Communicating in pictures is the first form of writing-on-paper primary teachers address. The power of more picture details is that students then have more details to label. The more they label, the more they can write and develop. This produces young writers who can do more than draw a picture and write a single sentence. They can draw a picture and write numerous sentences!
But don’t just tell students to draw with details, teach them how. There are several explicit lessons you could address within these first weeks of school. Take your time as you introduce these new concepts in lessons. Each idea might require more than a one-day mini-lesson.
1. Mini-lesson concept: color details. Explain the power of color details versus black-and-white (or just pencil) details. Show children how using color adds more information to their “writing.”
2. Mini-lesson concept: true-to-life color details. Encourage true-to-life color details and explain how they help the reader better interpret what the “writer” is drawing. Readers might not recognize an apple if the circular object is colored blue.
3. Mini-lesson concept: shape details. Teach students to draw objects by breaking them down into shape details (e.g., a truck is made up of four circles and one rectangle). Demonstrate how to draw animals, people, and other big objects by using simple shapes.
4. Mini-lesson concept: facial details. Using favorite picture books, demonstrate how facial details help the reader understand how a character is feeling. Show students examples of smiling faces, frowning faces, angry faces, and other emotion-showing faces. Help them identify how the illustrator changed details in the facial features to denote different emotions.
5. Mini-lesson concept: tiny, close-up details. Encourage tiny close-up details using a magnifying glass to see detailed illustration features (e.g., eyelashes, fingernails, etc.). Show details in picture book illustrations to help children see how close-up details add to the text.
6. Mini-lesson concept: texture details. Don’t simply highlight close-up details, but focus in specifically on texture details as well. Draw the soft hair of a cat or the bumps of the pretzel salt. These types of details will result in better descriptive writing later.
7. Mini-lesson concept: setting details. Using magazine pictures first, notice all the setting details included in illustrations (e.g., objects in the background, weather-related details, time of day details, etc.). Teach students to put their characters in a setting to give the reader more information.
8. Mini-lesson concept: adding words to drawings. Encourage students to be more specific by adding words and signage details to their drawings. Signs on trucks, stores, restaurants, and clothing are a great opportunity to target specific nouns and even proper nouns. Students could even include words in speech bubbles to represent dialogue. NOTE: First-grade teachers could present this idea early in the year. Kindergarten teachers may need to wait until students have learned more phonics skills.
If you try any or all of these mini-lesson ideas, consider submitting examples of your students’ work. We would love to include good student samples on our website or with on-site teacher training. For more information, contact Kristina Smekens.