Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Once in a while it's okay to deviate from the flow and tone of the unit. I have no problem doing something different in the classroom, as long as my students are able to get something out of it. Today's lesson is very much like that. Today we will be using a picture book to think about what images are created in a reader's mind. This veers off the course of the unit a bit as the story I use is not a personal narrative, but rather a narrative in picture book form. The tone of the story also is different from the where we are in the unit, which is drafting and revising.
I begin the lesson by telling students I will be reading a picture book called Just Another Ordinary Day by Rod Clement. I purposely cover the front of the book so students don't get an ideas of the images in the book. The cover can be seen here though: Just Another Ordinary Day Cover. This lesson can be done really with any picture book that has illustrations that stand out.
I tell students that I will be reading the first few pages of the story, which is about a girl going through her day. As I am reading each page, students are to storyboard what images come to mind. They have already learned about storyboarding in this lesson, so the expectations are nothing new. They can create these storyboards in their notebooks or on blank paper. I give them a few minutes between each page so they can create these pictures.
After six pages, I start reading the story from the beginning and show them the pictures of each page. This book has some crazy visuals as evident in this page: Just Another Ordinary Day Page. The point of this is to challenge their thinking between what is written and what visuals come up. Most students draw basic images of what happens and nothing compared to the actual illustrations in the story. While these illustrations are very outlandish (dinosaurs, aliens, and so on), the point is to get students to think that what is written can easily be translated differently by the reader so they need to be mindful of the descriptions they use when they write.
Picture books are a great tool for any classroom, even a middle-school one. I find that many of my students love to be read to and my classroom is never as quiet as when I'm front of the room reading to them. Maybe my students are reminded of a time when life was simple for them, or maybe they use it as a time to tune out for a few minutes. Either way, picture books can be a great tool. However, they can also be a detriment when creating a classroom environment that is focused on quality writing. It's important for them to change their thinking on picture books. Some of them think they are too babyish, and while some of them are, finding quality picture books that focus on certain writing traits and qualities is key. When using picture books, it's important to remember the purpose of them. They really should not be the focus of the lesson but should serve as reinforcement of a concept or as a hook into the lesson.
We move from picture book to our own writing for the rest of the lesson. Using picture books can be a great way to get students hooked into a lesson, but I really want them to think about their own writing. In this case, the goal for the lesson is to think about the images that are created in the reader's mind and whether or not those images are clear enough.
For the rest of the lesson students will be working with their own personal narratives and the drafts they have been working on. I tell students that I will partner them up with a peer. These partners are made based on location and that students have a completed draft. It's okay if the draft is very rough, as long as it's a completed draft. They will spend of the rest of the class sharing their drafts with their partner. As they share their drafts, their partner is to storyboard the images that come to mind. Naturally there are going to be many different images but I have them to think about the most prevalent ones that they can use to create a storyboard. They are to follow a process similar to earlier in the lesson.
Here is an example of a student's storyboard of their peer's personal narrative: Peer Storyboard Example.This video explains a conference I would have based on the storyboard: Reader Images Conference.
This lesson can be a lot of fun, but also very meaningful for students as long as their partner takes it seriously. They are not to create wild images but really think what details in the writing create images in their mind. The goal is for each writer to think about what details are not necessary and which details are important enough to expand on.
I end the class by asking students to think about the following questions:
Since these questions are not yes or no, students are forced to think about ways to work on their writing and the effectiveness of the lesson.