Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Using Pictures to Teach Writing


One-third of my public school fourth grade class is designated EL (English Learner). To redesignate as a different, longer acronym, my students must pass the CELDT (the California English Learner Development Test). The CELDT has reading, writing, listening, and speaking components, all of which must be graded with rubrics developed using psuedo-scientific methodology. Because of state mandates, I must teach a daily 45-minute English Development lesson. Some people follow the English Development teacher's manual that pairs with the Language Arts basal reader. I don't.

Today, I projected Vermeer's "The Milkmaid" on the whiteboard. This is the third Vermeer we've looked at so far. I asked my students to tell me what they saw, and to use complete sentences.

"She is pouring milk," said one student.

"Who is 'she'?" I asked.

The students gave me short sentences, most of which began with expletives. No, not that kind of expletive. I was referring to the phrases "There is..." and "There are..."

There are baskets. There is bread. There is a table. There is... There are...

Idea!

Make two columns. Label the left column THERE IS... and fill it up.

a basket
a woman
sunlight
etc.

the right column WHAT IS IT DOING?

A basket...holding bread.
A woman...pouring milk.
Sunlight...coming in the window.

Then go down the right column, replacing each ing with an s.

A basket holds bread.
A woman pours milk.
Sunlight comes in the window.

Next comes sentence expansion! Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

A basket holds bread. What kind of bread? Delicious bread. Where is the basket? On the table.

A basket on the table holds delicious bread.

 A woman carefully pours fresh milk.

In the morning, sunlight comes in the kitchen window.

Those are much better sentences than "There is bread. There a woman. There is sunlight."

Little victories...

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