Standard Lesson

Leading to Great Places in the Elementary Classroom

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Two 50-minute sessions
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A story's lead begins the reader's adventure; yet it can just as likely end that odyssey if those opening words do not immediately entrance the reader. This lesson examines examples of leads in children's literature, focusing on strategies such as setting, action, character, reflection, event, and dialogue in a shared reading experience. Students rank several leads from novels as they are read aloud and discuss their rankings. They then generate different leads for a read aloud book in the classroom, using different strategies for each. Finally, they write or revise a lead in one of their pieces of writing.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

This lesson asks students to position themselves alongside the writers of the picture and chapter books that they read in the classroom. By using existing texts as models for their own writing, students learn "ways of reading texts like writers, developing a sense of craft and genre in writing" (Ray 2001, p 132) - something Katie Wood Ray recommends as a whole class unit of study in the writing workshop.  In her book In the Middle: Writing, Reading, and Learning with Adolescents, Nancie Atwell suggests that  "mini-lessons on leads helps students internalize stylistic concerns." Moreover, exposing students to different kinds of leads helps students see the importance of voice and how people respond to the literature.

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

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 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

  • Notecards

  • One copy of each selected text from student handout

  • Overhead of lead from a shared text

  • Writer's notebook


Great Leads handout


  • Read over the Great Leads handout to determine which ones to share with the class.

  • Collect texts for the samples selected.

  • Create a handout of leads from students' work, one lead for each student.

  • Make an overhead of the lead from a shared class text, such as the most recent read aloud. It would be most useful to select a lead from a novel that the class enjoyed but felt was a slow starter.

  • If you will complete an extension, test the Printing Press or Book Cover Creator on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • discuss their reactions to the leads from the various texts.

  • compare different leads from children's literature.

  • develop a lead for a shared, read aloud text.

  • present their new lead orally and share why they selected the type of lead they did.

  • revise the lead in a piece of their own writing.

Session One

  1. Give each student a notecard, and ask them to number the notecards according to the number of leads you have selected to read aloud.

  2. Introduce the concepts of leads by sharing examples from Great Leads handout or texts that you have selected. The order of the leads shared should match the order in which they are printed on the student handout.

  3. After reading each lead, ask students to place a simple rating after each number according to how they liked the lead which was read aloud. Suggested rating might include +/- or one, two, or three stars.

  4. After you have read aloud all of the sample leads, distribute the Great Leads handout.

  5. Using pairs, small groups, or a whole class arrangement, invite students to discuss why they rated each lead as they did. If pairs or small groups are used, take some time to invite students to share with the whole class some of their impressions of the leads shared reminding them that readers experience the texts differently.

  6. Explain that during the next session, the class will look at leads from a text that the whole class knows so they should keep the handout in a place where it can be easily accessed again.

  7. Students may be interested in reading the books the samples were taken from, so allow time and/or access to those novels. Ideally, this lesson can be completed shortly before students are asked to select texts for independent reading or for an author study.

  8. Collect the notecards for assessment purposes.

Session Two

  1. Invite students to join you with the handout of sample leads, their writing notebook, and a pen/pencil.

  2. Display the lead from the read-aloud book on an overhead, while reading it orally.

  3. In pairs, invite students to create two new leads for the text, using a strategy demonstrated from the Great Leads handout. For example, if the text uses a lead built around the setting, encourage the pairs to create a lead that uses another strategy, such as dialogue.

  4. Give students time in class to complete the task. Let them know they will be sharing the new leads they have crafted. Ideally, the teacher crafts a lead during this time as well.

  5. If the class requires more active monitoring, you can draft a lead as part of the preparation for this lesson.

  6. After sufficient time to draft, ask student volunteers to share their favorite new lead and explain why they chose the type of leads they did. You may need to share your sample to get the discussion going.

  7. If desired, display the book covers and newly written leads on the bulletin board with a before and after feature.

  8. Based upon the experience, ask students to revise the lead on one of their own pieces of writing. Depending upon the classroom, it could be a teacher or student selected piece.


  • Within the classroom, post great leads along with the book jacket. Challenge students to find great leads. When they find leads they believe to be worthy of being posted they can share them with the class before posting them. This will reinforce the skill and continue to generate interest in books. As a further extension, students might use the Book Cover Creator to design new covers for the books that tie in with the new leads they have composed.

  • Use the Printing Press to publish the leads that you find in texts as well as the leads from students' own work. The flyer templates will work for individual leads. Students might use the booklet template to create a collection of leads.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • As students work, observe who participates in the activity. Review the notecards at the end of the first session for evidence of student engagement.

  • Collect samples of student work representing the lead before this lesson and after.


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