Book Reviews (a practice in brevity)

Daily Prompt #5: Inspiration

Write about what inspires you. Be as specific as you can, writing in either list or paragraph form.

Take five minutes.



Writing Goals

Before we start talking about writing goals, let’s talk about what you’re already good at as a writer. In your notebook, write down 1-3 aspects of writing you feel you have strength in. We’ll brainstorm some ideas now to get you thinking.

Okay, now let’s talk about what want to improve upon: your writing goals for the semester. What are they? Why have them? How can you create useful ones?

Once you come up with them, write down your goals on the inside of your notebook cover, and be prepared to share one.

Keeping with our theme of the importance of reading this week, particularly reading like a writer, we are going to write book reviews. We are also going to practice the art of brevity because they have to be short – 100 words or less!

First, let’s talk about what makes a well-written review and what makes a poorly written review.

Now let’s practice together. Read the longer review I provide, then in groups, find a way to cut it down to 100 words (or less!). Write the review on white boards. We will share with the class.


Now, write your own. Once we get our blogs up and running, this book review will become your first blog post, so make sure to write it in your notebook so you don’t lose it!  I also recommend getting a GoodReads account and posting book reviews on there. It’s a great social networking site for readers!






If I Were a Book Title

Daily Prompt #4: Catharsis 

Catharsis – the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

It’s time to unleash any thoughts you have about the week or upcoming weekend.


Write for 7 minutes about anything you need to get off your chest.  The goal is to write the entire time.

Need inspiration? Here are some wise words from a famous writer.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  ~Maya Angelou


Reading Like a Writer

One of the best ways to get inspired to write is by reading the works of writers. Let’s talk about what it means to read like a writer.

Now, let’s practice this concept by analyzing the first lines of several books.


Guess what?  There’s going to be a book written about you!  What’s the title?  
Come up with at least one idea that you think each of the following people would suggest.

* Yourself
* Your mom (or dad or guardian: your choice)
* Your best friend
* Your worst enemy (or someone who doesn’t really care for you or someone who doesn’t really know you)
* Your pet (or your favorite toy or possession)

Now, pick your favorite and make a book cover. Be sure to include the title as well as the author. For example, “by my dog,” or “according to me.”

When you’re done, hang it in our classroom!


With the time remaining, write as many “first lines” as you can for potential stories, trying a few difference techniques (for example, describing setting, dialogue, sharing statistics, plot details).

Starting your Writer’s Notebook

Welcome students!

Before we start our main lesson today, I want all of you to write down a short-term goal you have for yourself this semester. It does not have to be related to this class. Put your name on it so I can check in with you to see how it’s going. Once you’ve written it down, stick it on our goals wall. Once you’ve completed the goal, move it over to the “Achieved” column!

Now it’s time to start creating your writer’s notebook.  To do that, you’re going to engage in a few writing exercises today.  These are strategies we will continually use throughout the semester.

Okay, it’s time to start your first notebook entry.  Here goes…

Daily Prompt (DP) #1:  

On the first page, write your name at the top.  Nickname, full name – you decide.

Underneath it, write whatever you want. Write about the history of your name, the significance of it, what you like/don’t like about it, other people you know with this name, names you wish you had, etc….  Poetry, prose: don’t over think it; just start writing.  You could even draw.

This entry will be an optional one to share.

*Returning Students: imagine your name has been taken away from you and replaced with a number. Explore how that would affect you.


DP #2: Writing from a List:

Select your own topic for a list, then make that list.  A list should have at least 5 items.  Give the list a title.


Now, pick one of the items on your list and begin free writing about it.  You have five minutes.

This entry will be an optional one to share. 

DP #3: Questions:

Write down a question you have to which you do not know the answer.





Now for the fun part!  Pass your notebook to someone sitting next to you and attempt to answer his/her question.  Write your response in his/her notebook.


The Writing Process

Welcome back! On scrap paper, jot down what comes to your mind when you hear the phrase, “Writing Process.” Your free write might include what the stages are, your attitudes about certain stages, etc…

Take five minutes. Be prepared to share.


Now take a look at this writing process handout and complete the following:

1) Label the stage(s) that you enjoy the most.

2) Label the stage(s) that you least enjoy.

3) Label which stage takes the longest for you.

4) Label which stage you spend the least amount of time in.


Let’s define the three types of strategies you use when you are in each stage of the process. I will share a couple of my own strategies.




Take eight minutes and fill in the chart with strategies you use. You’ll be sharing at your tables next, then the whole class.




Now it’s time to share and sign our class pledge.






Found and Blackout Poetry

What is Found poetry?

Here are some samples:

Sample #1

Sample #2

Even cooler! Here are some samples from students:

Midnight Thoughts

From The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie, pg. 240

Winter’s Hand

As you can see, there are many ways to create Found poetry.


Now for the fun part.  I have a bunch of old magazines and books in the back of the classroom.

Go and make your own Found poetry on your notebook covers (or on the inside cover if you prefer)! I have contact paper so you can protect your notebook covers.

Consider taking a picture of your poetry.  You might want to post it on the blog you’ll be creating in the next couple of weeks!

First Day: Welcome!

Welcome to our class blog, students!

While I take attendance, please respond to the following on a post-it note:

Why I Write

It’s optional whether you put your name on it, but you will be sharing it with the class.


In case you ever need to access it quickly, here is our syllabus.

Here is a copy of my parent letter as well.

Now let’s practice our writing skills and get to know each other by playing two truths and a lie.


Remember, everyone needs a writer’s notebook by Thursday and signed parent/student contracts are due this Friday.

Here’s to a great semester of writing!


Blackout Poetry

Daily Prompt #5: Inspired by Literature

Listen as I read to you a little haiku.

After I’m done, write a response to it. What did you you visualize as you listened? Is there a hidden story within it? Does it remind you of anything? Explore what the poem got you thinking about it.

Write for seven minutes.


Alright, folks! We’re going to have some fun with blackout poetry today. I’ve got copies of pages from some famous books. Let’s recreate something from them!