Elementary teachers across the United States have been engaged in writing projects using photographer Wendy Ewald’s 2003 book, The Best Part of Me: Children Talk About their Bodies in Pictures and Words. The book highlights and celebrates various aspects of body differences. The writing project can build community and self-esteem by encouraging the kind of reflection that comes with the integration of visual images, the writing process, and the written word. The following guest blog post by GEMS Third Grade Teacher, Stacey Sullivan, explains how her class engaged in the project.
We began our year with a writing project that was inspired by Wendy Ewald’s book: The Best Part of Me, in which students write about the best part of their bodies and help to compose a photograph that highlights their best parts.
Every year I like to begin with a focus on our strengths, passions, and the things we like best about ourselves. I want to get to know my students through their eyes, I want to see them the way they see themselves. This was a great project for doing that. It was also a good way to ease us into the writing process.
Together we took this piece through the brainstorming, writing, editing, revising, and publishing steps. Students found this piece easy because they were able to write on a topic that they know a lot about… themselves! The poem format also gave students the freedom to express themselves without worrying too much about structure. There will be plenty of time to worry about run-ons, fragments, grammar, and syntax. In poetry, it’s all allowed — we just chalk it up to stylistic choice!
Students were in charge of the composition of their portraits. They had imagined exactly how they wanted their body part captured and had the final say in which shot was used. The results are truly magical.
Next, we are focusing on writing personal narratives. Students have already begun the brainstorming process by listing people and places in their lives that are important to them and thinking of small moments they have shared together. We will try to zoom in and make the story come alive for the reader by describing what happened. We will focus on showing instead of telling. We do this by using figurative language, dialogue, and focusing on our senses: what we heard, saw, tasted, felt, and smelled.
Stacey Sullivan teaches third grade at Georgia Elementary Middle School. She blogs at http://sullivangems.blogspot.com/ and is active on Twitter @sullyteaches.