Preparing for the 7 Plus composition paper: A Picture is worth a thousand words

Owl Tutors

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October 23rd, 2019

Preparing for the 7 Plus composition paper: A Picture is worth a thousand words

As both a teacher and a tutor, Hannah has worked with many children who present as reluctant writers or who appear to not have many ideas to begin a story. "Talking Pictures" is a simple yet highly effective 4 step strategy to get your child’s creative juices flowing and to kick-start the story writing process.

1. Select a Talking Picture

This is any image in which something interesting is happening. It can be taken from the Internet, the newspaper or from a book. Ideally, the picture would be in colour, quite large and have some character, either animal or person in it. Alternatively, it could be of a setting, like a cityscape of New York or a dingy forest. There are some good images to stimulate a good discussion on the Images Shed. Print the picture off if possible and leave some blank space around the picture for the next step.

2. Question with the Talking Picture

As you show your child the picture for the first time, ask them some open questions about the picture. Here it is important to allow the child to generate their own ideas themselves, so try to avoid suggesting what you think is going on at first. Some good open questions could be;
  • What do you think is happening here?
  • Where is this picture?
  • What colours can you see here?
  • What could you hear/see/smell…?
  • How would you describe the way (a person/animal in the picture) is sitting/moving/looking…?
  • How do you think (a person/animal in the picture…) is feeling? Why?
  • How did (an object in the picture) get there?
  • If this picture was from a film, what do you think would happen if I pressed play?
I would suggest recording some of the key words and phrases from the discussion around the picture, clearly, for your child to see and read so there is a record of the discussion. You could use post its or the space around the picture for this. Encourage your child to use synonyms here (e.g. what is a better word for big? What is another describing word we could use instead of beautiful?)

3. Plan with the Talking Picture

Get a blank sheet of paper and label 3 columns, beginning, middle and end, or use one of these pre prepared story planning templates. Make sure each column is large enough for your picture to go underneath it. Show your child all the ideas generated from Step 2. Ask your child; Where would the picture come in your story - at the beginning, middle or the end? Stick the picture down in the correct column. Ask, What would happen in the other parts of the story around the picture? Encourage your child to speak and describe the events and things both in and around the picture and complete the other 2 columns by either drawing or writing.

4. Write with the Talking Picture

After this, allow your child some time to write their story independently, leaving all the notes and planning with them.  If possible, allow your child to read it to you afterwards with the image nearby to refer to.

5. Going Forward

It would be good to ask your child to see if they can find their own Talking Picture, from which they could imagine a story. As a parent, it is good to collect any images you see that would stimulate a good discussion and help with future Talking Picture writing.

You may find the following blog post useful:

How to prepare your child for interview at 7+ and 8+

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