January 21, 2004
This is an excellent way to develop skills in writing descriptive paragraphs. It also addresses the issue of using power words to start sentences. We proudly display the published work in the hall with the picture prompts. Your students, their parents, and your administrators will be amazed at the final product! Have students fold a sheet of notebook paper into thirds so that they have 3 vertical columns. Label the left column 'adjectives', the middle column 'nouns', and the right, 'verbs'. Provide nature scenes from calendars or magazines to generate ideas. Ask students to list, in the noun column, all of the nouns in the picture. Encourage the students to skip lines as they write as this helps with organization and neatness. Then have the students list one or two adjectives beside each noun. Next they write a verb (present tense is best) to go with each noun. This part can be very challenging. Encourage students to use 'action verbs' and 'stretch' verbs beyond the common. Insist on interesting, more sophisticated verbs. Runs could be sprints, gallops, etc. Walks could become trudges, lumbers, etc. Looks could become gazes, peers, etc. Encourage use of a thesaurus. Students will almost always begin the sentences with 'There is', so it is important to make a 'rule' to prevent that from happening. Teach them to avoid boring words by starting each sentence with the words from their brainstorm sheet (i.e., Huge waves crash, or Fluffy, white snowflakes drift). Then show them how to add 'when, where, or how' to complete their sentences. Encourage figurative language. For example, mountains don't just sit on the landscape, mountains reach for the sky, mountains tower like skyscraper, mountains stand guard. As an alternative prompt, bring in a beach chair, wear flip-flops and pretend to be at the beach to help students 'see' a scene in their mind's eye. Students can bring in their own sunglasses to add to the mood. This is particularly fun as a winter activity when everyone, especially the teacher, needs a little sunshine.