A Picture Is Worth…2 or 4 Points

Do you spend a lot of time teaching your students how to answer short answer and extended response questions for state tests?

Do you do daily journal writing (or do you wish you had enough time to do journal writing?)

Do your students hate it?

I have a fun way to tackle it all.

Using pictures, images, and photos gathered from various places, I create writing prompts that model the wording of constructed response questions.

To get started, you are going to need to gather a lot of pictures.

  • You can use your own if you are an aspiring photographer and have the time. It might be fun to include images from your own town.
  • Look for creative writing websites that provide a daily photo prompt. One of my favorites: 365 Picture Prompts to Inspire Your Creativity.  Go to this website every day this summer and you’ll have almost 90 random pictures to get the year started. Another good site that also offers tips and a starter set of photo prompts is Picture Prompt-In-A-Box
  • Find images online. The possibilities are endless. Sometimes I search for pictures related to what we are studying. Sometimes I just use random pictures I find while browsing.

To organize your prompts, find a system that works for you. Some suggestions:

  • Post your photo prompt online if your school uses Edmodo or another social learning network.
  • Create folders or photo albums on your computer.
  • I use a single SMART Notebook file and simply add a new page each day. I am able to type the prompt below the picture (and then clone the page if I need to modify it for another class).

I start each day with a photo prompt on the SMART Board. At the start of the year, we spend a lot of time discussing the parts of the question, what makes it a 2-point or 4-point question, and how to mark their answers with numbers to show that they have answered it completely.

To mix things up, allow students to respond in different ways throughout the week. Again, find what works for you and your students. You could use spiral notebooks, composition books, dry erase boards, computers, or personal electronic devices. Our school is piloting Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) next year, so I hope to have my students use an app (like Pages or Notes) or Edmodo from time to time.

While students are writing, circulate around the room and help individuals with weak skills. This is a good opportunity for one-on-one intervention. If you are working on a particular skill in grammar, you could reinforce it as well.

Encourage a few students to share their writing each day. Because this method leaves some room for creativity, you may find you have some budding authors. Each week, take a grade on one of the prompts. Sometimes I grade for content. Sometimes I grade grammar and mechanics.

Below are some examples I’ve used in my 8th grade Resource Room.

(The last two show some of the markings we use for Extended Response.)




Do your students write every day?

Where do you get your topics?

How do you practice short answer and extended response?

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