September 2: Imagery — the basics

Students received back their graded homework from Friday as well as an explanation of the grading policies for homework. If you are interested in understanding the 4-point grading scale on homework, here it is:

Many in-class work and homework grades will be graded on a quality scale of 1-4. Like a grade-point average, these numbers correspond roughly to letter grades (an A is a 4.0). This is to help students focus on what that feedback means about their own learning. The rubric is as follows:


Regular Grade

Honors Grade





Outstanding work; the student understands this concept more deeply than is expected. Student has shown particular creativity, insight, or care in completing the assignment.




Student goes beyond the stated requirements and has a complete and detailed understanding of the concept.




Student meets the requirements and has a complete understanding of the concept, but may need more detail or depth.




Student has not met all of the stated requirements; the work shows a basic understanding of the concept, but the ideas may be incomplete.




Student has not met all the requirements; the student’s understanding is so incomplete or has so many misconceptions that it cannot be said that the student understands the concept.


or 0



No judgment can be made because the work is missing, incomplete or not on topic. Please redo this assignment (with my help, if needed) and bring it back tomorrow.


1. For the Do Now students described this painting in their notebooks using their five senses: 

Eight Huts in Haiti Roosevelt (b.1952 Haitian) Oil on canvas Private Collection

2. Next students read an excerpt from this New York Times article about the power of description to trick our brains: “Your Brain on Fiction” from the New York Times.

3. Students then answered the question in their notebooks, How does our brain respond to sensory description as we read? The answer we discussed — your brain actually tricks itself into firing the same synapses it would if you were actually smelling, tasting, or touching something.

4. We took some notes on imagery here on W2: Imagery. First, we learned a catchy little tune to help students remember that imagery is more than images. It goes to the tune of “Jingle Bells”:

Im-a-gery, Im-a-gery:

taste, touch, hear, smell, see.

When you use description,

my five senses you must please!

Then, we reviewed setting, which is time and place. We explored the different times of a story (season, day/night, hour, day of the week, era, decade, time period, century) and the different kinds of places (specific location, country, room, alternate dimension). Students came up with how they might hint at the setting by using imagery.

5. Applying imagery. We reviewed some vocabulary words in an example of well-written imagery. If we had time (we did in 1st, but not in 6th or 7th), students divided into groups based on the cards they got at the door. All the sight folks gathered, for instance. Then, these expert groups analyzed the example passage on W2, labeling all the imagery words related to their sense by underlining.

Students shared out their answers so that everyone had a key of all the imagery in the passage.

Here’s the passage we used from Sue William Silverman’s book Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir:

Drowsy, I recline on the terraço of a friend’s villa in Sintra, Portugal. Across the valley is another villa, owned by the Rothschilds, and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean, currents flowing from the Gulf of Cádiz, azure and hot. I am writing an aerogram, the paper supported by a book, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. Beside my lounge an oval table holds a pitcher of ice water. Slices of lemon circle a tray. I place a slice in a goblet, fill it with water, and sip. From the valley rise the spicy scents of eucalyptus and olive, lupine and poppy. Cerise bougainvillea etches whitewashed walls. I drift in sun, in shade from cork trees, sun and shade, pages of the book and the aerogram fluttering against my fingertips.

6. Imagery planning. Students should choose one place that will appear in the memoir they will write. Then, they completed a planning chart about this place. Here it is: Setting Piece Prewriting.

HW: Complete your setting prewriting chart for tomorrow.