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Introducing the Five Brushstrokes

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1 Introducing the Five Brushstrokes
Adapted from Harry Noden’s Image Grammar

2 About Me and My Classroom
9th and 10th Grade in a small charter school I used this lesson with a creative writing class NWEA MAP Data and Descartes statements make it so we have to use the technical terms for concepts in grammar, or the students will likely show no growth on their end of year tests.

3 Image Grammar and Writing Genres
Scenes and Narratives Poetry Creative nonfiction, including personal essays Noden has suggestions for research papers

4 Rationale Good writers use grammar as a tool
Complex grammatical concepts can be taught as tools for creativity By studying the tools at their disposal, students can improve sentence fluency and variety while also increasing accuracy in their use of imagery

5 Support from Research Image Grammar by Harry Noden
“To paint images like these requires an understanding of image grammar—a rhetoric of writing techniques that provides writers with artistic grammatical options.” (Noden 2) Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson “One principle that undergirds my thinking about grammar and mechanics is that they are inherently linked to craft, and by making this link, we alter students’ perceptions of what grammar and mechanics do.” (Anderson 10)

6 Support from Research Continued
Looking to Write by Mary Ehrenworth “I believe that things happen in children’s writing when they write through the arts that do not, perhaps, happen through other ways of teaching writing. It can be an aesthetic experience, a way to engage the imagination in peculiarly empathetic ways.”(Ehrenworth 4)

7 More on Visual Images and Writing
“The writer is an artist, painting images of life with specific and identifiable brush strokes, images as realistic as Wyeth and as abstract as Picasso.” (Noden 1) Noden 29 Image grammar allows students to understand what we mean when we say “Show, don’t tell” by providing specific tools to do this.

8 The Problems with Adjectives
“Certain types of adjectives paint scenes with image blanks…Adjectives like beautiful, as in “the beautiful mountains,” are formless, sending the reader an opinion instead of a visual image.” (Noden 33-34) Adjective Overload-Noden 34

9 Core Standards L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking. L b. Use various types of phrases (noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, participial, prepositional, absolute) and clauses (independent, dependent; noun, relative, adverbial) to convey specific meanings and add variety and interest to writing or presentations. W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well- structured event sequences. W d. Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters. W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

10 Descartes Learning Statements Examples
Identifies participial phrases in written compositions Identifies appositive phrases in written compositions Defines participial phrase Recognizes appropriate use of active verbs

11 Student Objectives Students will be able to use participial phrases, absolutes, adjectives out of order, appositives, and active verbs in order to add variety and interest to their writing for the purpose of conveying vivid pictures of scenes and images. For a regular 43 minute lesson, I would only use one or two of these objectives.

12 Why Five? “Although professionals use an array of complex structures, students can begin to learn the art of image grammar by employing five basic brushstrokes…” (Noden 4) This is just a beginning. For ideas on how to teach more grammar through the craft of writing, see Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson.

13 The Five Basic Brushstrokes
Painting with Participles Painting with Absolutes Painting with Appositives Painting with Adjectives Out of Order Painting with Action Verbs

14 The Participle Brushstroke
An –ing or –ed verb placed at the beginning or end of a sentence, connected with a comma In a participle, the verb functions as an adjective

15 Example: “Hissing, slithering, and coiling, the diamond- back snake attacked its prey.” (Noden 5) Image from:

16 Using a Participial Phrase
“Participial” phrase is a fancy term for a phrase that starts with a participle “Hissing its forked red tongue and coiling its cold body, the diamond-back snake attacked its prey.” (Noden 5)

17 Analyzing the Technique
“Hissing, slithering, and coiling, the diamond- back snake attacked its prey.” (Noden 5) “Hissing its forked red tongue and coiling its cold body, the diamond-back snake attacked its prey.” (Noden 5) What differences are there between the two forms of this brushstroke?

18 Your Turn Please write two sentences describing this picture: one that just uses participles and one that uses participial phrases.

19 An Artist in Action Proof that I’m not making these techniques up:
“Kat was shoved outside, stumbling into view, shading her eyes with her small shield against the summer glare.” –James Rollins, Bloodline, Page 344

20 The Absolute Brushstroke
A noun PLUS an –ing or –ed verb added to a sentence, connected with a comma or commas

21 Example: “Claws digging, feet kicking, the cat climbed the tree.” (Noden 6) Image from:

22 Analyzing the Technique
“The cat climbed the tree.” (Noden 6) “Claws digging, feet kicking, the cat climbed the tree.” (Noden 6) What does this technique do to the writing? How does it change things for the reader?

23 Your Turn Examine the image. Then, describe what you see using the Absolute Brushstroke. Photo from:

24 An Artist in Action “And then I see her, the blood drained from her face, hands clenched in fists at her sides, walking with stiff, small steps up toward the stage, passing me, and I see the back of her blouse has become untucked and hangs out over her skirt.” –Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games, Page 21-22

25 The Appositive Brushstroke
A noun that adds a second image to a noun that comes before it Appositives use nouns to modify/change other nouns

26 Example “The raccoon, a scavenger, enjoys eating turtle eggs.” (Noden 8)

27 The Appositive Phrase An entire phrase containing an appositive that adds more details than the appositive all by itself “The raccoon, a midnight scavenger who roams lake shorelines in search of food, enjoys eating turtle eggs.” (Noden 8)

28 Analyzing the Technique
“The raccoon enjoys eating turtle eggs.” (Noden 8) “The raccoon, a scavenger, enjoys eating turtle eggs.” (Noden 8) “The raccoon, a midnight scavenger who roams lake shorelines in search of food, enjoys eating turtle eggs.” (Noden 8) How does the appositive brushstroke change the writing? What does it do for the reader?

