Thursday, January 17, 2013

Turning an Enemy Into a Friend... A Reading & Writing Project

Dear Teaching Friends,

This post contains an affiliate link, for which I would receive a small compensation that would not affect the amount you pay.

I'd like to share a Valentines Day reading/writing project with you. The idea came from Writing Fix,
one of my favorite online writing resources. The lesson there is called "Scheming Against an Adversary: Writing an Original Tale of Non-Violent Revenge", and it's based on this book by Derek Munson. Do you know it?  It's a great story about a very smart dad who helps his son turn an enemy into a good friend - without either of the "enemies" realizing exactly what's happening!

If you're using Six Traits writing, the focus of this lesson is idea development. It's aimed a little high for where my particular group of first grade writers were, but should be fine as described at Writing Fix for second grade and up. We just adapted it a bit, and also turned it into a successful lesson on conflict resolution!

Before reading,  we talked about the word "enemy", with of course a few vivid examples of "Enemies I Have Known" eagerly discussed! We identified these as self-to-text connections that would help us understand the plot and characters of the story.

During reading, we stopped to discuss the dad's plan as it developed - why it might or might not work. We noted changes in the characters as the story progressed. We made predictions, and revised them as the story continued.

After reading, we partnered up to do quick-writes of lists: ingredients for our own "enemy pies". everything from soap to mud to dog food and bugs would appear on those lists! Then we partnered with a buddy to share lists with each other.

The next day, for our writing follow-up, we'd do a shared writing of a chart list of other ways to turn an enemy into a friend. The kids would make suggestions like sharing at lunchtime (basically a no-no at our school because of food allergies, but a nice thought, no?),  inviting the enemy for a playdate, or just simply smiling at them every day (that'll get any enemy going, right?). In other words, there was lots of good thinking and discussion about getting along, conflict resolution, and even dealing with bullies. Then, each child chose an item from the chart list as an idea to write about and expand upon as able. We took it through a short process of sharing with a small group, revising, and editing.

Each child made a self-portrait with hands to hold the finished writing piece and there you have it - a writing display ready for your hallway or bulletin board!

 Here's a very cool bonus that I found when writing up this post. Derek Munson has a website devoted to this book.  I seriously love children's authors' websites, because so many of them are now aimed at young readers and writers, and because it makes authors more real to our young readers. I love to watch kids' reactions when they see some of the pure silliness at these sites... proving once again that reading is FUN!

In case you'd like to make a display like ours, here's a simple version of the sign you see in the first picture above.

If you've used this book with your class, please share your ideas and activities in a comment!

Click the cover to buy Enemy Pie at Amazon.

Happy Teaching!


  1. What a great post! We've been dealing with bullies at school this year. This is along the same lines. Thanks for outlining your process!

    1. Oh, Jessica, the bullying issue is such a tough one!
      Sometimes I wonder if all the efforts we (teachers and parents) put into building up self-esteem just backfire and go awry for some children. I know that research shows that the bullies are often the most insecure ones with the lowest self-esteem, but maybe the issue is not so much instilling self-esteem as teaching empathy and kindness.
      Glad to hear that you liked the post!

      I'd love to hear some discussion on this topic, everyone!


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