Empowering Writers

June 2017 Lesson of the Month

This “just for fun” assignment encourages students to practice the skills they’ve acquired in the narrative and expository genres to create a writing piece worthy of sharing with their peers. It’s entitled “Where Am I?” and it not only requires specific writing skills, but is dependent on knowledge and/or research to complete. Plus, the intent is for students to enjoy this lesson without the stress of an assessment or a score.


Students will first choose a vacation destination they have or would enjoy visiting. Then they’ll decide upon several pictures or photographs depicting exciting/impressive aspects of their targeted venue. They’ll research information using each of the captured photos to create a “Where Am I?” suspenseful segment. Sharing these suspenseful, yet informative compilations will increase their knowledge of popular vacation spots, while at the same time creating a fun writing activity for the end of school year leading into summer.

Here’s what you’ll do:

1) First, engage students in a discussion of their summer plans. Ask if anyone has travel in their schedules. Then, have each student think about and decide upon their favorite (or desired) vacation destination.

*Note: This can be a city or a particular place within a city, a family outing, a holiday celebration, day trip, picnic, or even a visit to a friend’s house across town.

2) Point out to students that they will be writing about their favorite spot, but in a suspenseful way.

3) Next, have students search for pictures/photographs that exhibit several key elements associated with their chosen spot. They can print these photos to use in a number of suspenseful segments, all relating to their one destination. If this is a family outing or celebration, students may use their own photographs from a personal collection.

4) Review “Suspense” in the Narrative Guide, beginning on page 215. Remind them of the three different skills used to create suspense and point out that as they write these, it’s important not to give away their revelation (dream destination). Using one picture/photo at a time, have the students write a suspenseful segment about the depiction. For example, if their destination was a theme park, they might choose a particular roller coaster, a popular food or drink served in the park, famous exhibits, favored attractions, or noted theatrical shows. If they chose a family celebration such as Fourth of July, they might choose an American flag, picnic, parade, water balloon fight, fireworks, etc.

5) Some students will need to research information about their image, especially if their destination is a “would be” favorite. If they were writing about a roller coaster, they might research how high it extends, how many people ride at one time, when was it built, etc. If they’re using a personal photo, they might use knowledge from their personal experience. For instance, if a student chose a photo of himself/herself riding in a Fourth of July parade, they could write about the tradition of riding in the hometown parade.

6) MODEL a sample from a destination that is one of your favorites to guide students with their own samples.

MODELED SAMPLE: Destination – Hawaiian Beach (Choose any photo)

Take a trip with me to my favorite vacation spot. Here I get to engage in a popular tropical activity that is cheap and fun at the same time. First, I dress in fitting attire complete with flippers and a sturdy pair of goggles. Then I set out to explore the sites. I might gaze at a school of fish floating by or touch a slimy rock on the bottom of the ocean. But for sure, I never touch the coral reef. I know I am just a visitor to this island and these living creatures need their space. Can you guess where I am?

When the nighttime falls, it is a celebration like no other. People gather from miles around to sing, dance, and eat at the most famous tropical feast. As you arrive, a beautiful lei is placed around your neck. The smell of the fresh flowers waft across your nose making you smile from ear to ear. Native men dance with fire while the women hula danceto the beat in their grass skirts. A whole pig is roasted and served to the waiting guests along with sweet potatoes and fresh pineapple. Can you guess where I am?

7) Have students write about a number of attractions at their site. After completing several suspenseful segments about their destination, have them compile the pieces into a collection along with their gallery of photos.

8) Let the students take turns sharing their pieces with the class and have their classmates guess where they are.

Optional: Instead of writing these pieces on paper, have the students complete the same assignment using PowerPoint slides.