The Fifteen Sentence Portrait (slice 21)

I remembered a guided writing that we tried in a writing workshop for ESL teachers at Butler University, led by Susan Adams, Director of Project Alianza. I found the directions again and wrote a story for today’s slice. The Fifteen Sentence Portrait idea came from Wendy Bishop’s Working Words: The Process of Creative Writing.

Follow the specific directions to write a portrait of a person you know. You will follow sentence-level prompts as you develop your content. (If using the activity with students, reveal the sentence prompts to them one at a time instead of giving the whole list at once.)

Here are the directions:

First, picture in  your mind a person you have strong feelings about. They may be living or dead, but they should be someone you know or knew personally. For a title, choose an emotion or color that represents the person. You will not mention the person’s name in writing.

Sentence 1: Choose one of the “starters” and complete the sentence.

  • You stand there…
  • No one is here…
  • In this (memory, photo, dream or whatever)…
  • I think sometimes…
  • The face is…
  • We had been…

Sentence 2: Write a sentence with a color in it.

Sentence 3: Write a sentence with a body part in it.

Sentence 4: Write a sentence with a simile.

Sentence 5: Write a sentence of over 25 words.

Sentence 6: Write a sentence under 8 words.

Sentence 7: Write a sentence with a piece of clothing in it.

Sentence 8: Write a sentence with a wish in it.

Sentence 9: Write a sentence with an animal in it.

Sentence 10: Write a sentence in which three or more words alliterate.

Sentence 11: Write a sentence with two or more commas.

Sentence 12: Write a sentence with a smell and a color in it.

Sentence 13: Write a sentence with a simile.

Sentence 14: Write a sentence that could carry an exclamation point (but don’t use the exclamation point).

Sentence 15: Write a sentence to end this portrait that uses the word or words you chose for a title.


No one is here, yet the house is full of her presence. The muted, shadowy golden light of evening streams in through the windows. My feet are planted just inside the door. The subtle scent of her perfume hangs in the air like a whiff of blooming flowers. I feel slightly off balance, having expected she would be here, and I begin to imagine possibilities to explain her absence, panic welling up and then subsiding. There must be a simple explanation for it. Going on in, I see her sweater lying across the arm of her chair. It seems lonely there, and I wish for her to be here. I hear the neighbor’s dog barking outside, but it is quiet inside. Her voice vibrates vividly in my mind. She is asking why I did not call ahead, for it would have saved me the trip, but I think to myself that I am content to wait, knowing she will be happy to see me when she gets here. I notice the light scent of sugar and spice wafting in from the kitchen, follow it to find cinnamon-brown cookies she must have baked earlier in the day, and snack on one.  Anticipation rises like butterflies fluttering around my heart. I hear the car. In she walks, her face lighting up in surprise, and she wraps me in a loving hug.

This entry was posted in home and family, school and writing, SOLSC March 2012, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Fifteen Sentence Portrait (slice 21)

  1. Tracy says:

    What a beautiful story! You wove it together so masterfully. “Her voice vibrates vividly in my mind.” I love this sentence. The sound of those words is lovely. I am going to try this with my students. The support of the prompts will help them develop a piece of writing worth celebrating! Thanks for sharing this idea and the mentor text you wrote.

  2. That was captivating. What a good example of how beautiful a piece of writing can come from following prompts.

  3. Pingback: 15 Sentence Portrait Writing in 4th Grade | newtreemom

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