During our unit on narrative writing, we inquired into what makes a good setting for a story. My students came to understand that in order for a setting to be exciting, the author must incorporate sensory details into the scene so that that reader can imagine what it is like.
As a class, we used photographs to help us describe the scene using our senses. We completed a few sample photos together, filling in this Sensory Details worksheet together (Google Doc).
I then asked students to visit Flickr and find a photograph that they thought would make for an interesting setting. We had a discussion about how the camera zoom really made a difference in their ability to find and imagine details. Although they looked good, landscapes and cityscape panoramas weren’t as useful, because it was hard for us to feel immersed in the photograph.
As students started to find their photos, we collected these on a Pinterest board that I had set up specifically for them. Students enjoyed sharing with each other, and suggesting story plots and characters. Because some photos were copyrighted, they wouldn’t post properly to Pinterest. This became an authentic time to talk about intellectual property and Creative Commons licenses. I showed students how they could limited their Flickr searches to only Creative Commons licensed images.
Finally, students wrote sketches of their settings. Some chose to write one or two simple sentences for each of the sense. Others’ were more complex. Most students were really pleased with the results, and several commented on how surprised they were that “all that was in my head.”