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New York, NY
PK - 12
Class Size:
Less than 10
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  1. Flashlight Readers Activities [] 
  2. Computer: activities can be modified from one computer to a whole computer lab
  3. Flashlight Readers: Because of Winn-Dixie Session Page
  4. Printed copies of Kate DiCamillo's drafts [](PDF)
  5. Optional: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  6. Optional: Power Point, LCD Projector, and Overhead Projector
    Transparency Paper. Print out selected Web pages and make transparency copies to post on the overhead, if you don't have access to a computer


Students will:

  1. Read the author's comments about her writing process
  2. Listen and watch a slideshow narrated by the author in which she describes step-by-step how her first draft of Because of Winn-Dixie developed into a published book
  3. Practice free writing
  4. Review a list of the author's favorite children's books and learn why she loves them

Resource Instructions


Step 1:
Ask students to share what they already know about Kate DiCamillo. For example, they may know that she was awarded a Newbery Honor for Because of Winn-Dixie, and that in 2004 she won the Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux.

Step 2:
Working in small groups, or independently, have students click the brown house with the red roof to link to Kate DiCamillo's thoughts on her writing process []. After they read it, ask students: What does this quotation mean: " I hate writing. I love having written." Have students describe how they feel about writing. Is it hard for them to get started? What motivates them? How do they feel after they've written something?

Step 3:
Project the Slideshow of Drafts [] on an LCD or other projection device for the whole class to watch together. Distribute the printed-out drafts to the students for reference as you go through the slideshow together. After the slideshow is over, ask students what they think was the biggest change from the first draft of chapter one to the last draft. Have them discuss what change surprised them the most. Finally, ask students if they agree with the author that writing is like "walking down a dark hallway with your arms out in front of you." Have them explain their responses.


Step 4:
Invite students to free write for 10 minutes about a topic you determine, such as a pet they'd like to have, what they did last weekend, or someone they admire. Remind students that Kate DiCamillo uses free writing when she creates a first draft. Tell them not to worry about punctuation, neatness, grammar, etc. Instead, encourage them to get their ideas on paper and just keep going forward. When the time is up, have them work in small groups to share their drafts. As an extension activity, have students continue to work on their writing.

Step 5:
Have students discuss what they found most difficult about the free-writing activity and what they found the easiest. Ask: Do you like writing in this way? Why or why not? After they've had a chance to respond, explain that getting their ideas on paper is a big first step, and that continuing to write and re-write is the next step. Then, have students return to their computers and click the library icon to learn Kate DiCamillo's process for writing and rewriting [] that has led to her success.

Step 6:
Invite students to click the main building in the trailer park to discover Kate DiCamillo's top five favorite children's books []. Ask students the following:

  • Which of these books have you read? Did you feel the same way about them as Kate DiCamillo?
  • What do these books have in common?
  • What can you tell about the author based on her list of favorite books?


  • Have students continue working on the stories they began to draft during the free-write activity in Step 4. Encourage them to return to the slideshow and the author's writing process tips for ideas on how to develop their stories.
  • Invite students to write a short story about a quirky pet, like Winn-Dixie. It could be a real animal or one they make up.
  • Have students create a list of their top five favorite books and write a sentence for each explaining why it's a favorite. They may also accompany each title with an illustration. Compile the lists to create a class collection of favorite books.
  • Encourage students to think about what helps them when they are writing a story. Have them write down their tips. Collect and compile their ideas and publish a class book of writing tips to use as a class resource.


  • Informally assess students understanding of the author's writing process by noting their participation and the quality of their comments during class discussions
  • Review students free-writing samples for their ability to get ideas on paper. Do NOT evaluate this assignment for grammar, spelling, or mechanics

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