Unit 5: A Winter Scene

Dec 14, 2018 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Take a look at the image below:


                                                    Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/nzmPi4d5cvc

A first glance will tell you it’s a winter scene of an unknown person being towed along by a team of sled dogs. There’s not much else to see. But that’s where the magic begins. By having a relatively simple photo, students can ask themselves a variety of questions to create their own unique narrative.

Here are a few questions and potential answers to help you kindle the writing flame in yourself as well as your students:

Where is the scene taking place? The Yukon? Russia? Colorado? A distant planet?

When is it happening? Right now? During the Gold Rush? In the far-distant future?

Why is the person on the sled? The snow is so high that no cars can get out to travel? Cars haven’t yet been invented? To exercise the dogs? To carry much-needed medicine to a distant town? (See more on the history of the Iditarod.)

What is the person (or perhaps one of the dogs) thinking? It’s a gorgeous day, perfect for a time out with the dogs? I can’t feel my toes? The smell of balsam pine is freshest in the morning?

What happened just before the photo was taken? The call had come in requesting medical assistance in a remote part of the forest? The dogs had seemed especially frisky?

What is happening outside of the picture? Wolves are howling in the distance? A moose is standing just off of the path? An icy wind is cutting into the musher’s eyes, threatening to snow blind him or her? War has just been declared? The town has been stranded by snow for nearly three months and supplies are dangerously low?

These are just a few ideas to help you get started writing. There are many more questions that you can explore, too. Using the image and the list of questions, create a paragraph (or two or three for more experienced writers) following the Unit 5 model. For students who are writing more than a single paragraph, have them imagine what happened before and after the photo to generate a mental “picture” of events. Emphasize the topic/clincher rule for each paragraph.

And most importantly, have fun! We hope you enjoy writing on this winter scene. For more help on writing in Unit 5, listen to a webinar on the topic or visit our forums, a place where you can ask your IEW-related questions and enjoy a welcoming and supportive community.

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