Getting to the “Bones” of Writing

Being home with a sick family today has given me the gift of a little extra time. As both my daughter and father are sleeping at the moment, I’m taking the time to look through my tentative lesson plans and see what interesting ideas pop up and, surprise surprise, I almost immediately had an epiphany.

As we get down to the real meat of writing in the coming nine weeks, my students will need to tap in to prior knowledge in order to really understand how written pieces come together, so that they can write their own (amazing!) pieces. Since we’re in the middle of October, what better way to could there be to start this discussion than to incorporate Science (anatomy), Art, and Writing in a hands on class discussion about the “Bones of a Story”?

Give each student a copy of a paper skeleton pattern (such as this one I found on Pinterest)

Introduce the basics of the skeleton they’re holding, i.e. the arms, legs, skull, spine, etc. and relate it to writing by way of a transition sentence such as “Just as Our Bodies need a Skeleton to build muscles upon, every written piece needs its author to provide similar bones to build words on.”

Then have an ‘open discussion’ (class discussion) about what the ‘bones’ of a good story might be. Tell the students that throughout the discussion they should choose the ‘story bones’ that sound the most important to them, and write them on one of the skeleton’s pieces. At the end of the discussion each student will cut out and assemble their newly formed ‘writer’s skeleton’.

I will be using this in conjunction with an anchor chart of a (Haunted House!) so that all of our thoughts on the bare bones of writing will be recorded, whether or not the students include everything on their skeletons. At the end of the class, we’ll hang their works of art on the back wall with the filled in anchor chart…with 4 classes of 5th graders this should decorate my classroom for Halloween without too much effort!

Though I teach fifth grade, this is a lesson that can be transferred to almost any age group (Even pre-k and kindergarten!) and any subject without too much effort. The best thing about it, in my opinion, is the great opportunity for you, the teacher, to HAVE FUN WITH IT! When you have fun with learning, the students will too. Enthusiasm, much like the cold, is contagious!

I hope that you have fun if you choose to use this idea, and would love to hear how the kids like it!

Have a wonderful weekend!

**My beginning speech to get minds rolling in this activity will be something similar to “Welcome to Ms. Tyree’s House of Horror’ibly Great Writing! Today we will be discussing the basic parts, or BONES, of a good story. Just like our bodies needs the skeletal system to build up into a person, every story needs it’s own basic (skeletal) structure. 

Each of you should have a set of pages in front of you (the jointed skeleton pattern). Turn those over and take a look. See how those will fit together to form an articulated skeleton?    As we discuss the ‘bones’ of a good story today, I want you to choose your favorite options for a writing skeleton, and put each one of them on one of the bones in front of you. (It does not have to be EVERYTHING that we talk about, JUST THE ONES THAT YOU FEEL STRONGEST ABOUT!) 

Any questions? If not, lets go ahead and start with what you think are the basic bones of a story. (At this point I will be opening the floor up for students to begin interacting with me. Depending on the mood, attitude, and behavior in each particular class that day, they may be allowed to come up and write their choices on the board OR I may do all the writing)

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