Standard Lesson

Collaborating on a Class Book: Exploring Before-During-After Sequences

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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In this classroom project, students and the teacher produce a class book through a group-writing activity, focusing on a basic before-during-after sequence of events. After discussing what they know about pumpkins, the class carves a jack-o-lantern, pausing at each step to chart their observations on before, during, and after charts. The class then uses their sentences from the chart to write the sequence of events for carving the pumpkin. Finally, the class publishes their work, using one of several publishing options. Though this lesson focuses on the carving of the class jack-o-lantern, the lesson plan could be customized for explorations of other items in the classroom. For instance, as part of a foods unit, you might explore a variety of fruits. For a field trip, you might write about the events before, during, and after your trip.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

As Helen Dale tells us in Co-Authoring in the Classroom, "co-authoring externalizes thinking about writing and makes it explicit" (14). By writing collaboratively, as the class does in this lesson plan, students and teacher think-aloud about the processes that are normally locked away inside the writer's head. Students and teacher talk about why one sentence belongs before another, why certain text structures are appropriate, and even such basic issues as where sentences begin and end.

By participating in observing events, gathering notes, composing a story, illustrating that story, and then organizing the text, students completing this lesson tap the kind of social collaboration that Dale highlights. The class as a whole demonstrates a range of reading and writing skills that can help everyone in the room gain new literacy abilities as well as become more aware of the abilities that they already possess.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology




Student Objectives

Students will

  • record factual information about what they observe.

  • engage in the writing process by helping to contributing to the class text.

  • sequence events involved in a classroom activity.

  • share and present their observations in a class book.

Session One: Observing the Class Pumpkin

Note: If you are unable to carve a pumpkin, or are looking for an alternative, students can design their own jack-o-lantern or carve a virtual pumpkin.

  1. Begin the session by asking students to brainstorm a list of things that they know about pumpkins. Write their responses on the board or on chart paper.

  2. Share the Our Class Pumpkin as an example book on pumpkins.

  3. Explain that you are going to create a your own class book on pumpkins, describing your class project of exploring a pumpkin and making a jack-o-lantern.

  4. Display your class pumpkin, and generate discussion by asking the students to observe the pumpkin before it is cut.

  5. On chart paper, record student observations as they respond verbally. Encourage students to respond in complete sentences. For example, "The pumpkin is orange." If desired, write the students' names by the sentences they compose.

  6. Remind the students that when they observe and describe, they should use their senses at each of the following steps in the process: before carving, after looking inside of the pumpkin, and after the jack-o-lantern is finished:

    • What does the pumpkin look like?

    • What does the pumpkin feel like?

    • Does the pumpkin have a smell?

    • Can you hear anything?
  7. Cut the top off the pumpkin, and show the students the inside of the pumpkin.

  8. Again, on chart paper, record student responses using their senses to prompt observations:

    • What does the pumpkin look like?

    • What does the pumpkin feel like?

    • Does the pumpkin have a smell?

    • Can you hear anything?
  9. Clean the insides out of the pumpkin, keeping the seeds for a math lesson later, if desired.

  10. Prompt the students to talk about the size, smell, and color of the seeds and the interior of the pumpkin.

  11. Draw the face on the pumpkin and cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth to create the jack-o-lantern.

  12. Record the information, on chart paper, that the students generate as they observe the jack-o-lantern after it is carved. Older students may record their own observations using the Pumpkin Observation Sheet.

  13. Review the sentences that were generated by reading them aloud to the class. If labeled with students' names, ask students to read their own sentences aloud.

  14. Review the list of things that students brainstormed at the beginning of the class as well. Add or revise any of the information that students know about pumpkins based on this session.

Session 2: Creating the Class Book or Group Writing

  1. Review information from the previous session by having students relate what happened when the pumpkin was carved.

  2. Hang the three charts (before, during, and after) in the room so that students can see the sentences that they generated in the previous session.

  3. Read student observations aloud from the chart paper (for instance, "Mary said, ‘The pumpkin's inside was orange, just like the outside.'").

  4. Post a clean sheet of chart paper to record the details for the class book.

  5. Ask students to create a class sequence of events, focusing on carving a jack-o-lantern.

  6. Ask students to find sentences from the three charts while you record the story on the new sheet of chart paper.

  7. Use class discussion patterns like these to evoke student responses:

    • Who can give me a really good sentence to begin our story about carving the class jack-o-lantern? What did we do in class yesterday? "Yesterday our class made a jack-o-lantern."

    • What did we do first to the pumpkin? (This is a good sequencing lesson, also.) "First we looked at the outside of the pumpkin."

    • Now someone find a good sentence from our sheets that describes what we observed about the pumpkin. "The pumpkin had a stem on the top. It was part of the vine."

    • "Mary, find another observation sentence that you want to put in our story that uses another of our senses other than sight? "The pumpkin was smooth, not bumpy at all."

    • Now what was the second step we took in making a jack-o-lantern?
  8. If desired, use think-aloud strategies to explain the decisions that you're making as you work:

    • What would make a good title?

