Day 1: Getting to know you and Snapshot writing

Getting to know you/Community Builders

Bag Game

On the first day of school, ask students to bring in an item/items that have significance to them (nothing too valuable, breakable, or large).  Put the items in a large bag and pull them out one by one so that students can share about each item.  Students can also use the activity to write a short blurb about why the item is important.


Write student names in BINGO squares and use fun facts about the students as the clues.

Group Song

Choose a motivating song (We Are the Champions) to sing as a class before big tests.

Name Chain

Give students a strip of construction paper to write their name and an adjective.  As students introduce themselves one-by-one, staple the strips together to create a chain.  Talk to the students about how like a chain, the class will work together and are stronger as a whole.  Use the chain to frame a bulletin board of student work.

Snapshot Writing

This was a writing project we took most of the day to complete.  I am going to break it down into steps to try to simplify it, and apologize for the "fast-food" version of what was really a "fine-dining" experience.

  1. Start by asking students to bring in a photo of something significant (place, person, moment, etc.)
  2. Talk about the difference between showing vs. telling and give examples!
  3. Model a Sense Cluster (below) and have students create their own.
  4. Model an Open Mind (below) and allow students to create their own.
  5. Ask students to write a clear sentence about what their writing will focus on (This memory is significant to me because...).  Students will not directly put this in their writing, but will use it to keep them on track.
  6. Write!
  7. Meet in groups to read aloud, discuss, and share friendly comments/suggestions
  8. Revise/Edit
  9. Publish: give students construction paper and various crafty materials to frame their writing and picture.  Allow them to get creative!
PRIMARY TEACHERS: As much as this was a wonderful and rewarding experience for me, my kinders can't do this- especially at the beginning of the year.  My wonderful leader suggested that I have my kids dictate why the photo is important and let them focus on publishing their words and showing it off to everyone!  Also, if kids have trouble bringing in a photo, ask them if they did anything cool (went swimming) or went to a special place (amusement park) and print a picture from the internet for them.

Sense Cluster:  This helps students focus on details related to each sense.  I want to make one more primary-friendly.  Look for it soon!

Open Mind:  Use this to encourage students to draw/write their feelings and emotions connected to the picture.

Gallery Walk

After creating our fabulous pieces of art, we read them aloud in small writing groups and shared friendly comments.  Next we posted them around the room.  Later, we will do a "Gallery Walk" which means we will walk around the room armed with post-it notes we will use to leave some love for those we haven't heard.  Most of us our writing pieces were one page, so flipping pages doesn't hold us up during gallery time and we truly get a "snapshot" of the moment.  When kids are ready to leave some love, they can go from as simple as "I liked your story," to "Your story made me think of my grandpa too because I like when he..."

Wall of Fame

One of the co-Directors also suggested this wonderful idea.  After students publish a piece, they swap with a classmate.  The classmate creates an artifact to celebrate the writing.  This can be anything from a collage, a frame, a found poem, to an illustration or song.  Post the artifacts to create a beautiful bulletin board documenting and celebrating the writing of your students.  Then students get to take home something magically special that highlights their piece.


  1. We play Human Bingo at the beginning of the year and several times throughout the year. My kiddos LOVE it!

    I'll be sharing some of those games for Back to School soon.

    I am excited to hear more about this workshop and all that you are learning. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I am a new follower to your blog and love it. I would love for you to come and visit me when you get the chance. =)

    Heather's Heart

  2. Thank you :)

    I've peeked at your blog and LOVE the Pete the Cat pack you made. I'll soon make my way to you TpT for that gem!