Dossier of Discovery: Art of Stone

article by Anne Renaud , photos courtesy of Nizar Ali Badr

Learning intention:

I am learning to vary conventions of spoken interactions based on the degree of formality required.

Success criteria:

  • I can discuss ideas with my peers
  • I can compose sentences featuring formal and impersonal language
  • I can present my ideas to another group using formal language

After reading Dossier of Discovery: Art of Stone, view a video of a read aloud version of the book mentioned in the article, Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, on YouTube.

Pause the video when the first photograph is on screen (the photo that shows clusters of rocks assembled as people, holding heart shaped rocks). On the video, this appears from 42 to 52 seconds.

Discuss what the elements in the image might represent. Encourage students to share how the image makes them feel and what it makes them think of.

Encourage students to use sentence strings, such as, ‘it makes me feel…’ ‘it makes me think…’.

Provide an example of your own, such as:

The photo makes me think of all the people around the world contributing to create peace. It makes me feel warm, thinking a huge part of humanity is working towards the same goal.

Tell students that once they have discussed their ideas, they’ll be composing a formal presentation about their views of the images.

Ensure students are clear that formal presentations require the use of formal language. Inform students that when using formal and impersonal language writers strive to make their writing impersonal, avoiding personal pronouns, such as ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’.

Re-read the article, Dossier of Discovery: Art of Stone, searching for examples of personal language. Ensure students identify that there are none and that instead formal, impersonal language has been used.

Collaboratively edit the sentence discussed in the example to make it impersonal. For example:

The photo generates thoughts of all the people around the world contributing to create peace. It inspires feelings of warmth, as though a huge part of humanity is working towards the same goal.


Continue viewing the video. Pause again at the image showing two larger and two smaller figures huddled together under a tree (shown in the video from 1 minute 12 seconds to 1 minute 32 seconds).

Place students in groups. Inform them that they will be experimenting with using formal language. Instruct students to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the image. Once they have had time to discuss their ideas, instruct students to compose a brief presentation about their group’s thoughts and feelings surrounding the images. Remind students to use formal and impersonal language.

Allow time for students to prepare their presentations before instructing them to present to another group.

Instruct students to complete a brief exit-ticket responding to the following:

  • What are some of the features of formal language?
  • Provide an example of what to avoid when writing impersonally.
  • Edit this sentence to make it more impersonal: ‘I love swimming at the beach on sunny day. I especially enjoy feeling the sun on my face as I swim.