Before students write a story, ask them to draw an illustrated map. Visualizing, creating, drawing, painting, coloring, and discussing a map stimulates the imagination in ways that words sometimes cannot.
It worked for Robert Louis Stevenson (1854-1894), who spent a rainy day with his son drawing this map, which inspired his masterpiece Treasure Island:
This marvelous text in Treasure Island came to Stevenson after he drew the map:
“The paper had been sealed in several places with a thimble…The doctor opened the seals with great care, and there fell out the map of an island…shaped…like a fat dragon standing up…three crosses of red ink…”Bulk of treasure here” (Stevenson, p.47).
Stevenson, R.L., (1911). Treasure Island. Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Original work published 1883).
Source for map:
Source for text: OpenLibrary.org: https://archive.org/stream/treasureisland00stev#page/46/mode/2up
Want to know the best way to involve parents? Send home good news about their child before the first week is out.
And there’s no better way than to have students write it themselves. With writing now taught across the curriculum, every teacher can do it. Even if you only have fifteen minutes, it’s time well spent:
- 3 min. Create a writing rubric. What do your students think matters in a quality letter home? Find out what they know and evaluate what they need to know. Keep it simple–it doesn’t need to be a forever rubric.
- 2 min. Speed-brainstorm 2 lists of topics. What new learning did students accomplish? Looking forward, what goals do they want to work on? Keep new learning and goals specific.
- 10 min. Students write. Make copies to keep on file OR ask parents to sign and return them.
Afterward, send an email home to let parents know that good news is on its way!
The benefits? Your first message home is student-generated, positive and specific. Parents become involved in the conversation about their child. Also, this lesson is naturally differentiated. Students practice using rubrics, noting what they do well, and setting goals. You wind up with the best kind of writing assessment piece–one that is organic and personal.
For students’ inspiration or reward, listen to Sam Cooke’s fabulous song Ain’t That Good News on American Bandstand in 1964. The song is about two and a half minutes; in the interview afterwards, he tells Dick Clark that he uses “observation…to observe what’s going on…to write something that people will understand.”
It worked for his songs and it’ll work for your students.