Every year the struggle is the same.  Eager second grade writers pour their hearts out into their “small moment” personal narratives but without much to show for in terms of word choice or elaboration.  In the spirit of sharing, one activity that I found really does help students make connections to the “picture in their mind” and the “words on the page” is by doing just that – showing them a picture.  The whole activity works something like this:

  1. Print some cool photos that are worth talking about (I use Nat Geo’s photo of the day)
  2. Place enough photos around the room so that students can work in pairs (ie. 10 photos for 20 students).
  3. Assign partnerships and different coloured markers/pencils/what have you.  We use whiteboard markers because we have whiteboard tables but this could be easily replaced with photos glued onto chart paper.
  4. Ask partnerships to write a sentence that comes to mind about the picture.
  5. After a few minutes rotate and ask the next partnership to either “add on” to the existing sentence or create a new. No erasing allowed though.
  6. Repeat as many times as necessary/appropriate and then ask the students to return to their original (starting) picture to see what has been written.

Works like a charm every time and really helps students to visualize how the words they choose to use help to create that snapshot in their reader’s minds.