In my writing class on Friday we continued to work on paragraphs organized according to space order. Prior to Friday, students worked on prepositions of location and topic sentences for paragraphs that describe a place. To practice space order, we used a non-linear PowerPoint presentation that I made using some pictures of my apartment. (If you’d like to see an earlier post on how to make this type of presentation, go to Non-linear PowerPoint Presentation.) I’ve been tweaking this actvity for a while. The trickiest part was to find a way for the students to see enough of the apartment, and at the same time maintain a sense of where in the space the items were located. In the end, I laid out small photos on a drawing of the space. The small photos then link to larger ones so that the class can see more detail. We start with just the map and then look at the map with the little photos on it. I then click the little photos one by one so the students can see things in more detail. Each time I return to the map before students view the next picture. Later when the class is writing, I leave the map with the pictures on the screen. Each picture and place is numbered, so if they have any questions or would like to see something again, they can easily refer to the number.
To begin, we reviewed a couple of things that are useful when writing a paragraph using space order: First, the paragraph needs a topic sentence with a main idea. Then, the writers need to decide on a starting point for the paragraph and describe things in relationship to that point, using prepositions of location. I also reminded students to not only write about the location of things in the space but to include some interesting detail. I was really pleased when they mentioned that this detail could include examples, feelings, or explanation. Next, the students sat in pairs and we viewed the photos. With each photo, I added some detail. For example, I mentioned that when people come over after dark, we turn on the little lamp in the hallway by the front door because it makes the entrance feel cozy and welcoming. I also told them that some mornings while I eat breakfast, I look at the picture of the colorful four vases and think of my three colorful sisters.
After viewing the photos, students worked with their partners to write their paragraphs. I felt that they were very successful at collaborating and when one pair had difficulty coming up with a topic sentence, the other pairs shared their ideas with them. This practice also gave me a chance to move around the room and talk to all of the pairs about their work and remind them of a little grammar including how the first time you write about an indefinite singular count noun you use “a” and after that you use “the.” We also noticed that it is a good idea to use a variety of grammatical patterns instead of using the same pattern again and again. They tended to depend on ”you can see” and ”you can find.” We talked about some alternatives including “there is” or occasionally starting a sentence with the item being described. If you’d like to see the photos we used for this practice, click here: An Apartment.