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Lesson Plan

Thoughtshots Can Bring Your Characters to Life!

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 Two 30-minute sessions and one 60-minute session
Lesson Author

Darla Salay

Burlington, New Jersey


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant (Harcourt, 1996)

  • An Angel for Solomon Singer by Cynthia Rylant (Orchard, 1992)

  • Additional picture books (at least one per student) that have strong examples of thoughtshots

  • Writing notebooks and sticky notes

  • Computer with Internet access

  • Chart paper or whiteboard

  • A first draft of a work in progress with at least one human character (for each student)

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1. Acquire the two Cynthia Rylant books used in the lesson: The Old Woman Who Named Things and An Angel for Solomon Singer. Read and discuss the books a day or two before beginning the lesson, so that students will be familiar with the stories. This will allow students to concentrate on the writer's craft (rather than the narrative) during the lesson, and will also allow you to revisit only the sections you wish to use in the lesson.

After reading each book aloud, be sure to give students a chance to discuss their reactions to the story. Encourage them to think more deeply about the story and the author's craft by asking questions such as

  • Why do you think Cynthia Rylant wrote this story?

  • What can we learn from the story?

  • How does the story relate to other stories you have read?

  • Do you notice similarities in the characters across the books?

  • Do you notice similarities in the style of writing across the books?

  • How did the author make the characters believable?
2. Prior to Session 2, gather a variety of picture books (at least one per student) that include strong examples of thoughtshots. (See Book Resource List for some suggestions.) Note: If you feel confident that your students can quickly and accurately identify thoughtshots after the first session, you can have them gather appropriate books from the school or classroom library at the beginning of Session 2.

3. If you are not familiar with the writing workshop approach to teaching writing, visit the website Teaching That Makes Sense. Visit the sections titled An Introduction to the Writing Process and Welcome to Writer's Workshop.

4. Print the handout Types of Thoughtshots and make a copy for each student.

5. Print and copy the remaining three handouts for students: New Thoughtshots, Thoughtshot Rubric, and Rubric Score Sheet. Staple the sheets together with the rubric on top.

6. Print a copy of Thoughtshots from The Old Woman Who Named Things and write each thoughtshot on a separate piece of chart paper or whiteboard.

7. Print a copy of New Thoughtshots for An Angel for Solomon Singer and write each thoughtshot on a separate piece of chart paper or a whiteboard.

8. Mark the pages in the texts for your reference during the lesson. (The Old Woman Who Named Things: pages 14, 21, and 24; and An Angel for Solomon Singer: pages 4, 8, and 20. Note: The pages are not numbered in these texts, so you will need to count pages, beginning with the first page of the actual story text.)

9. Assign partners for the lesson activities (discussion in Session 1, identifying thoughtshots in Session 2, and peer editing in Session 3), and tell students who their partners will be.

10. Have students choose an original work-in-progress (or create a new draft work) to be revised in Session 3.

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