29 Your Turn Using the image below, please write a sentence that uses the appositive brushstroke. If you’re up for the challenge, try one with an appositive phrase, too. Picture from:

30 Abby’s Appositive The deer, an alert creature with eyes poised, stood at the edge of the fores.

31 An Artist in Action “He felt burdened by the names of the marauder past, the names from which his name descended in cascades of human blood…” Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence, Page 33

32 The Adjectives Out of Order Brushstroke
When writers shift some of the adjectives attached to a noun to the end of the noun, instead of putting them at the beginning.

33 Example “The large bull moose, red-eyed and angry, charged the intruder.” (Noden 10) Image from

34 Analyzing the Technique
“The large bull moose, red-eyed and angry, charged the intruder.” (Noden 10) “The large, red-eyed, angry bull moose charged the intruder.” (Noden 10) What happens when we put the adjectives all in a row? What changes when we move some to the end?

35 Your Turn Please write about this picture of a bear using some adjectives out of order. ----- Meeting Notes (7/3/12 10:39) ----- The brown bear, large and bulky, relaxed in the sun. Stomach grumbling, he shifted his bulk into motion and set off for the river to fish. The bear, a frightful predator, splashed into the water with deadly purpose.

36 An Artist in Action “But what you remember most is this tree, huge, with fat arms and mighty families of squirrels in the higher branches. All around, the neighborhood of roofs, black-tarred and A- framed, and in their gutters, the balls that never came back down to earth.” –Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street, Page 22

37 The Action Verbs Brushstroke
Action verbs show the action of the sentence without helping verbs They paint a motion picture rather than a still photograph

38 Example Passive Voice (Being Verb as a Helper)
“The grocery store was robbed by two armed men.” (Noden 11) Active Voice (Action Verb) “Two armed men robbed the grocery store.” (Noden 11)

39 Help Me Make it Active “The runaway horse was ridden into town by an old, white-whiskered rancher.” (Noden 11)

40 Other Cases Where Action Verbs Make A Difference
Original Sentences: “The Nerk Knocker is a strange mechanical contraption. It brews coffee while beating a drum solo.” (Noden 12) Not in passive voice, but contains a “being” verb— “is” What can we do?

41 The Brushstroke Assignment
Find a picture in a magazine or on the Internet. Write a one- or two-paragraph description of the picture containing all five brush strokes—one of each type. Underline each brush stroke and identify it by drawing a line to a label in the margin. Do not use more than two brush strokes per sentence. Each correctly used brush stroke will be worth 10 points, as indicated in the attached rubric

42 Rubric for Brushstroke Assignment
Absolute: _____/10 Appositive: _____/10 Participle: _____/10 Adjective Out of Order: ______/10 Active Verbs: _____/10 Total: ______/50

43 Student Sample 1—Low The  baseball, a new  Rawling baseball coming down the plate fast.  Clutching the bat, the player getting ready to hit the ball. Rawling baseball  gliding through the air. The catcher flexible and fast gets ready to catch the ball. Chicago baseball player  tighteneds his hand around the bat to swing with power. Chicago baseball player swings his bat and makes contact with the ball. The ball flying fast with power through the air. GO’s out of the stadium a homerun.      

44 Student Sample 2—Medium
Standing on the colorful sailed boat, looking down into the crisp clear water I spotted nothing in the shadows. So I decided to go for a swim. I jumped in and the water cooled my body. I went down about 100 ft and saw a marvelous undersea life! It filled my body with a run of excitement and nerviness’s as I thought about the dangers of bring down here. Then out of the blue, all the fish started squirming and out comes a crystal blue Great White! The Shark, the Great White, stared at me with a feeding frenzy look on his face. The long shark, buffed and ready started after me! So I jumped up and jolted to be boat. So I hopped into my boat as the shark is gliding after me. As soon I touched my feet onto the boat’s rough floor, I felt safe and the shark went away.

45 Student Sample 3—Medium-High
Hunching, watching, and listening the lion waits to pounce on its prey. Then she sees it, a baby deer in the tall grasses and, she pounces, jumping and roaring. Her claws, sharp and long digs deeply into the young deer’s skin. The deer, wounded and surprised, fell to the ground as the lion fell on top of him. The lion let out a mighty roar to let her cubs know that she had dinner. Paws padding the cubs made their way over to their mother for dinner.

46 Student Sample 4—High Flying, the car whistled through the thick air smokey and grey. Flaming fires were ravaging the base, the smoke reaching to the clouds. The car, a new war machine is bursting through the air at one hundred miles per hour.

47 Adjusting it for Different Grade Levels
Pick out the grammar concepts your students need Find examples of them being used as part of the craft of writing Find pictures that can inspire writing, especially ones that your students can relate to The process of studying grammar and mechanics as part of the craft of writing can be applied to just about anything.

48 Revisiting the Brushstrokes Later
A gallery tour Once students have a firm grasp on the brushstrokes, try sending them to the computer lab (or taking a field trip to an art museum) to find paintings they can write about. I had my students do this with poetry in the 3rd quarter after learning the brush strokes in 1st quarter with great results Revision Bingo Make a bingo sheet for revision. Students have to score a bingo before they’re done revising. Include the brushstrokes as revision options.

49 Complete Works Cited Anderson, Jeff. Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse, Print. Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage, Print. Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, Print. Ehrenworth, Mary. Looking to Write: Students Writing through the Visual Arts. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, Print. Noden, Harry R. Image Grammar: Teaching Grammar as Part of the Writing Process. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, Print. Rollins, James. Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel. New York: William Morrow, Print. Rushdie, Salman. The Enchantress of Florence: A Novel. New York: Random House, Print.

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