Setting the Stage
Drawing and Writing
Photo Collages and Writing
Activity One: Setting the Stage
These introductory activities should help your students get motivated to
Why Is Writing Important?
Brainstorm as a whole group on the blackboard. If students need help coming
up with contributions to the brainstorm, ask them to consider when and where
people write in real life. You can even play devils advocate
a little bit. Ask students how they would respond to someone who said that
they didnt need to know how to write to succeed in life.
Try to get as much up on the board as you can, without stopping to discuss
each contribution. Remember, its brainstorming. After you have completed
the list, go back over it and discuss any items of interest.
Whats Hard About Writing?
Repeat this process with Question Two.
Brainstorm and then discuss.
(There is an assumption here that getting started or figuring
out what to write about will come up during this brainstorming. If
it does, thats a good lead in for the lessons that follow)
Activity Two: Drawing and Writing
A Few Notes
--Although these lessons plan are written for Basic Education
students, they can also work well for ESOL students. ESOL students
can do the writing as explained here, or they can just talk
about their pictures to practice using English.
--For very beginning students, this is the end product. Drawing
the picture, labeling it, and writing notes around it is plenty
of literacy for a beginning writer.
--As always, when you ask students to write about their personal
experiences, make sure there is lots of flexibility. Asking
students to write about my family sounds simple
enough, but we never know what is going on with someones
family. Its good to give options. Also, I often say to
students, I am not interested in your personal business.
I just want you to become a better writer and you will become
a better writer if you are writing about something that matters
students that you know they are not in an art class. Make sure they know
that you are going to use drawing as a way to help with writing. It doesnt
matter if they cant draw very well. If you happen to be a bad artist
yourself, let them know that.
off with a topic you have chosen. There are many topics that can work for
this exercise: my favorite place, a time when I was happy, something I will
never forget, the best thing that ever happened to me, a place where I have
lived, and something I like to do are a few examples. Be sensitive to topics
that could be unpleasant for some students. Draw a picture of your
home sounds simple enough, but you never know what their situation
is. I try to pick topics that have some flexibility. Thats why I think
A place where I have lived is a better topic. It allows writers
to avoid writing about something they just dont want to get into.
the class a drawing you have done based on the topic. Explain it briefly.
each person in the class do a drawing based on the topic. Tell them they
will have ten minutes to make their drawings. (Students who finish early
can start labeling or writing explanations of their drawings)
students up into pairs or small groups and have them explain their drawings
to each other.
Ask for volunteers to explain their drawing to the whole group.
your drawing to demonstrate how to label and annotate a drawing. This
is my mom coming home from work, This is a stuffed dog my sister
had. Her name was Trixie (the dog, not my sister).
students add words, labels, and notes to their drawings.
this point, more advanced writers will be ready to move on. Have students
write a longer piece based on all or part of their drawing. If your students
are more beginning, you may be better off thinking of the drawings as the
Display the drawings and any pieces of writing the students did on the walls
of your classroom.
Activity Three: Photo Collages and Writing
students a collage you have made from pictures out of magazines or newspapers.
Your collage can have a theme or a topic, or it can be more eclectic. Its
great if your collage tells a story. For example, This collage is
about a family. There is a mother a grandmother and three children in this
family. The mother works at a hospital. The children all go to school
Tell the class about your process: How and why did you pick these pictures?
Why did you arrange them the way you did?
students work in groups so they can share magazines and newspapers. Students
can be asked to bring in old magazines from home. Give students twenty minutes
to half an hour to create collages.
students into pairs or groups and have them explain their collages to each
the collages around the room.
students time to look at all the collages.
students to write something about the collage they made or someone elses
collage. Ideas for writing can be:
Make up a story about the pictures in the collage
Explain how the pictures are related
Write about places or people in the pictures
students share, respond to, revise and edit their writing.
Activity Four: Diagrams
Show the class one or two diagrams you have made.
Ideas for diagrams on the blackboard. These might include:
My life now
A club or group I belong to
My life at some other point in time
An event such as a wedding or a party
A neighborhood (almost a map)
Our school or program
My church or other place of worship
Explain the diagram to the class
Here is my diagram of my life
ten years ago. This is me in the middle. This is my family that I lived
with over here. Here is the rest of my family. This is my job. This is the
New York Mets over here because I was very into baseball ten years ago
students to pick two of the ideas for diagrams that are on the blackboard.
Ask them to break up into pairs and talk for a couple minutes each about
why they chose those two ideas.
students to pick the idea they are most interested in and make a diagram
Have students explain their diagrams to each other.
students to write some more on their diagram after them have talked about
an essay or story about the diagram. The writing can be about part of the
diagram, or the whole thing.
students read, respond to, revise, and edit their pieces of writing.
Activity Five: Culminating Activity
Revising, editing and publishing: Obviously, this moves you beyond Getting
Started, but thats the whole point of a beginning exercise.
This can be simple or complicated. Its up to you, your students, your
resources, and the interest level generated by the writing you have done
should have at least three pieces of writing started at this point. Make
a cover sheet for the three pieces of writing. It can help to provide a
starter or cue for students such as this:
My Favorite Piece of Writing Is
I Like This Piece Because
Ask students to read their writing to each other in groups. Try to avoid
students tearing each others writings to bits. A good way to avoid
this is to put the writer in charge. Writers can read their pieces, talk
about what they think of them, and ask the group questions.
can display or publish the writing in many ways. You can put it up on the
walls. You can photocopy the writing as is and bind it in a journal. Students
can word process writing and you can make it a fancier journal. If your
class, school, or program has a Web site you can post the writing on it.
Here are a few examples of student writing on the Web.
These techniques can be used in just about any educational setting. Once
students get a sense of the getting started techniques that
work best for them, they can use them in any writing activity or for any