A Picture Says a Thousand Words
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
Students will learn the genre of autobiographical writing by creating a well-developed plot.
- Understand first-person narrative
- Develop a story plot
- Include place and setting
- Introduce and develop characters
- Incorporate rising action and a climax
- Develop an appropriate conclusion
Materials for the Teacher:
- Narrative Writing by Tara McCarthy
- Sample photographs
- Sample narrative essay, on a transparency, to use as a model for students (Students are fascinated by glimpses into their teacher's life. Try a sample of your own autobiographical writing as an example.)
- Computer access for word processing
- Overhead projector, transparency paper
- Handouts (enough for all students):
Photograph Brainstorming (PDF)
This is a list of questions to guide students to the story within the photograph.
Plot Chart (PDF) A plot chart is a guide to help students organize the plot structure within their writing.
Peer Evaluation (PDF) This is a guide to help students evaluate each other's writing.
Materials for Students:
- a Significant or inspiring personal photograph
- Computer, Internet, or library access
Set Up and Prepare
Make enough copies of all handouts before introducing the lesson. Have a copy of the sample writing example on the overhead.
Directions: Students should all have a personal photograph to use for their writing assignment. Encourage students to choose a photograph in which they are visible.
Step 1: Introduce the writing assignment by having students examine their photo and fill out the Photograph Brainstorming worksheet.
Step 2: Many times, beginning the essay is the most difficult part about writing. To help my students get into the flow, I have them discuss, with a partner, the story that's taking place within the picture. Allow enough time for both students to discuss their photographs.
Step 3: While in conversation mode, the listener is taking notes for the speaker. This provides students with an alternative form of brainstorming.
Step 4: Using the notes from their partner and the Photograph Brainstorming worksheet, students will now begin their first draft/pre-write.
Step 5: Students exchange their writing through the peer evaluation/editing process. Use the Peer Evaluation worksheet.
Step 6: Students type their second draft using their peer's evaluation of their writing.
Step 7: Students meet with the teacher in a writing conference. During this conference, students will read their writing aloud to the teacher so that reading fluency and the readability of the students' writing can be monitored/assessed.
Step 8: Students will now evaluate their initial student-teacher writing conference and complete the Conference Form for Students.
Step 9: Students will begin their third draft using the information they received from the student-teacher conference.
Step 10: Students may schedule a second student-teacher conference if time permits. Final draft writing begins immediately. When students are finished, they will submit a clean, typed copy, along with all other drafts and worksheets that were produced through the writing process. Be sure to have them submit their essay with the inspiring photograph!
Students can share their writing by selecting from a variety of multi-modal options. Including:
- Posting the document on the Class Homepage.
- Create a poster that highlights the theme of the story.
- Create a visual story through a Power Point presentation or Web site.
- Bind the story into a book.
- Conduct an oral reading of the story for the entire class.
By extending the lesson, I integrate language arts and reading standards with the multiple intelligences. Any standards-aligned rubric or project rubric can work for the assessment of this lesson.
- Did students respond to the way I introduced the writing prompt?
- Did modeling a sample of my own writing give students' a useful example?
- Did I provide them with the ability to get started right away?
- Did students develop an overall understanding of a plot structure?
- Was their understanding evident in their first draft, second draft, third draft, and/or final draft?
- Did students remain on task during their peer evaluations?
- Did students respond positively to having the opportunity to conference with me before submitting their final essay?
- Did students enjoy or take advantage of the various options available to them in the extended lesson activity?
- Should I change anything in the way I model or teach this lesson?
Using a content standards-aligned rubric, assess students based on their ability to create a polished essay with a well-developed plot structure. I also assess students' effort and class participation throughout the unit.