Little Birdie in the Snow: A Unit 5 Writing Opportunity

Jan 11, 2022 | Posted by Jennifer

While some educators are beginning to move into Unit 6 with their students, there are still several who choose to spread out Unit 5 over both December and January. For those who are still working in the unit and are familiar with its structure as described in Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, we are happy to offer you a winter-themed writing opportunity presented below that you can share with your students.

Sometimes it’s the images that reveal the least amount of details that offer up the broadest potential for creativity. Consider, for example, the image below:

Bare branches, white snow, and a tiny, exquisitely colored bird fill the image. That’s pretty much it.

Because of the absence of details, however, we have a larger scope for imagination. By asking ourselves questions and by using the Unit 5 model, we are able to craft a cohesive event or series of events that explain why this diminutive creature is finding itself sitting where it is.

While there is only one image provided, that need not constrain us. You can write a composition of one, two, or three paragraphs. Depending upon which questions you ask about an image, you will arrive at different descriptions of the events. To craft a three-paragraph paper, think about what happened before the bird found itself sitting on the branch to help you decide on the central fact of the first paragraph. For the third paragraph, consider what happened after the image. Answering those questions, you will find that you have the start for a three-paragraph composition.

Of course, there are plenty more questions available to ask other than what happened when. Here are a few ideas:

  • Where is the bird?

  • How did it get there?

  • Why did it fly to such a wintery climate? Or did the snow come to it?

  • How far did it travel to get there?

  • Where is the bird’s home?

  • What kind of bird is it?

  • How long has it been flying?

  • How much farther does it have to go?

  • What is happening just outside of the frame of the image? Is there a house close by? A berry on another branch? Shelter in a barn?

  • Are there any details we can’t see happening within the frame?

  • Did a surprise storm happen in a normally tropical area?

These are just a few ideas to spark your imagination. They are listed in random order. Can you come up with more?

We love to read student work! Please share your students’ compositions with us. You can email them to, and you can also submit them for publication consideration to


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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