Using an assigned list of city-related vocabulary words might be the thing to get students writing. The list can be words taken from a story about the city or the students can provide the vocabulary about their city themselves as a group. The challenge is that everyone must use the same list and use all or nearly all of the words but may use only one of the required words in each sentence. I gave a candy for every required word used in one seventh grade class and the children wrote so much they went through a five pound bag. Most of the children got so involved that they just kept writing even after the words were used up. Some didn’t even mind letting their peers know that they liked doing the writing part once they got into the assignment.
This assignment can be used in numerous variations. The list of words can be only nouns one time, only adjectives another. Another time, the words can be taken from a specific story or essay about the city and the challenge can be to write a story that fits well with the mood of the words.
Along these lines, a class can be shown a photograph of a city scene (a building a park, a parade, etc.) and asked to provide words that the picture suggests to them. The formation of a vocabulary list is the valuable transitionary tool that enable students to translate the visual to the written. The times that I used a visual stimulus but then forgot to share ideas about it through class discussion and the writing of a group vocabulary list, I found that the students were not able to produce much. The shared vocabulary after the group discussion is essential for children in elementary and middle schools. The list can be divided into different types of words such as factual words versus words that express opinions and reactions.