    • I am going to put a period here because that is the end of Joe's sentence.

    • Watch this . . .I am going to space over or indent because this is my first sentence in my paragraph.

    • Oh, I am going to be sure to spell pumpkin correctly, p-u-m-p-k-i-n.

    Incorporate student observations into the sequenced story.

  9. Read the finished story aloud to the class.

  10. Ask if the students want to add or take anything out, and make the requested changes.

  11. Explain that during the next class session, students will finish their work on the class book, providing more details based on the way that you have decided to publish the book.

Preparing the Class Book

Before the next class session, prepare the class book, according the one of the options below:

  • Using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press or a word processor

    1. Take the group-written sequence of events and divide the story so that a sentence or two appears on each page. Ideally, individual students or student pairs will each have a page to work with in the next session. Alternately, students can create variations in small groups, with each group creating original illustrations.

    2. Type the sentences on the pages, leaving the bulk of the page for students to illustrate.

    3. To focus students on textual clues later in the lesson, do not number the pages of the book that they will illustrate. You may, however, wish to make a copy for yourself with the sentences in the original order that students composed.

    4. Print the pages so that students can illustrate the pages in class.

    5. Gather additional materials for students to illustrate the books (markers, crayons, images from magazines to cut and paste, photos of the events, etc.).

      Note: You can also handwrite the sentences on sheets of paper.

  • Using PowerPoint software

    1. Review the Use of Multimedia in the Classroom and the online tutorial for using PowerPoint.

    2. Take the group-written sequence of events, and create a PowerPoint presentation from the story that the students generated.

    3. Illustrate the story with clip art or digital camera pictures of each stage of the carving of the jack-o-lantern.

    4. Save the PowerPoint presentation as a PowerPoint Show. (File>Save As. Use the drop down arrow in the Save as type box and choose PowerPoint Show.) When the students click on the icon, PowerPoint will open in the full screen mode.

    5. Students can be taught to use the mouse to turn pages, or they can use the left and right arrows on the keyboard.

    6. Name the PowerPoint Show with a name the students will recognize. Leave the icon on the desktop, or create a folder to hold all the electronic books that the class will create throughout the year.

    7. If desired, print copies of the slide show for students to decorate further.

    8. Technology variations:

      1. Take digital pictures of the pumpkin carving process.

      2. Put each picture on a PowerPoint slide.

      3. Project the image on a screen, or gather students around the computer.

      4. Have the students generate the story from the digital images on each slide.

      5. You can also record your own or students voices reading each slide, making the book a read-along computer center.

Session 3: Reading the Class Book

  1. Share the pages of your class book with students. If you have created the PowerPoint version of the book, skip to #8 below.

  2. If desired, divide students into pairs for small groups.

  3. Distribute the book pages that you prepared prior to the class along with the classroom supplies for illustrating the book.

  4. Ask students to create illustrations for each page that show the events related to the sentences on that page.

  5. As you divide pages among students be sure to read the sentences aloud to students.

  6. Circulate among students as they work, read the sentences on the pages to help individual students with their illustrations.

  7. Once students have finished with their illustrations, explain that now it is time to reassemble your pages into a class book.

  8. Begin by reminding students of the idea of sequence and the before-during-after order of events from the previous session.

  9. Display the Pumpkin Carving Sequencer and with students' assistance organize the tiles into the correct order. Take advantage of the opportunity to reinforce text markers (e.g., "next" or "finally") that can help you understand how to arrange the events.

  10. If you created the PowerPoint version of the book, you can conclude the session by rereading the class book or moving on to one of the extensions.

  11. If you created the paper-based version of the book, ask students to help you put the pages into order, based on the information in the story and the pictures on each page-you might arrange the pages on the classroom floor or a large table.

  12. Once students have finished arranging the pages, read the finished story aloud.

  13. Ask students whether all of the parts of the book are in the right order. Make any adjustments if necessary and bind your book as desired (e.g., stapling the pages together.

  14. If desired, you can move on to one of the extensions or allow students more time to practice sequencing skills with the Pumpkin Carving Sequencer.


  • Use ideas from the Extension and Enrichment Activities handout.

  • Use the Interactive Circle Plot Diagram to describe the life cycle of a pumpkin.

  • The Stapleless Book, with six pages, can be used as a journal for the students to record observations from their senses, and also leave room for a title page, illustration or summary. Alternately, students could make individual books about the events using the Stapleless Book.

  • Ask students to create a book cover or dust jacket for the class book using the Book Cover Creator. The tool does not include an option to save the work, so be sure that students do enough planning that they will be able to complete their covers in one session.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Monitor student progress during the lesson through anecdotal note taking and kidwatching.

  • If the extension activities are used, students can complete the recipe writing assignment or note cards, which can be assessed for accuracy and information gathered.

  • As students decorate pages and organize the sequence of events, look for evidence that students understand the before-during-after structure used to order the book.

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