Empowering Writers

April 2015 Lesson of the Month

This month’s April newsletter was inspired by the April calendar. I always try to gain motivation from the monthly calendar, but it doesn’t always work out this ideal. I wanted something less traditional that would lend itself to writing and encourage reading at the same time. So when I discovered April is the month for International Children’s Book Day, Young Writer Day, and Tell a Story Day I knew I would be able to advocate reading and writing concurrently. What better incentive to encourage writing and reading as hand in glove skills, than to have students write about their favorite book. Plus, this lesson gives students the chance to consider more than one genre.

For the primary lesson, I chose the more traditional theme, flowers/garden. In choosing this idea, I was hoping to add a brushstroke to teacher’s plans rather than a lesson completely new and non-traditional. I wanted to encourage the art component, while still inspiring students to write, or express their ideas using sentence variety and decisive vocabulary.

All in all, I hope you all enjoy these lessons and find them helpful in creating lifelong writers.

Students will choose a favorite book, categorize the genre, and complete a book critique of the book, including a summarizing framework, written opinion piece and a persuasive ending.

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • First, just for fun, have students create a list of things that automatically go together, such as reading and writing or peanut butter and jelly! Some suggestions are: Cat and mouse, pancakes and syrup, bacon and eggs, salt and pepper, lock and key, thunder and lightning, shampoo and conditioner, snow and ice, bucket and shovel, Lady and the Tramp, Beauty and the Beast, pen and paper, socks and shoes, soap and water, hard work and success, husband and wife, King and Queen, and the list goes on and on. Then have them fill in the blank to the following sentence. __________ goes with __________ like reading goes with writing. Then illustrate the sentence.


Have the students explain why (provide an opinion) their two choices go together.

For example: Stars go with stripes like reading goes with writing because stars and stripes are both important symbols on the American flag. The stars represent the 50 states within the United States and the stripes represent the original 13 colonies that made up the United States.

Or: Bacon goes with eggs like reading goes with writing because breakfast is better when both of these entrées are served together. Just as reading and writing advance one another, bacon and eggs combined provide a well-balanced meal.

  • Talk with the class about International Children’s Book Day. Ask what some of their favorite books are and chart these.
  • Explain that narrative stories include some hint of a character, problem, adventure, or experience in the title, and the art is usually imaginative. Expository texts have covers that look “real” and the title is generally the topic.
  • Using the charted book titles as their topics, decide and mark each of the book titles with an “N” for narrative and “E” for expository.
  • Distribute the “My Favorite Book Critique”.

Also, add this slide

  • Have the students fill in their own critique sheet, completing the title, author, and summarizing framework.
  • Then direct them to write their opinion about the book. Explain that it is not enough to say, “I liked it. It was funny.” Or “I liked it and I learned a lot.” This is overly general and does not provide any reasons for the positive response. Here are some sentence starters to facilitate this process.

This was an entertaining story because __________.

The most exciting scene was __________.

The funniest part was __________.

The part I enjoyed most was __________.

This informative book was my favorite because __________.

The reason this book is my favorite is __________.

The author explained __________.

I was surprised to learn __________.

I found it interesting that __________.

  • As students write their opinions, backed by specific reasons and examples, circulate and offer feedback. Read powerful examples aloud.
  • Finally, explain that they will be persuading others to read their favorite book. MODEL how to write an emphatic statement to end their opinion piece. This statement, in persuasive writing, is referred to as a call to action. The question to ask, to generate a ‘call to action’ here would be: “What do you want your reader to do as a result of reading your review?”

Example: So, get to your local library or bookstore and get a copy of __________. You’ll be glad you did!

  • Share these critiques with the class celebrating April 27th, Tell a Story Day. Although they may not all choose a narrative story book as their favorite, it will be interesting to hear from each about their book, not to mention, the call to action ending!

New K-1 Ideas:

Expository Lesson:

  • Celebrate spring by creating a flower garden. Gather a collection of flower books such as Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert, The Flower Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, or Buds and Blossoms A Book About Flowers by Susan Blackaby
  • After reading one or more flower books, discuss what the students learned about flowers from the selected book. Teach students how to be “Information Detectives” by explaining that readers learn about a topic through pictures called a diagram. Draw a simple flower picture and MODEL how to label the parts of the flower. (Include: flower, bud, stem, leaf, roots or for older students, include: petal, pollen, stamen (anther, filament), carpel (stigma, style, ovary), sepal, ovule, receptacle, stem).
  • Have students create a flower garden bulletin board using a variety of art supplies (construction paper, chenille stems, foam sheets, recycled tubes such as toilet paper/paper towel rolls, glue, scissors, tape and any other craft items available). Each child chooses a specific flower to craft. Arrange the flowers on the b-board in a variety of ways. One idea: arrange the flowers according to shape (bell-shaped like foxgloves, blue bells, or trumpet; star-shaped like lily, white dahlia or hyacinth; tube-shaped; trumpet-shaped; heart-shaped; button-shaped; spike-shaped.) Another idea: arrange the flower garden according to color. (All red flowers are arranged together as well as orange, yellow, green, blue and purple following the color pattern of a rainbow)
  • Once the garden is complete, have the students write one or more informative sentence about their flower.

Sentence Starters:

It is interesting that __________.

I was surprised that my flower __________.

The color of my flower is __________.

I learned __________.

My flower’s shape is like a __________.

Surprisingly, my amazing flower __________.

I discovered that __________.


For a fun and interactive bulletin board, add a small strip (dot) of Velcro beside each of the student’s flowers. Have them write their informative sentences on strips of card stock or sentence strips. Gather each of the informative sentences and adhere Velcro to the backside of each. Place all of the sentences in a central location. Classes or groups of students can come by the b-board, read the sentences and try to match the information with the correct flower.