Wilbur: To Be Smoked Ham or Not?

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SWBAT write an opinion letter to the author, E.B. White, expressing the point of view of a specific character about Wilbur's fate.

Big Idea

Keep Wilbur alive or turn him into smoked ham? This is the predicament Wilbur faces. I wonder what reasons the students will give to support their point of view?


7 minutes


Today's lesson is about engaging the students in understanding different points of view. When students can take on and understand the perspective of characters in the story, their comprehension deepens. When they can write from the point of view of these perspectives, it deepens even more.

To accomplish this goal, students will be expressing an opinion about whether Wilbur should be kept alive or not. Students have already chosen a character, and, today, they will be writing a letter to E.B. White. In writing their friendly letters to the author, students' writing will need to reflect the emotions, thoughts, and actions of the character/perspective they selected. They will also need to work on expressing themselves clearly and using well-developed points to back up their opinions.

To support students, I will begin by modeling the process. In modeling the process, I will remind them to use a variety of sentences: simple, elaborated, and complex sentences.

Then, students will have an opportunity to create their own letters and share with each other about  their ideas. Last, they will share with the whole class. In reading their pieces, students will use the voice of that character to the best of their ability.

Start on the rug:

I will start by sharing the student-friendly objective: "I can express an opinion through writing." Then, I will have the students review the components of a friendly letter. I will have them participate in a think-pair-share, and then students will share with the whole class. Afterwards, I will pass out their graphic organizers from yesterday (they will be using these to write their letter).


15 minutes

Now, I model the writing of the friendly letter with them. To model it, I am using a chart that already has some of the components ready, such as the date and the greeting, to move the process along. Next to the friendly letter, I have posted a chart with the information I modeled for the students yesterday that will inform my friendly letter today.

I take on the perspective of Mrs. Zuckerman. Why? Mrs. Zuckerman, as a secondary character is not emotionally invested at this time about whether Wilbur lives or dies. And, I want to show the students that it is quite normal for her to be thinking about making a delicious ham out of him for Christmas. It is what happens on a farm. Lastly, I want to make available the main characters for the students and not influence them with my ideas.

So as Mrs. Zukcemran, I write to E.B. White, about not keeping Wilbur alive. My friendly letter is written in the following way:

Dear E.B. White,

Hello, Mr. White, this is Mrs. Zuckerman,  married to Homer Zuckerman. I am very tired from all the visitors who came to see the miracle of "Some Pig," written on the web. In my opinion, Wilbur is not worth all this work. I missed making my delicious blackberry jam because the berries went bad. Frankly, I believe we have an extraordinary spider, not an extraordinary pig. That is why I think Wilbur will make a fine smoked ham on my table, next to the vegetables, I cook for Christmas. Come join us!

Yours Truly,

Mrs. Zuckerman

Thus, in writing the letter, students are expected to use some information from the text. Yes, imagination counts, but including details from the lives of the characters makes it for a more authentic and fun writing experience.

Lastly, I remind my students to use a mixture of:

Simple Sentence

Elaborated Sentence

Complex Sentence

It is these variety of sentences that help to make the writing dynamic and interesting to read. I briefly review the different types of sentences since they feel comfortable using them.

Independent Writing

25 minutes

To get my students started in writing their friendly letter, first, I walk them through how to fold the paper they will be using. I ask them to take their paper and fold it the hotdog way, which is the long way. Why? This helps them to remember the format of the friendly letter and it allows me to easily also show them, if they happen to forget, where the features go.

I am giving my students plenty of writing time because I want them to be thoughtful in their creation of the content of the friendly letter. As they write, I am walking around giving my students help as they need. What support will they need?

•help with folding the paper

•help with "where the date goes," or any other feature

•reminder to indent

•reminder to add the closing with appropriate capitalization and spelling

•reminder to sign the friendly letter with their character's name

I am also making mental notes about who will be sharing out loud--I will make sure to ask those students--so that they feel validated and empowered.

In selecting those who will share out, this what I am looking for:

•they have all the components of the friendly letter

•they have expressed an opinion

•they have provided at least 3 supporting details that support their opinion.

•they have captured the essence of the character in their writing.

While I provided examples of all these parts in my modeling, next time, I will create a chart for them to reference--so they are not relying on what they heard.

Sharing With A Partner

15 minutes

I will gather the students on the carpet. I will partner them up. I will remind them that as they read their letters to each other to use--the best of their ability-- the voice of their character. I will read the letter in the voice of Mrs. Zuckerman to model the process. Students will be able to sit around the room as they read their letters. I will walk around and enjoy their readings.

Sharing With the Class

12 minutes

Now, I am gathering the students back on the carpet. I will invite students to share with the whole class. At the end of the sharing, I will ask if anyone's position has been changed by those who shared.

Here are some of their letters. Enjoy!

Dear E.B. White