Visual Literacy


Long ago, on one of my Pinterest binges, I stumbled upon an activity called “Picture Perfect Sentences.” It has been nagging at the back of my mind for a while now as I struggled to find where it would appropriately fit in to the work my students are doing. The concept is simple. Students find a picture (in a magazine, newspaper, online, some other inventive source, etc.) and write three sentences: a statement, a question, and an exclamation. It’s a simple and easy task, but it’s a great way to assess writing skills, teach sentence structure, and promote creativity. But where do I put this in my program so that it makes sense and is consistent?

Each week I progress monitor my students using AIMSWeb. It takes a good chunk of the period away for instruction and while I’m reading with one student, I can’t be teaching and helping the others. In the past, I’ve used guided journal pages. They were nice because students were focused on themselves, which is an easy topic in which to be engaged (especially for fifth and sixth graders!). But I found that I was getting a lot of questions each week about how to complete the pages, which was taking time away from the testing, which made it go longer, which took time away from teaching, which made me anxious and crazy. NO MORE!

Instead of having the students choose a picture, I chose a picture for them. It’s easier this way and gets them RIGHT into writing. I also added a section at the bottom to relate to our overall genre topic each quarter.

Narrative: Dialogue between at least two people

Informational: A graphic representation of something from the picture (they will be given free rein to make some of this information up so that it’s not just a graph of how many red, blue, and yellow things they see)

Persuasive: A slogan

All of their sentences (and other things) must be based on the picture, but they have the freedom to be creative and work from their imaginations. If they finish before I do, they are to turn the paper over and begin writing a story (or informational or persuasive piece) on the back. The great part about the extension is that they have already written part of their piece based on the sentences they wrote on the front!

We are also working on grammar and sentence construction (HOW DO I FIT IT ALL IN??) so the following week, I ask them to review their sentences and correct one before they begin the new “Picture Perfect Sentences” assignment. At the beginning of the year, I’m helping them with that part because they’re not used to doing it on their own, but as the year goes on, they will be doing this independently.

(Here is the collection I created.)

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