The Snowflake Man: Wilson Bentley

article by Karen Jameyson , illustrated by Fifi Colston

Learning Intention: 

I am learning how to draw upon details and events in a text so that I can change particular aspects to create an engaging literary text. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can recognise features of Wilson Bentley’s context.  
  • I can identify and extract key events and details from a nonfiction text. 
  • I can combine the key details, events and contextual features to write a first person recount from the perspective of Wilson Bentley.   

Essential knowledge: 

  • More information on how time, place and culture shapes the composition of a text can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Context. 

Prior to reading, introduce the term context to the class, by using the resource (above) or by seeking further clarification from the ETA’s Textual Concepts page on Context. Then, using the first column of a T-chart, identify key aspects of the students’ context in 2022. These include: the generally warm climate of Australia, the amount of leisure time children have, the range of hobbies available and the rapid development of technology. Explain to students that this is the context of response, and should be considered as they read the article.  

Read the article as a class. After reading, use the second column of the T-chart to record key aspects of Wilson Bentley’s context next to the corresponding aspect of the students’ context. Observe how Bentley’s context contrasts with the students’ own. For example, unlike the students, Bentley faced the challenges of a cold climate and had very little leisure time due to farm work. There are some similarities though, as both Bentley and the students have lived in a time of great technological advancement.  

Explain to students that they will write a recount from the perspective of Bentley reflecting on a key event in his life. (This could also be structured as a diary activity.) Ask students reread the article to identify a key event in the text and locate its supporting details. Some examples of events and details include:  

  • Bentley’s childhood love of snow: he was ten years old, lived in the late nineteenth century, snow made farm work difficult, he avoided chores to look at snowflakes 
  • Using a microscope: his mother was a teacher and owned a microscope, he would use chicken feathers or a broom straw to move the snowflakes, he identified symmetry in snowflakes 

Provide students with time to write their recount, displaying the key features of a recount to scaffold their responses:  

  • Written in first person 
  • Written in the past tense  
  • Use of time connectives to sequence events 
  • Includes detailed information of events 
  • Includes personal feelings of Wilson Bentley 
  • Accurately represents Wilson Bentley’s context