Monday, January 26, 2009

Drills for Skillz—Guided Portrait

Here’s one that’s sure to get something going on.

Think of someone for whom you have strong feelings, or whom is part of a strong or vivid memory. For younger writers, it may be apropos to list feelings other than the obvious: admiration/respect, infatuation, disgust, envy, longing, embarrassment, etc. If you want, give some examples of your own strong memories. If your students are unsure how to begin, you may want to model some brainstorming—I tend to have them crank this one out without too much prewriting. I tell them, “Don’t think too hard.” I’m not sure if this is a good or bad strategy.

"Visualize the person. Bring the scene of the memory into focus in your mind’s eye."


Your first line should contain a proper noun.

Your second line should be longer than five words and contain a color.

Your third line should mention a specific place.

Your fourth line should be a question, and should contain a verb.

Your fifth line should be less than three words long.

Your sixth and seventh lines should be an exchange of dialogue.

Your eighth line should contain a concrete noun.

Your ninth line should contain a comparison.

Your tenth line should be a directive.

The writing may only take five minutes or so. Ask them to circle their three favorite lines. Ask them to underline their least favorite line. If you’re working with a small group, you may have the time to share within the group; use pair shares with larger classes. Encourage students to talk about what they like about the lines they circled, and maybe what they don't like about those they have underlined.


Have students type a new draft of the poem. Encourage them to play to the draft's strengths. Encourage them to write more if they feel more would strengthen the poem.

Encourage students to form a title for their poems using words from the body.
For example, “Your title should contain a noun from the poem as well as a color.”

Encourage students to share their results.

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