Writing a Suspense Passage to Convey a Sense of Waiting, Mental Uncertainty, or Excitement

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SWBAT...write a suspense passage by using the magic of three, word referents, and questioning to heighten readers' anticipation

Big Idea

The best part of surprises is the excitement that leads up to the "reveal"!

Creating the Purpose

5 minutes

I open with a review with students the magic of three and the word referents to see what they remember from the previous lesson. I then ask them if music can create suspense - I get mixed responses from this.

As promised...I play them the Jaws video to show how suspense creates emotional reactions to the story plot. You can play it for less than the two minute time. I had them close their eyes and imagine all the emotions it was causing and then write the words on their white boards.  I got responses such as: fear, nervousness, running away, anticipation of something bad happening, and the one I relate to most - I'm never going swimming again (SL 5.5, W 5.10) 


I share that I wanted to show them that suspense is created by the writers by slowing down the actions and creating questions in the readers' minds that make them feel anxious and want to read more.

I share the objective that today we are going to write suspense paragraphs using the magic of three to slow down the actions, word referents to create suspense, and questioning to make the reader get more involved in our stories. (W 5.3b)

Guiding the Learning

15 minutes

I want students to apply what they learned in the previous lesson but first need to teach them the third component of suspense - questioning.

I show them two sample passages that both start off and end differently. I ask them how the question changed how they felt about what would happen next? and How did the details add/ detract from the suspense they felt for the boy? How about the mom - how did the passage information change how they felt about the mother and her feelings towards her son? Students respond with opinions (SL 5.1d)

I share that authors can use their words to create emotions in their readers. I write a sentence on the board "The boy was afraid to go home" and ask students what question they would ask tom start a suspense paragraph. I write the examples shared on the board (W 5.5).

I then change the sentence to "The boy was excited to finally be home and get to eat dinner" and ask students what question they would start their suspense paragraph with? I take examples and write them on the board (W 5.5).

I have students share with their partners how these two sentences changed the meaning of their suspense paragraphs and outlook of their stories (SL 5.1d).

I now give students the Building Suspense Worksheets. We review the How to Build Suspense to improve their knowledge of the terms and their meaning in passages. We then review the expectations for completion of the Red Flag Words form and I take any questions - none? Moving on...I complete the first two with students using the colored pencils (red for flag words, pencil for hint, blue for reaction and circle revelation) and then have them complete the rest with their table groups (W 5.3b).

They discuss and debate which sentence part is identified and why (SL 5.1c). 

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Students are excited and ready for writing so I share that they are now going to get the opportunity to scare or surprise their neighbors.

I give them the Suspense Practice Writing worksheet and share the ending - alien attack!

Students are directed to write a suspense passage using all three of the suspense formats we have learned in the lessons - magic of three, word referents, and red flag words (W 5.3b). 

I circulate and talk through thinking with my strugglers and ELL. Those who finsihs early get to peer share their writing and edit each others work. They can also type their paragraphs on the computer if they have time.   

Students are partnered randomly to share their thoughts and what they felt were positive structures used and some that they felt should be improved. They were counseled to give explicit advice (I feel you should have written ________and this is what I would have written__________) rather than general advice (you need more description) (SL 5.1d) The more students can reflect and discuss their writing the deeper their understanding becomes. It is also a great learning tool to have them share because they hear things they like and hear things they don't like and can then apply this knowledge to adjust their own writing. A last benefit, and probably the most common, is that while they read aloud they catch wording or sentence structures that don't sound correct and can then edit and revise their writing.    


And another group sharing their peer editing of suspense writing (SL 5.1d, W 5.3b)

Closing the Loop

5 minutes

Students are called on both randomly (no opt out) and specifically (good examples), to build confidence and accountability and model excellence to struggling peers (SL 5.4, SL 5.6). We share suspense paragraphs and peers use their white boards to create a T-chart that gives positive and negative insights into the orally shared writings (W 5.5). Students in the class then debate who had the best suspense writing and we add that to our class chart (SL 5.3) Here's some student examples of suspense writing:


They get a moment at the end of the sharing to review their own work and to make any corrections or improvements that they see fitting. I collect their writing to review who can/ cannot move on to the next lesson on main events.