Monday, July 21, 2014

Writing- It's a Visual Thing!

Hello Everyone!!
Happy Monday!! I picked up a random book at Half Price Books the other day,  Visual Tools by Roger Essley, a diagnosed dyslexic.  The title caught my eye because I am such a visual learner. As I read through this book, I have to tell you, I almost cried.  This approach to teaching writing for a differentiated classroom has become my Ahhhh Hahhhhh for the summer.The author suggests that kids need to draw out their stories before they even begin writing anything.  Then they need to talk about their drawings, make adjustments, additions, etc, and then begin writing.  I have always had my kids draw before they write, but not even close to the extent that Mr. Essley suggests.  He calls it Storyboarding.  The process really helps kids organize visually what they want to say in their stories. Stick figures and labeling to help others understand are acceptable.  He tells many stories of kids with learning challenges who became writers because of this method.  (You've probably been doing this all along.  Sometimes I'm a little slower to get there!) 
While reading this, I couldn't help but be reminded of the struggle my oldest son had with writing. In fourth grade he was the only student in the school to get a "1" on his state writing exam. (4 being the best) :(  We were all devastated and mortified- mostly because he is a bright kid, in the gifted and talented class. We came to realize that he is intensely visual, and this was affecting his writing!  He has since graduated from the MIZZOU School of Journalism and is now an award winning broadcast journalist for ABC. He needs to see his stories!! This makes total sense to me now! If he would have been able to begin writing projects with a storyboard, I think he would have had more success in school.  
So now, how do I help my littles gain confidence in writing their stories?---through storyboarding!  I like to think of it as a kind of comic strip.  Kids draw their stories in little boxes with minimal words at first.  They verbalize all their ideas through their storyboard, gain insights from the class, and then create a "dummy" book from the boxes, adding text.  The dummy goes through editing, and then we are ready for publishing. Here are a few pics of a model I tried. 
Brainstorm ideas, and then draw ideas on paper. 
 This is a class sized model.

This is a kid sized version they can do on a plastic sheet in their writing notebooks. Attach cards with stickers helps with easy rearrangement.

Keep sheet in notebook

An envelope can be used to store cards

Make a "dummy" Attach cards to one side, add another card for text.

Add text

Keep adding storyboard cards, text.  Then revise and edit some more.
Finally, publish in whatever way you want.

I am so excited to use this visual tool with my new group of firsties.  I wish I could have my old classes back!  I just know it is going to be beneficial to so many. 
There is no way I can explain everything Roger Essley conveys in his book, but I will try to snap some pics when we get underway in the fall. 
I added this new tool to my Writer's toolbox unit, along with a ton more stuff. Just about everything you need to get ready for great writing!!



Sample of target skills

 Three different storyboard templates

6 different styles of draft book paper

the unit is now about 60 pages!  You can get it free if you CLICK HERE!!!

Einstein said, "If I can't picture it, I can't understand it." That is so true for my son, and for so many of our kids.
And Aristotle said, "It is impossible even to think without a mental picture."  Let's give our kids another tool to visualize, organize, and gain in confidence when dealing with text!  

On a side note: The storyboard tool is not just for writing!!  Use it in all the other curric. areas! 

Thanks for sticking with me through this long post!  If you have any other questions (because I know I didn't explain everything!), please don't hesitate to ask!! We're all in this together!!
Until then, have a great rest of the day!!


  1. Thanks for sharing these great resources!!!

  2. This is exciting!!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love the idea of storyboarding! Thans for sharing!

  4. Thanks for sharing!! What great ideas! I hope you are having a fun summer!

  5. Do you store blank cards in the envelope? This looks super cool! Can't wait to try it! Thanks so much for sharing. You are so generous for always sharing your great products freely! You are greatly appreciated!

  6. Nancy! After reading this delightful post, I just put Roger's book on my Amazon book order! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Your heart is bigger than Texas and I just love you to pieces. You are just a breath of fresh air. I am going to have to read that book and I cannot wait to try this. I can already think of my littles last year that this would have be wonderful for.

    LOVE you dearly Nancy!

    Heather's Heart

  8. You've convinced me to do the drawing and talking first with my 3rd graders. Very interesting post. Thank you for the fantastic unit also!

  9. You are just awesome! I have downloaded so many helpful resources from you. I appreciate that you have made them free. Thanks!!!!

  10. Hi Nancy! I saved this post to reply to you and just found it! I just wanted you to know that I taught Roger Essley's children and have been trained by him in the Story Board method he talks about in his book. In addition, I work with Amy Rocci who is part author of the book. They will be thrilled to find out that you love it! Love your blog and your willingness to always share with others!


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