A few years ago, a friend offered me a stack of National Geographic magazines. Since I had no place to store them, I went through them and pulled out the most unusual photos, or photos of people doing unusual or puzzling things(someone making a sculpture from corn, a man throwing a pizza up in the air and his head poking through it, a lady with strings that look like spaghetti in her hair, etc.). I cut them out, mounted them on construction paper, laminated them, and put them away until I could think of something to do with them. When I started teaching in the writer's workshop model, I came up with the following lesson:
Goofy Quick Writes
Standards: Types of Writing, Quality of Writing
Skills: Descriptive writing, sensory details, using adjectives and adverbs, creating images, moments that lead to stories
1. Introduce or review the specific skill you select from above with a 10 minute mini-lesson. For example, if you are going to focus on adjectives, review what an adjective is, how it helps us write descriptively using the five senses, etc.
2. Pass the pictures out randomly to students and tell them to keep them face down. Explain that when you give the cue, they are going to turn their photo over and write for 15 to 20 minutes everything that they see in the photo as if they were explaining it to someone who can't see it (as in a letter). Once they have exhausted all their descriptions, they can continue by writing what they think happened before this moment and/or what will happen afterward.
3. Before the period ends, stand the photos up against a wall, a windowsill, or on a chalkboard and have one or two students read their selections. See how many people can guess which picture he/she was writing about.
Follow-up: This moment can lead to a story by developing it further and putting it through the steps of the writing process.
Additional mini-lessons that can build on this one:
- Have students go back and circle all the adjectives in their story and find a word in the Thesaurus to repalce it (with a developmentally appropriate number of syllables).
- Have students go back and circle nouns that do not have adjectives to describe them and add.
- Teach about the plot mountain and have students add a conflict and resolution and/or climax to their story.
- Use the same photo for a lesson on characterization, setting, theme, or other story elements.
- Challenge students to write a metaphor, idiom, hyperbole, alliteration. or other literary device to go with their picture.