Wednesday, February 22, 2012

THE BEST Writing Book!

I was talking about this book with a colleague the other day.  More like singing its praises.  It was then that I thought I needed to share this resource with my blog friends.  If you teach intermediate grade writers, YOU WANT THIS BOOK!  The title of this gem is Razzle Dazzle Writing: Achieving Excellence Through 50 Target Skills by Melissa Forney.

I love this book!  It is so on-target with the skills it covers and so appropriate for intermediate grade writers.  This book is perfect for 3rd grade through middle school.  If I don't tell you another thing about it, you should just go buy the book because it is selling on for a very cheap $13.57!  Honestly, I would quickly pay at least twice that for this book without blinking.  Ms. Forney also has a sister book for the K-2 set called Primary Pizzazz Writing.  I haven't seen it in person, but it looks like a winner.

The pages of Razzle Dazzle Writing are meant to be copied for your friends and used as a teaching and reference tool.  Here is a checklist from the book that notes the 50 skills covered:

As you can see, the topic lend themselves to your everyday teaching throughout the year. However, this book is also great for test prep.  Ugghhhh!  I hate to even utter those words, but they are a fact of life for us these days. Let me be clear though that Ms. Forney is very clear in the book that it's not all about the writing prompt.  She does state that our friends need to know the difference between prompted writing and free writing.  I also believe this.  As much as we would like our friends to embrace writing and freely write as they are inspired, the reality is when the state test comes they are going to be directed via a prompt to do a very specific type of writing.   I used the mini lessons in this book to create an anchor chart on understanding the different types of prompts:

 And, here is another chart I created using one of Melissa Forney's lessons on using a "writing glove" to help your friends properly address narrative prompts.

Sigh!  Just noticed that I spelled dilemma incorrectly on the chart.  Will be fixing that in class ASAP.  Sorry about that!
Ms. Forney has great ideas for this mini lesson.  The book even includes reproducible gloves for your friends to cut out and put on a stick.  The creation of these two anchor charts is directly inspired, if not copied, right from Razzle Dazzle Writing.  I tweaked a bit for my friends, but the book is so well put together you can essentially photocopy what you need and do your lesson with minimal prep.

Razzle Dazzle Writing includes tons of pages you can copy for your friends to keep as reference, there are also poems and reader's theater scripts that are included to reinforce many of the lessons.  The poems are fun and easily understandable for your friends.  The reader's theater scripts get right to the point in a fun way , yet they are short enough to be done as part of a mini lesson.  I have yet to find anything in this book that isn't a perfect fit for my friends.

Melissa Forney has an incredible web site where you can learn more about her books and philosophy.  Click HERE to be taken to Forney Educational, Inc.   There are also free downloads available on the site.  THIS PDF DOWNLOAD is for a booklet titled Young Writer's Survival Guide.  It is an excellent resource for your friends.  Many of the topics in this guide are topics covered in more depth as different mini lessons in Razzle Dazzle Writing.  That PDF alone should convince you to buy the book!

So, have I gushed enough?  I hope so!  This is not a paid endorsement.  This is a post on a book that I find myself going back to again and again and think you will, too.  If you know this book, please share your thoughts.  If you end up getting this book, let us know how you like it.

On a totally different topic, every time I think of the name of this book, it makes me think of this scene from the movie Stripes with Bill Murray.  I know, totally dating myself yet again!

Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a copy of Testing Miss Malarkey and assorted other goodies!  


  1. Thanks for sharing such great resources!

  2. I bought it!! Can't wait to get it and start using it!

  3. Hi Nancy:

    I have this book somewhere in my garage.
    I have to find it and RE-enjoy it!
    Thanks for the reminder.

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  4. I LOVE this book too! It's my FAVORITE writing resource :)

  5. Just found your blog. I love all your anchor charts.

    Chickadee Jubilee

  6. I have both books!!! LOVE THEM! Melissa came to our school a few times several years ago. She is an energetic and dynamic presenter! I am not sure if you know but she also has authored a few books for kids. My absolute ALL TIME fave is, Oonawassee Summer. I use this as a read aloud each year. Right now, I am actually reading one of her new books, The Astonishing Journey of Teddy Bodain to my class. I bet you would love them both! Great glad I found it! :)

    Becky from Florida

  7. I love your blog! I just downloaded the Writers Survival Kit and I definitely want to get this book. I have been teaching math and Language Arts in 5th grade for the last several years, but will just be teaching Writing/Language Arts next year, and I'm excited about your ideas and this book! Thanks!

  8. I am so happy to have found your blog! Such wonderful teaching ideas. I too teach 5th grade, and can't wait to try some of your techniques. I am your newest follower. I hope you can stop by my blog soon :)

  9. Would you recommend presenting the mini-lessons in order? Or do you just pick and choose what fits what you're about to teach?

    1. Hi Jenn!
      The book is broken up into different types of writing units; narrative, expository, etc. I usually pull different lessons as I need. In fact, today in summer school I pulled this book out with two of my friends to do a quick mini lesson on expository grabbers. The pages in the book were perfect for the lesson. It wasn't planned, but in conferencing today I noticed that two of my friends had less than stellar openings.
      Having said that, the lessons are in an order that makes perfect sense. If you want to stick to the book, it wouldn't hurt to do that. I think you probably end up teaching all the lessons in the book in one way or another. However, I generally find it more useful to just pull lessons as I am planning or see the need for in my friends.

  10. I totally love this book! My students love it as well.