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Lesson Plan

Top Secret Rule Reasons! Creating a Unique Idea that is Filled with Voice using “The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups” by David Wisniewski by NNWP


English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)

Grade Levels

Elementary, Intermediate, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


In The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups, David Wisniewski uses a pattern throughout his book. A grown-up rule is shared, the grown-up reason for the reason is shared, and the "real" reason for the rule is revealed in a fantastic tale. This writing assignment allows students to be creative--perhaps a little defiant--while borrowing Wisniewski's pattern.


The Northern Nevada Writing Project
The National Writing Project

Six-Trait Overview

The focus trait for this assignment is idea development; writers will focus on creating a completely unique idea while borrowing a structure from a published author. The support trait for this assignment is voice; with an assignment this enjoyable, students should have no problem adding emotion and passion to their "real reasons for rules."


Denise Boswell


  • The picture book The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski
  • Copies of Top Secret Rule Draft Sheet (one per student)
  • Copies of Top Secret Rule Graphic Organizer (one per student)
  • Copies of Top Secret Rule Pre-Writing Sheet (one per student)
  • Copies of Top Secret Rule Student Samples (one per student)
  • Top Secret Rule Draft Sheet.pdf
  • Top Secret Rule Graphic Organizer.pdf
  • Top Secret Rule Pre Writing Sheet.doc
  • Top Secret Rule Student Samples.pdf
  • Duration

    One 45-minute class period

    About the Picture Book

    Rules can be a child’s worst nightmare, so it's no surprise that The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski is a book that all actual children (as well as children at heart) enjoy. This is a book full of rules! And then it spoofs those rules. The author splits the book up into eight sections; each section is devoted to one grown-up rule we all remember.

    Step-by-Step Procedure

    Anticipatory Set: Ask students to identify some of the rules that grown-ups have for them.

    1. Introduce the story, The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski. Tell students that there are great descriptions in the book as well as a three-part pattern used by the author.
    2. While reading, have students make a chart listing the rules from the book, the "real" reasons for those rules, and favorite descriptions the author used.
    3. Have students share items from their charts and record on the board or chart paper.
    4. Distribute the Top Secret Rule Pre-Writing worksheet to students.
    5. After students select the rule, the “reason,” and the real reason, have them share with a partner.
    6. Distribute the student samples of the writing assignment. These are the initial brainstorms of three writers--Lauren, Robbie and Natalie. Have your students look these over. Pose this task to student groups: "Imagine you are in Lauren's, Robbie's, or Natalie's writing response group. If Lauren, Robbie, or Natalie shared these initial ideas for this writing assignment, what advice would you give them to help them turn their brainstorms into a story that is as detailed as one of the "real rule" stories from Mr. Wisniewski's book."
    7. Distribute the Top Secret Rule Graphic Organizer and have students begin to brainstorm details.
    8. We also provide a drafting sheet below for once the brainstorm is completed. An idea development Post-It is embedded in the drafting sheet so that students can double-check those trait-specific skills before, during, and after drafting.

    Closure: Ask for student volunteers to share what they have written so far.

    Extension of Lesson

    To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach Revision & Response Post-Its to your students' drafts. Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-Its, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5." Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings. For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-Its, click here.

    After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor. If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers. With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post Its.

    When they are finished revising and have second drafts, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block. Their stories might become a longer story, a more detailed piece, or the beginning of a series of pieces about the story they started here. Students will probably enjoy creating an illustration for this story as they get ready to publish it for their portfolios.

    Content Provider

    The Northern Nevada Writing Project: WritingFix

    Interested in publishing student work on-line?

    WritingFix invites student writers to post final drafts of their original at WritingFix's Community of Student Writers at: http://writingfix1.edublogs.org/2008/02/12/using-90th-streets-advice-prompt/

    This is a safe-to-use blog for students and teachers. No writing is posted until it is approved by the moderator. Contact WritingFix at publish@writingfix.com if you have questions about getting your students published.

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