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Children books are not just for the toddler set. In fact, they are perfect tools for teaching six-trait writing to middle schoolers! From finding voice to conveying the right imagery through compelling figurative language and word choice, books that are traditionally used with Pre-K can be just the ticket in helping learners with ideas, word choice, voice, organization, sentence fluency, and even conventions!
12 Books to Help Teach the Six Traits of Writing
Here are my favorite books perfect for teaching the six traits of writing to your middle schooler!
Ideas & Content
Coming up with an idea is often the hardest part of writing! What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada is a story of a boy who has an amazing idea that could change the world, but he isn't really sure what to do with it. . .yet. This book does so much to inspire the ideas students may have about writing and creation to bring them into reality.
Another idea book is The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. The protagonist in this story gets so frustrated in pursuing her magnificent idea that she nearly gives up. It's a lesson in seeing things through and staying the course in life and writing.
Picture books are top notch when it comes to teaching word choice. Middle schoolers delight in coming up with words to describe the illustrations on the page. Finding vivid verbs and adjectives to convey what is happening on the page when little to no words are there to influence meaning provides a genuine opportunity for original word choice.
Here are a few picture books that have images that are sure to bring some striking words to middle school writing.
Journey by Aaron Becker was the 2014 Caldecott Winner and follows a young girl on a self-created journey without words.
Chalk by Bill Thomson takes readers on another journey, where chalk drawings come to life.
Another Caldecott winner, Tuesday by David Wiesner, has delighted readers for more than two decades with fascinating images of frogs on a not-so-ordinary Tuesday.
The Book with No Pictures is just that, a book without any actual images. But as author B.J. Novak notes early in the book, "Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say." This makes for some hilarity and a whole lot of personality and individual style, or what we refer to in six-trait writing as voice. This is one of the hardest traits to teach students. Showing them books that convey individual style and personality appropriate for the audience is the best way to teach voice.
Press Here by Herve Tullet gives readers directions to follow on each page of the book. Use this book to teach transitions, develop organizational patterns, and focus on the parts of a formal piece of writing. Since it is such an interactive text, readers may take inspiration to create their own writing in which readers will need to follow steps or procedures.
Most children books are written in short, simple sentences and Waiting by Kevin Henkes is no exception. This Caldecott winner writes about three toys waiting for something extraordinary to happen in their mundane lives. Middle schoolers can read the book for context and meaning then re-create the story using a variety of simple, complex, and compound sentences. Challenge your students to ABC their paragraphs by trying to start each sentence in a paragraph with a different letter.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña uses more complicated sentences than typical books that focus on images for emerging readers. The pictures are striking, but dialogue, complex sentences, and some fragments are used for stylistic effect. A study of different sentence types can be used with this award winning book.
Grammar and punctuation guru Lynn Truss wrote a series of books that teaches conventions with picturesque clarity for young and old. You cannot beat these books when it comes to writing instruction!
Here are a few of my faves!
- The Girl's Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can't Manage without Apostrophes!
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!
- Twenty-Odd Ducks: Why, every punctuation mark counts!
Writing inspiration is everywhere, especially in the children's section of your local bookstore, online shop, or library. Use some picture or simple reading books to teach the six traits of writing to your middle school writers!
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