Word Wake

By Nick Britton, December 8, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

90 minutes for classroom activities


Students will see themselves as their own clients in order to correct frequent grammatical and spelling errors. They will design memorable reminders showing corrections for these mistakes.

National Standards

Language Arts

Standard 1. Level 4. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 2. Uses a variety of strategies to draft and revise written work (reviews writing to ensure that content and linguistic structures are consistent with purpose)

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening: 

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Students will be able to:

  • correct common errors in spelling and usage of frequently misspelled or misused words
  • correct their own composition errors


Student composition portfolios containing previously graded work


  • colored paper
  • markers
  • scissors
  • glue
  • magazines
  • tomb-stone shaped black construction paper
  • examples of eulogies
  • examples of mnemonic devices


  • eulogy: a commendatory oration or writing especially in honor of one deceased
  • mnemonic device: assisting or intended to assist memory; also, of or relating to mnemonics


(Note: This lesson works well during the second quarter, when enough time has passed to build a portfolio full of examples of student writing but before the halfway point in the school year. I use a spooky ghost example that feels appropriate towards the end of October.)

1. The classroom lights will be dimmed as students enter, and the teacher will offer tissues at the door. At the front of the room, tombstone-shaped black construction paper will be spread out to imitate the appearance of a graveyard. The introduction will take the format of a eulogy: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of certain confused creatures.” The teacher will then use an example, such as “alot.” “Big old A LOT, we always forgot, you’re two words – not one. But now that’s all done.” The teacher will pause for effect while wiping away tears.

2. A short vocabulary lesson will be presented for the terms “eulogy” and “mnemonic device.” Students will learn the definitions of the terms. Then the class will discuss the themes and forms eulogies often include, such as memorials and poems.

3. After the brief vocabulary lesson, a list of commonly misspelled and misused words will be presented on the board in front of the room. The teacher will announce that it is time for these mistakes to be with us no more. Students will be instructed to look through their own writing portfolios and to identify which mistakes they and their peers are guilty of committing frequently (teacher corrections in red pen from past assignments will make this a relatively straightforward process). This will be the research phase.

4. Students will then be asked to think of themselves as their own clients. Their goal is to design an effective reminder that prevents one of their recurring mistakes from happening in the future. They must then select one of their very own anomalies to correct once and for all. Ultimately, their goal will be to design a memorable reminder showing how to correct their own spelling or grammatical mistakes.

5. The teacher will circulate around the room guiding students as they search through their writing portfolios (past graded written assignments) to help them select an appropriate common error. The teacher will explain that using a tombstone and a eulogy is one example of a memorable way to correct the error of spelling ‘a lot’ as one word. The teacher will share that a previous student who chose this error also represented its correction in the form of a single ghost wearing the letter “a” next to a group of ghosts wearing the word “lot” rising from the tombstone of the error (alot). Students will be encouraged to create their own representations of solutions to their errors.

6. The results will be presented and will remain on display to serve as reminders when students edit future drafts. Each designer will explain his or her reminder/solution to the problem of a selected spelling or grammatical error.

(Note: Thirty minutes at the beginning of class will be used for preparation {ten minutes will be used to introduce the lesson and to share the tombstone and eulogy example, the following ten minutes will be used to review the new vocabulary terms “eulogy” and “mnemonic device,” and the following ten minutes will be used to conduct the research of going through their own writing portfolios and having students select an error to correct}; after the class prepares itself, ten minutes will be used to brainstorm how each student will represent the correction of his or her chosen error in a memorable way, thirty minutes will be used to create the actual solutions {these will mostly be visual, although performance or memory rhyme would also work well}; and the final remaining twenty minutes of class will be used for the students to present the results to the teacher and their classmates.)


Because this lesson uses previously graded student work, differentiating will involve teacher guidance on selecting an appropriate error and providing cues on how to invent a clever way to represent the correction. English language learners and special educations students should be guided to choose an error appropriate to their level. Particular sensitivity should be used in the case of any student who has recently lost a loved one. The idea is to keep it fun. Students will peer-evaluate for originality and effectiveness.

Enrichment Extension Activities

A great expansion of this lesson would be to have the students use the activity to inspire an expository essay. They could write about how to avoid repeating the same mistakes, using unexpected connections to create a clever method for remembering the correction.

Teacher Reflection

Initially, I guided all students to compose a eulogy and design a tombstone with a correction rising from the grave of the mistake. If students designed their own unique solutions, the variety of effective results would increase.

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