Write on! Using visual writing prompts

write on

With the half term holiday drawing to a close we know that teachers everywhere are reaching for their lesson planning materials and racking their brains for active and creative ways of teaching their classes. This blog post demonstrates the use of visual writing prompts and offers a few tips and ideas about how to get the most out of young writers.

I was recently asked to model some writing lessons in one of our local schools. Seizing the opportunity, I set to work planning lessons that the teachers would be able to replicate. Lessons in which the children would be actively writing from beginning to end. Here is a brief resume of one of those lessons.

I started with an image. Finding images can be time-consuming which is why we’ve been collating Visual Story Starters over on Pinterest. I asked the children to look at the image and write five things, on their mini-whiteboards, that they could see and they’d like to write about. I took suggestions from the children and recorded them on the flip chart. Once I had plenty of suggestions I chose five and wrote them as a vertical list in the middle of the flip chart.

e.g……………………lanterns………………………….

…………………….sea………………………………..

…………………….path……………………………….

…………………….mist……………………………….

…………………….sky…………………………………

Now, using some of the vocabulary suggested by the children I worked on the first line, making sure that I modelled putting vocabulary both before and after the word ‘lanterns’.

E.g. Golden, glowing lanterns lead the way.

I now repeated the process for each object, freely using partner talk and taking plentiful examples from the children. Sometimes urging them to come up with adjectives, sometimes alliterative phrases, other times similes. Whilst I took plentiful examples from the children I only recorded the really high-quality examples – often combining elements from two or more children. Over the years I’ve learnt to ‘dig deeper’ with the examples offered by children; to unearth the creative responses by gently probing, questioning and prompting them to look deeper and think harder. During this lesson I queried sparkling sea, driving the children towards noticing its stillness, darkness and depth. Steam was replaced by mist and the sun definitely did not shine, but sank. By the time we came to the fifth example they had ‘retuned’ their vision and vocabulary and started to search for language that suited the image they’d been given.

Before setting the children off to write their own descriptions, I modelled moving words, phrases and sentences around to achieve the maximum effect. An activity that also provided me with the opportunity to reinforce the use of punctuation to mark grammatical boundaries.

So, what of the children’s work? Well here are a few examples:

The rocks were peeping out beside a long path. Sad by itself, stood a small hut…

I walked on a brown, glowing path illuminated by golden lanterns. I looked to my side and saw a misty, silver, crystal-clear sea. I looked ahead and saw a pinky, golden sunset fading away into the sea…

A glowing trail of fire-fly lanterns is lighting the way…

The creamy, faint sunset is vanishing slowly.

Rachel Clarke, Director: Primary English Education Consultancy Limited

Originally published on LoveToReadToMyClass.Wordpress.Com 2nd November, 2012

 

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Video from Primary English

Clips from two guided reading sessions in John Shelton Primary School in Coventry. Rachel is using two of the titles from The Mini Tales Pack with a year 5 and year 6 group of children whilst addressing some key reading objectives.

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