Saturday, April 7, 2012

Writing Horrors

Paranormal Paragraphs
and Other
Writing Horrors

A Fantastic Writer’s Workshop for 
Grade 12 Urban Language Arts Learners

Writing can be a scary thing for many students. Luckily, this creepy workshop is designed to relax the fears of the reluctant writer. During the spine-tingling two-week language arts unit, students find their voice through a focus on fiendish horror and fantasy short stories. In mini-lessons and micro-lectures, students also learn how to avoid the most common horrible writing habits and ghastly grammar mistakes.

The flexible daily activities of the workshop may include Writing Time, Sharing Time, Status Check-Ins and Mini-Lessons as needed.  Scheduling and instructional focus should be shaped by the process – as student needs and questions arise. Although this unit learning plan includes some specific mini-lessons and activities, they are entirely optional. Consider it to be the mere skeleton of a unit plan.

Workshops can be a monster for teachers to manage since students are working independently on different things at different times. Still, in using the recursive writing process – prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, publishing – learners will be able to chop up the daunting task of short story writing into manageable parts and concentrate on producing fantastic material.

The final stage, publishing and sharing stories in a group Read-Around, ensures that workshop participants have an audience. Deepening their ongoing understanding of the “Six-Traits Plus One” writing framework, learners will also have opportunities to coach each other through various stages of the process. This peer-editing places further emphasis on audience while fostering collaboration during the often intimidating and scary revision phase.

In this unit, learners will:

  • Examine and explore the characteristics of horror and fantasy literature;
  • Read and listen to scary short stories;
  • Create a fantasy plot and write a descriptive short story;
  • Investigate writing conventions and common writing errors;
  • Self-evaluate writing and peer-edit using the “Six-Trait” framework.

Instructional Strategies:
The central strategy of this learning plan is the Process Writing approach – as defined by Richard Badger and Goodith White (“A Process Genre Approach to Teaching Writing,” ELT Journal 54-2, 2000) – and described in the Annenberg Learner Writing Workshop series: “Write in the Middle.”


Learners are guided to give feedback using the language of the “Six-Traits Plus One” writing framework.

Lesson planning and handout ideas from:

Velvet McReynolds’ PATS peer-editing strategy outlined in “Write in the Middle”

Marissa Marler – “Creating Your Own Fantasy Story” [] 

Karen Luchner – “Using Scary Stories to Motivate Students to Read” []

Big Idea: Conventions

[Adjusting use of conventions, structure and vocabulary to effectively communicate a particular mood or style.]


: ten, 50-minute sessions

Learners: A group of 21 mixed ability students from widely diverse cultural backgrounds, mainly Hmong, Black, White and Mexican American. (The group has theoretically had previous instruction on “Six-Traits Plus One” and the general workshop process.)

Materials – Unit Plan Forms: 13 Dreadful Writing Mistakes handout; Fantastic Plots handout; Scary Story Traits; Goosebumps article; Write a Scary Story handout; Horrible Paragraphs; Paranormal Paragraphs; Writing Rubric; Six-Traits Self-Evaluation Checklist; PATS - Peer-Edit Checklist; Writing Conventions Quiz; (3 or 4) selected stories from – Queen of the Cold-Blooded Tales, Stories by Roberta Simpson Brown – instructor’s choice, but three of the best are Whispers, Sleeping Bags and The Wake-Up Call.

Resources / Websites: Goosebumps article online

Writing Horrors
Core Learning Strategy Map

Writing Standard: 12. 7. 3.
– Write narratives and other creative texts to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Benchmark C. – Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole and build toward a particular tone and outcome (e.g., a sense of mystery, suspense, growth, or resolution).

Core Objective: I can draft and craft a short story in the fantasy fiction genre.

Learning Target: I can identify the traits of a mysterious, suspenseful or frightening story.
Learning Assessment: mini-lessons, readings, discussions
Learning Target: I can use the writing process to revise a text for clarity and tone.
Learning Assessment: mini-conferences, peer-editing

Core Assessment: Fantasy Horror Short Story - 80%;

Language Standard: 12. 11. 1.
– Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Benchmark A.    – Apply the understanding that usage is a matter of convention, can change over time, and is sometimes contested.

Core Objective: I can recognize standard and nonstandard use of writing conventions.

Learning Target: I can distinguish standard from nonstandard writing conventions.
Learning Assessment: observation, discussions, mini-lessons

Core Assessment: Writing Conventions Quiz - 20%

Success Opportunity for Urban Learners – SOUL Focus:
Production and Distribution of Writing

"I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose." 

~ Stephen King


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