Target Grade Level / Age Range:


Estimated Time:

45 minutes

Virtual Learning:

Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system.


Students will learn about how books are written and produced, from the author’s idea to the library.


  • White board, poster paper, or other classroom note-taking materials
  • Research materials
    • Reference books, computer with internet, etc.

Essential Files:


  • Research: to search out information about a topic
  • Summary: a brief statement or account of the main points of a story
  • Publish: prepare and issue a book for public sale
  • Edit: correct, condense, or otherwise modify writing
  • Revise: to make alterations to written material
  • Distribute: packaging and shipping materials from the location they were made to stores across the country or world
  • Supply: a stock of a resource from which a person or place can be provided with the necessary amount of that resource.
  • Demand: the desire of purchasers, consumers, clients, employers, etc., for a particular commodity, service, or other item.
  • Financial risk: the possibility of losing money on an investment or business venture

Background – Agricultural Connections:

This lesson is the second in the Bushel of Stories unit. This unit was written to teach students about books, how authors write books, and how to in turn write their own. Students participating in this lesson unit may also be eligible to compete in the Bushel of Stories writing competition. Please visit: for more information about the competition.

This lesson, Publication Production, teaches how books are written and produced. In this lesson, you will use a video interview with Katie Olthoff, the My Family’s Farm series author, to learn about and discuss the author’s writing process, and how the book can then be printed and distributed. Students will then participate in part of the process themselves, by planning and writing their own story.

The key steps described in this lesson will be as follows:

  1. Brainstorm book ideas
  2. Create outline of book, including pages/page numbers
  3. Identify book characteristics
  4. Research as necessary
  5. Write story
  6. Receive edits
  7. Revise story (multiple times)
  8. Work with publisher to design, edit, print, and distribute books

The lesson will start with students working with the teacher to think of a few agricultural or food related topics that they could write about. The class will walk through the entire process together first, and then will be responsible for following similar steps to write their own story in Lesson 3. When brainstorming book ideas, remember that it will be easiest for students to write about topics they already know about or are interested in learning about. Brainstorming is the first of our eight steps. This step should have been completed in their graphic organizer during lesson one.

In the second step, create an outline, students will learn a few key things. First, they will learn to identify the setting, characters, and summary. This will help them practice these vocabulary words and will help flesh out more of the ideas behind their original book idea.

In the author interview video with Katie Olthoff, she mentions that books need to generally have page numbers that are divisible by four. For the writing contest, entries will need to be at least 12 pages long, but they could choose to write a story with 16 or 20 pages (or more). In the students’ outlines, they will need to specify general ideas for page numbers. This can help them decide where to introduce the key plot elements of introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

The plot elements can be thought of as a pyramid. The story starts by telling the reader about the characters and setting – this is the introduction. Then, the main conflict or problem begins to be introduced – this is the rising action. The climax of the story is the main action or event in the story where the major conflict or problem is addressed head-on. The falling action of the story then begins wrapping up loose ends, and the resolution concludes the story.

It’s perhaps easiest to think of the plot elements in terms of a fiction story, but the assignment can certainly be broader than that. Students could write an ABC book, pattern book, fiction story, or non-fiction story about agriculture or food.

When students identify book characteristics, they will be identifying each of the characteristics discussed in the first lesson of this set. Those characteristics are: author, illustrator, fiction or nonfiction, perspective, author’s purpose, and main idea. More information on these characteristics can be found in A Bushel of Stories, Lesson 1. This section will help students reinforce the learning in Lesson 1, and help them understand that writers need to organize their ideas before writing in order to write effectively.

When the book outline is created, an author may need to research specific topics so they can write about it accurately. When students are writing about agriculture and food, they may need to research about how crops are grown, what livestock farms are like, how food gets from farms to stores, or other similar questions. Since each student will be in charge of writing their own story, the things they need to research may vary widely. If you, as a teacher, notice patterns of agricultural topics that students are unfamiliar with, this could be an opportunity to research as a class by watching a recorded FarmChat® or reading an agricultural book. Remember from Lesson 1 that there are several classic pitfalls of agricultural books that students should try to avoid. Things like a stereotypical white male farmer in overalls, a tractor with no cab, or a farm with several different kinds of animals living together are all indicative of a story that isn’t based in modern agricultural reality and is instead a romanticized idea of antiquated farming.

Next, authors will write their story. As students write their story, they will need to remember to include page breaks. A Bushel of Stories writing competition does not require the students to illustrate their stories. Authors will need to follow their outlines and their researched information to write the best story they can.

