions for their own research projects.

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Research papers can fill any teacher with dread. Deborah Dean explains that in her experience, most research papers "sounded like encyclopedias: voiceless stacks of facts loaded on top of each other with a few quotes thrown in randomly" (32). Since her students did not have exposure to other alternatives, Dean continues, "their default strategy was to mimic the sources they used-encyclopedias or Internet sources that sounded like encyclopedias" (32). Dean's search for more effective ways to frame student writing led her to James Collins, who states: "We use default writing strategies precisely because we can do so without thinking much about them; this frees the mind for thinking about problems and challenges encountered while writing" (138). In this lesson, picture books give students frames for structuring research projects, freeing them from the language of their encyclopedia sources and allowing them to focus their attention on the content of the paper.

Further Reading

This lesson plan was adapted from: Dean, Deborah. "Framing Texts: New Strategies for Student Writers," Voices from the Middle 11.2 (December 2003): 32-35.

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