Draw-Label-Caption is both a lesson plan and a prewriting technique that can help students brainstorm before writing a fictional story or a personal narrative. It can also be used to introduce new vocabulary or review vocabulary. The basic technique is that students draw a picture, then label everything in the picture, and then give an overall caption or summary of what is happening in the picture. Now they can write descriptions of everything they have labeled and the action, and that gives them the beginning of a complete story before they even realize it.
- Optional: Markers, crayons or colored pencils
- Optional: White board so you can draw along with your students
Have students draw a picture. What they will draw depends on you and the lesson. You could have them draw what they did last night, or the funniest thing they ever saw, or a happy memory, or a fictional scene in a story. If you are teaching vocabulary you might want to give them a context like, “Draw something that happens on a farm.” In the example picture, I have drawn an activity I do every day (playing Tennis on my Wii; can’t you tell?). I recommend emphasizing that the drawings do not have to be detailed. Mainly they should show the main actions, the background or context, and where things are relative to each other. Writing stories or narratives is much easier when students have a picture to refer to and often they find it easier to draw first before writing. They may have a clear picture in their head but the hard part is translating that into words, especially words in a foreign language!
Now have students label everything in the picture. They may need help with words and spelling, so be sure you circulate through the room.
Now have the students write a one sentence caption for their pictures-what is the main scene or action? What is this story about? For my picture, I would caption it:
Every day I like to play Wii Tennis in my living room.
Have students write descriptions of everything in their picture. Encourage them to think about colors, smells, textures, materials. Push them to be as detailed as possible. Using my picture as an example, I might write:
LIVING ROOM: My living room is large. My living room is yellow. There is a sofa and 2 chairs in there. The living room is the biggest room in the house
ME: I’m playing Wii Tennis with my wife. It is fun. We play against each other. We like to win.
WII TENNIS: The game is funny. The men have no arms. They are cartoon men. You can jump high. It is hard to play.
WII-MOTE: When you move it, your tennis racket moves. It feels like a real game. The Wii Remote is white.
My WIFE: She is tall and thin. She likes to win. But I am better than she is.
Obviously in this case I am aiming at lower level students. For higher level students I would expect more detail. It is important at this stage to remind students that they do not have to come up with complete sentences or a narrative. The important thing is to first think of specific details and use their imaginations.
Complete Story (Beyond Prewriting Techniques)
Now students have more than enough material to write a complete scene or story. They will have to pick and choose which details are important and put it together into a complete narrative or topic. For example:
Something I do every day is play Wii Tennis. I play every day with my wife in the living room. We play in the living room because it is the biggest room in the house. Wii Tennis is fun because the characters are funny looking. They have no arms and jump around a lot. But it is also very hard. It is like real tennis. When you move the Wii Controller, your tennis racket moves. You have to practice a lot. The best part is when I win!
By getting students to work step by step, it’s amazing how much you can get out of them at the end. Even beginning students can write a simple scene. In more or less the same way, students can be introduced to storyboarding, another prewriting technique, and write an entire story scene by scene.Liked this post? Check out some of my books on