When stories are written, other people will edit them, or give feedback on how to make them better. Explain that as a teacher, you help edit your students’ writing a lot. You help them correct misspellings, add punctuation, and fix their sentence structure. Grown-ups and even professional authors need help with things like that sometimes. In the Author Chat video, Katie Olthoff said that sometimes getting edits and suggestions can be hard, but ultimately, it’s a good thing because they can help make the book the best it can be. It will help the author revise the work and improve it.

Lastly, authors in the real world will work to get their book published. Authors could either self-publish or work with a publisher. A publisher will have in-house staff to help with editing, design work, distribution, marketing, sales, and the like. They will put forth all of the printing costs and will arrange to pay the author accordingly. However, publishers won’t accept every book. They will likely want to stick to books that have broad appeal that can be marketed and sold to many people. When authors self-publish books, they will need to pay for the printing and distribution of their book. This might be a reasonable choice for an author with a very specific book that wouldn’t need to be sold in stores across the country (think about family cookbooks, a book of stories about grandma, a scientists’ dissertation, etc.). Different publishing options are better for different authors and different books!

This lesson plan has an economics connection, as well, when discussing the sale of books at a market. When a book sells, the money earned will pay sales staff at the store, the trucker that brought the book to the store, the printer that printed the book, the designer that made the cover art, the editor, the author, the marketers, and every other person in the supply chain.

In this three-lesson unit, students will use the same writing graphic organizer document. Students will complete one section during lesson one, two sections during section two, and the remaining sections and the final writing portion during lesson three. For an example of how the graphic organizer should look completed, please reference the Writing graphic organizer 3-5 – completed sample.docx document.

Interest Approach – Engagement:

Start class by reviewing vocabulary words. Words could be reviewed as a vocabulary or spelling lesson, or by a short discussion with the class reviewing what each word means. Write vocabulary words and let students help you define each one. Give them guidance to spell out each definition as necessary.


