Empowering Writers

November 2016 Lesson of the Month

How is it going fellow writing teachers? School is off and running! Are you finding it helpful to incorporate writing in your everyday plans? If you have not begun the daily writing lessons throughout your curriculum, let me encourage you to do so. You will see more improvement of skills in all subject areas than in any other resource you have at your fingertips.

November Lesson of the Month

The Expository Guide does a great job of teaching students ways to create meaningful Main Ideas followed by well-elaborated details. Lessons such as Pick, List, and, Choose, and Main Ideas, Don’t Overlap Them, teach students to use specific rather than general Main Ideas. The lesson this month incorporates the concept of specific Main Ideas in a categorizing activity that they will find fun and challenging at the same time.


Students may be allowed to work in pairs or groups, categorizing a select assortment of objects into a specific topics with multiple Main Ideas. Once they have bundled the items/cards into categories, they will fill out a summarizing framework corresponding with their groupings.

Here’s what you’ll do:

1) First, the teacher will gather five or more bags of items, the items in each bag all relating to each other in a variety of ways. Use real items, photos of items, printed word cards, or a combination of all three. Sample bag ideas are shown below, but there are any number of possibilities:

  • Bag 1: fork, dinner plate, napkin, tea bag, water bottle, Gatorade or soft drink bottle, lemon, sugar or sugar substitute packet, mac and cheese box, cake mix, pizza box, apple, etc. (dinner items)
  • Bag 2: book, swim float, picture of a hammock, photo of a pool, photo of a car with travel tote on the roof, fishing reel, baseball, television remote, etc. (items used for summer fun)
  • Bag 3: flashlight, tent, pillow, hiking boots, jacket, bug spray, fishing pole, backpack, etc. (camping gear)
  • Bag 4: Photo of a black top hat, photo of log cabin, picture of the state of Kentucky, photo of logs split with an ax, bundle of books, photo of Mary Todd Lincoln, card with Gettysburg Address printed, card with words Civil War, card with John Wilkes Booth printed, etc. (Abraham Lincoln’s life)
  • Bag 5: animal photos from the five types of vertebrates, (amphibian, mammal, fish, bird, reptile) or a simpler bag of just dog items

2) Choose a bag to MODEL the lesson with students. For example, if bag 1 is chosen for the MODEL segment, students might bundle the fork, dinner plate and napkin together. Then they could bundle the water bottle, tea bag, Gatorade, soft drink, sugar packet and even the lemon together. Next they will probably bundle the mac and cheese, pizza box, and cake mix, and apple together. Not all of their thought processes will be the same, so some discussion might follow as to the different categories chosen. Once everyone agrees to the grouping of the items, have the students decide the overall topic and the Main Ideas of each bundled group. Fill in a summarizing framework:

Topic: Dinner

  • Main Idea #1: Utensils
  • Main Idea #2: Drinks
  • Main Idea #3: Food

Optional: This bag could be taken a new direction by adding a pan, large spoon, cookbook, photos of a table and chairs, cooktop, or oven. This would change the Topic to Preparing Dinner and more Main Ideas could be added. Also, add a few novelty items such as a leaf, pillow, flower, etc. to see if students would create even more Main Ideas (table décor) or decide these were extraneous items.

3) Have pairs or groups of students choose a bag and spill out the items/cards onto a table or desk. Let students categorize the selection into bundles with similar themes. Then have them fill in a summarizing framework to fit their bag.