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Writing a Masterpiece

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Keywords: simple sentences, sentence writing, English, Writing
Subject(s): English/Language Arts
Grades 9 through 12
School: Austin High School, Austin, MN
Planned By: Stacy Schultz
Original Author: Stacy Schultz, Austin
Several images of "masterpiece" paintings (Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt).
Graphic organizer for "masterpiece" sentences

1. Using projection, place a painting up for students to see. I use one of the Degas painting of ballerinas.
2. Ask students to explain to you what this painting is about. (Ballerinas, ballet)
3. Ask students, what actions are going on in the painting?
4. Ask students, does the painting only include images of ballerinas or ballet? (no, there are other components such as a piano, a room, ballet shoes) Do the other images make the painting more interesting?
5. Ask students, what feelings does this painting give you?
6. Ask students, what do you think the painter started painting first? Did he paint the ballerinas, the background, etc.
7. Ask students, did he have to think about what he was going to paint before he began?
8. Depending on the ability level of the students, you could show more paintings or stick with just one. If you show more, ask them the same questions.
9. Switch focus to writing a sentence.
10. Ask students, if I am going to write a sentence do I need to know what I'm going to write about - my subject?
11. Ask students, if I am going to write a sentence do I need to know what I am communicating about my subject - a verb?
12. Ask students, if I am going to write a masterpiece sentence do I want to include other details that would make it more interesting for the reader - adjectives, adverbs?
13. Ask students, if I am going to write a masterpiece sentence do I need to think about what I want to communicate so others understand my thoughts?
14. Hopefully, students will begin to see the similarities.
15. Model for students (project or use whitboard) how you would create a masterpiece sentence.
16. If I wanted to write a sentence to communicate my thoughts about this painting, I would need to select my subject, a verb, and some describing words. For example, my subject would be the painting. My verb would be what I think about it. I could start with a sentence like..."This painting is nice. That is a sentence, but it isn't a masterpiece. I would want to add some additional details to make it more interesting to the reader. For example, This peaceful painting of ballerinas makes me smile. Now, I have made my sentence more interesting to the reader.
17. Now model a sentence using a topic the students come up with. Maybe it's baseball. Have students generate a verb associated with baseball, like running. If I want to generate a simple sentence I could write something like, "Baseball has running. that's not very interesting to read, so I would add details. Now my sentence would read something like, "The exciting game of baseball involves quickly running from base to base."
18. Now have students work in pairs or small groups to generate a simple sentence about dogs. Make sure they can identify the subject and verb.
19. Then have students continue in their pairs or small groups to change the simple sentence about dogs into a masterpiece sentence.
20. Have groups share their sentence.
21. Next, have students individually write a simple sentence about the beach.
22. Fianlly, have students individually write a masterpiece sentence about the beach.
Continue to work with single masterpiece sentences until students have consistent mastery. Then you can continue the metaphor of masterpiece paintings telling a story or expressing a message. That's what a paragraph does. Each part of the painting has to be well done to make the end product a masterpiece. Then, begin stringing sentences together into a paragraph.
Materials: Short Throw Projectors, Projector Screens, LCD Monitors, Mice, Writing, Word Processor, Autism, Dyslexia