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Lesson Plan

Leading to Great Places in the Middle School Classroom

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Leading to Great Places in the Middle School Classroom

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 40-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sharon Roth

Sharon Roth

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



From Theory to Practice



Tapping existing texts for models is one of the best strategies for writer's workshop. This lesson examines types of leads in prominent young adult literature and asks students to search for great leads and then try their own hand at writing leads. Students rank several leads from novels as they are read aloud, and then discuss their rankings. Working in small groups, students read alternative leads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They then act as a marketing group to select the best lead. Next, students create two new leads for a novel, using different strategies for each. Finally, students apply this process to their own writing, working in pairs to create two alternative leads to something they have written.

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This lesson asks students to position themselves alongside the writers of the picture and chapter books that they read in the classroom. By using existing texts as models for their own writing, students learn "ways of reading texts like writers, developing a sense of craft and genre in writing" (Ray 2001, p 132) - something Katie Wood Ray recommends as a whole class unit of study in the writing workshop.  In her book In the Middle Writing, Reading, and Learning with Adolescents, Nancie Atwell suggests that  "mini-lessons on leads helps students internalize stylistic concerns." Moreover, exposing students to different kinds of leads helps students see the importance of voice and how people respond to the literature.

Further Reading

Atwell, Nancie. 1998. In the Middle Writing, Reading, and Learning with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Ray, Katie Wood. 2001. Writing Workshop, The: Working through the Hard Parts (And They're All Hard Parts). Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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