(Updated for 2015!) Thinking About and Experimenting With Technique

(Be sure to consult About the YARN Toolbox)

Previous lesson plans that fit this mold:

Image Courtesy of Lina Hayes (flickr.com)

  • “Poetry: Non-Traditional Forms”
  • “The Writing Process Made Real”
  • “A Lesson on Body Image, Mood, and Point of View”
  • “Dress for Success: How to be a Left-Brained Writer”
  • “Blogging: Reaching Your Target Audience”

New Writing that would work with this lesson (unless noted, the selection is fiction), updated February 2015:

What you’ll need:

  • A computer with Internet that can be viewed on an overhead screen
  • Writing from YARN that you’ve chosen for this lesson (Basic lesson: Choose one story, essay, or poem) (Advanced lesson: Choose two pieces to compare and contrast, or chose two techniques within one or two pieces of analogous writing [like the body image and blogging lessons])

Preparation and Homework:

  • Choose the one or two stories you want to assign to the class, and review YARN in general.
  • Assign the YARN writing as homework, and ask them to also peruse the “Learn About Yarn” pages. If not all your students own computers on which to read, you might schedule some library or computer lab time for in-class reading.
  • Encourage them to take notes and jot down questions on paper as they read, especially noting specific lines that move them and relate to the theme.

In Class:

  1. After setting up the computer and screen, go to www.yareview.net and introduce YARN to the class, especially the “About YARN” page.
  2. Put your chosen writing up on the screen.
  3. Warm students up by asking what they thought about the assigned writing: What did they like about it? What was it about? Follow up with “why” questions, and ask that students support their answers with specific words and phrases from the story. Write their thoughts on the chalkboard. (Advanced option: Ask the students to compare and contrast the two pieces you assigned. What did they have in common and how did they differ? Ask them to back up their answers with specific lines from the texts.)
  4. Segue into questions that are more directly about the writing technique on which you want to focus (writing for an audience, point of view, etc). How does the writing illustrate the technique?  (Basic: In a less advanced class, you might preview the writing technique before this part of the discussion by discussing what audience or point of view is.) (Advanced: Let the aspect of process emerge organically from the class discussion. You’ll certainly have to nudge them in the direction of your chosen technique, but try to get them to articulate it.)  (Advanced, 2: If you are using more than one piece of writing, ask students to compare and contrast the similar and different ways in which each writer handles the technique.)
  5. With their answers on the board, ask some synthesizing questions: What have they learned about the technique from this lesson? How might this technique work in their own writing, in your class and in others they might be taking that semester?


There are a few possible writing assignments that could come out of the discussion above, the second of which could be submitted to YARN for possible publication. (We don’t recommend sending the essays that might result from the first prompt, because they would likely be more academic in tone and reflection, while the second two are more creative.) Please do encourage students to revise and improve their writing further, even after their pieces have been graded, before submitting work for publication

  • Prompt 1: Write a short essay reflecting on the way the technique works in another piece of writing, either from YARN or from earlier in the school year.
  • Prompt 2: Write a short creative essay, short story, or poem (whichever genre you discussed in class) in which you use the technique.

This writing portion of the lesson could be made into a take-home assignment, due several days after the in-class lesson (for classes of more advanced writers), OR it could be broken down into a longer writing lesson involving in-class and at-home brainstorming, and/or journaling, drafting, and revising (for an example of how this might break down, see the lesson on inference.)

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