  1. Explain to students that in this lesson, they will be learning more about parts of stories and how books are made.
  2. As the teacher, tell students that they will learn about the writing process by pretending that you (the teacher) are writing a book. Tell the students that they will help you make the decisions about your book along the way.
    1. As you introduce new events in the process, take note of them on the whiteboard.
  3. First, you (teacher), need to brainstorm some book ideas. What kinds of things do you like or know a lot about? Try to make all ideas related to agriculture or food. Write “brainstorm book ideas” on the board.
    1. Say a few book ideas out loud and have students say their favorites. Choose a class favorite to continue with.
  4. Second, the author needs to create an outline for the plot of the book. Write “outline the plot” on the board.
    1. Watch the video “Author Chat!” from 4:35 to ~6:05. Author Katie Olthoff of the My Family’s Farm book series will explain how she creates her book outlines.
    2. This piece may take some extra time, as it pulls together the whole storyline. Tell students that it may be easier to outline the book if they first have an idea about the book’s setting, characters, and summary. Take ideas from students and quickly jot down ideas for these three pieces before moving on to the plot.
    3. All stories have a plot. This is what you are outlining. Plots have five parts: the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Tell students to picture this like a pyramid, where the book gets more and more exciting until the issue reaches a peak, and then the book slows back down to a state of resolution.
      1. Use a story the class has recently read to demonstrate these pieces. For example, in Finding Nemo, the introduction is meeting Nemo and Marlin, the rising action is Nemo going to school, the climax is when Nemo is taken, the falling action is Marlin travelling to save Nemo, and the resolution is when they are both finally safe at home.
      2. Write out these parts of the plot as a subheading under “outline the plot”. Write 1-2 sentences about your made-up story under each subheading.
  5. Third, the author will identify some key characteristics of their story. Write “identify characteristics” on the board.
    1. The five characteristics of author/illustrator, fiction/nonfiction, perspective, author’s purpose, and main idea should be fresh in students’ minds as they were covered more in-depth in Lesson 1 of this unit. Explain again that identifying these characteristics helps people understand the story better.
    2. Ask students to identify these characteristics out loud. Repeat correct answers back to the class. Taking note of these on the board is not necessary.
  6. Next, the author will need to research the story. Write “research” on the board.
    1. Does the teacher know everything in the world about the topic they chose? Maybe! But likely there’s still more to learn! What kinds of things might the author need to research to write this book well?
    2. Watch the Author Chat video from ~6:00 - ~8:10 as Katie Olthoff explains how she sometimes researches information in her books.
    3. Explain to students that all books – even fiction books – need to have elements of accuracy, or the reader will be pulled away from the story and it won’t make sense. Imagine if you read a book about a student like you that was eating breakfast, but the author said bananas were blue! That wouldn’t make much sense, and it would distract you from the story.
      1. As a class, review some of the common agriculture book pitfalls in accuracy. Point out that many of the farms we see depicted look more like a farm looked 70 years ago than they do today. Many things have changed over time, including technology and specialization of production.
  7. Finally, the author will write the story. Write “write” on the board.
    1. The author will use the characteristics, outline, and research they have compiled to write a brilliantly thought out book!
    2. Watch the Author Chat video from 8:10 - ~9:50 as Katie Olthoff explains her writing process.
  8. But wait, they’re not done yet! Next, the author will work with an editor to make the story better. Write “edit” on the board.
    1. An editor is a person who reads writing and makes suggestions on how to make it better. Based on what the editor says, the author might need to revise (write “revise” on the board) multiple times to make the story the best it can be.
    2. Watch the Author Chat video from 9:50 - ~12:24 as Katie Olthoff talks about the editing and revision process.
    3. After watching the video segment, discuss with students what some language or grammatical errors an editor might correct could be. Reference recent ELA lessons on punctuation, capitalization, spelling, run-on sentences, etc. where they may have edited incorrect language.
  9. Once a story has been edited and revised, the book is ready to be published. Write “publish” on the board.
    1. Some authors self-publish, meaning they pay to have the book printed on their own. Other authors work with publishers, and the publishers pay to have the book printed. The publishers will also likely have editors, designers, sales, and distribution people on their team to help make the book look great and sell to lots of people.
      1. Publishing companies are specialized, meaning they know all of the ins and outs of producing books and have become skilled at it. Because they are skilled at it, they can pay for the costs associated up-front so the author doesn’t have to. That also means they take on all of the financial risk upfront. However, they don’t necessarily want to print every author’s book.
    2. Publishing includes the actual printing and making of the book.
      1. Books are made from several things, but primarily paper. Paper can be made from trees or recycled paper. Trees raised for lumber and paper products is a part of agriculture! To learn how paper is made, watch this video:
      2. Printing and binding books is interesting work! Watch this video to learn how books are made:
      3. Once books are printed, they are distributed. They are shipped to stores across the state, country, or world!
    3. When people buy the book, their money will pay for the shipping to the store, the printing of the book, the designers that made the cover, the editors, publisher, and author that all spent time on the project. The book is a good that is sold in exchange for money at a market. This is the foundation of an economy.
  10. Finally, the imaginary book is printed and in stores. Ask the class if that was more steps or fewer steps than they thought it would take to make a book from start to finish.
    1. As a class, walk through what each of the eight steps of book production are, briefly summarizing each. Clarify questions that students have as needed.
    2. Repeat the 8 steps together as a class, pointing at the words written on the board as the class says them aloud.
  11. Now, imagine there’s only one of the teacher’s books ever printed, and everyone wants it. Would people pay a lot or a little for this very rare book? (a lot)
    1. Now, imagine that there are way too many copies of this book. People are swimming in copies. Would people pay a lot or a little for this book, since it’s everywhere? (a little)
    2. This is how markets work. When there is a lot of something and not a lot of demand, the price stays low. If something happens and there is suddenly much higher demand for the product or not as much of the product is around, the price can get very high.
  12. Discuss what parts of the book production process surprised students and why.
  13. Instruct students to take out their graphic organizer document that they started in Lesson 1. Wrap up the lesson by allowing them to work on the next two sections of the worksheet (setting/characters/plot section and plot section). Review that vocabulary with the class as necessary.

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • The average farm size in Iowa is 355 acres (an acre is about the size of a football field)
  • 95% of Iowa farms are family-owned

Extension Activities:

  • Have students write 1-2 paragraphs about different circumstances they might potentially self-publish a book or work through a publishing agency to publish a book.

Suggested Companion Resources:

  • My Family’s Farm book series



Chrissy Rhodes

Organization Affiliation:

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

  • T4.6-8.d: Discuss how technology has changed over time to help farmers/ranchers provide more food to more people.

Iowa Core Standards:

  • English Language Arts
    • 6th grade:
      • SL.6.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • 7th grade:
      • SL.7.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • 8th grade:
      • SL.8.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • Social Studies:
    • 6th grade:
      • SS.6.24: Explain how personal financial decisions are influenced by an individual’s interpretation of needs and wants.
    • 7th grade:
      • SS.7.18: Explain and evaluate how economic decisions affect the wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and society.
      • SS.8.19: Explain how external benefits, costs, supply and demand, and competition influence market prices, wages, and outcomes.