Beautiful Oops

Some of my favorite lessons are typically the ones I make at last minute and usually ones I steal from other teachers with a little dash of some zhuzh. This one struck it big with the 6th graders. They LOVED it. A co-teacher of mine (my mentor from my first year of teaching, who has proved I need her EVERY year) shared with me a book that I would have most likely walked right by in Barnes and Noble.  

Doesn’t seem like a book for 6th graders, does it??  Let’s keep in mind the power of picture books and how they are certainly not just for little ones. Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzburg now has a very special place in my 6th grade classroom and adored by all.

I started this lesson by reading this book aloud to my students. I took my time and made sure every picture was seen by every eye. The book shows a series of oops or accidents: a torn piece of paper, spilled milk.  Then the oops is turned into something creative, something beautiful on the following page.

The room was silent. Eyes were wide. I was loving every second of it.

After reading we took out our Writer’s Notebooks.

(IMAGE: Writer’s Notebooks)

(My students have personalized notebooks that we start the year off with. They know that it is their place to keep their ideas, thoughts and feelings and that I will never read them without their permission.)

The task I gave them:

Switch Writer’s Notebooks with someone at your table. Take a page of that person’s notebook and create an “OOPS”; maybe a tear in their page, a fold or a scribble. The students then had to turn the “OOPS” in their notebook into something beautiful.

While we worked on changing out Oops we listened to music:

Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten (stripped Acoustic Version)

Lights, The Listening

Black Eyed Peas, I Gotta Feelings

Then we  shared and I started. (Whatever I ask them to do in their writers notebook, I am required to do the same. This is one of our “Writer’s Notebook Rules”).

(IMAGE: Examples of Oops)

This was one of those lessons that gave you gooseflesh to watch. ALL were ENGAGED. It pulled in those “too cool” boys and showed their softer side. The best part: the connection was there for all of them. The lesson from the story was not going unnoticed.

This activity set us up for a very powerful conversation to end with:

What is the meaning of this book? How can we apply it to our own lives?

Hands flew up as they shared with me that they constantly make mistakes and the important part is to learn from them. We talked about how we can not be perfect, but learning to overcome our errors is an essential part of life and middle school.


This lesson turned into our theme for the rest of the quarte (Oops, I did not plan for this at all). We turned this into a huge writing project where the kids talked about their personal “Oops” and why/how they are beautiful. All elements of Expository Writing were included and kids were able to talk about themselves (who doesn’t love to do that?). They put such pride into this assignment. Our Beautiful Oops activity has proven to be a cherished memory for us. The night after I taught this lesson I had many facebook posts from my students “I loved Beautiful Oops” “This was my favorite Writer’s Notebook activity”. I keep this book sitting up on my desk and students are allowed to borrow during Independent Reading time. It is also there to remind them that I am not perfect and I don’t ever expect them to be.


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