Well-chosen images are powerful catalysts that can spark thoughtful, interesting student writing:
To harness the full potential of images, teachers should collect photos that evoke powerful feelings about family, friends, neighborhoods, communities, or the world in which we live. (Content area teachers may choose photos that reflect important issues in their academic standards.)
The photos should have substance and depth: we want to tap students’ emotions, memories, and imaginations. A cute picture of a fluffy kitten will produce a shallow response in most writers. (“It’s cute. It’s cuddly. I like it. I want it.”) A picture of a half-crazed cat tearing up a feather pillow might provoke more interesting responses from your students. A picture of a abandoned, bone-thin, frightened pet roaming in a dangerous or mysterious neighborhood might produce a wide variety of responses that could spur thinking about larger social themes.
In general, photos of people, places, and dramatic/exciting events produce better responses than pets. (Pets are an oft-revisited writing topic, much like How I spent my summer vacation.)
Magazines like National Geographic provide an endless supply of great photos. The internet is an even better resource for teachers who have access to classroom computers or lab time.
Teachers who attend GVWP DemoLabs or workshops may begin with the library of digital photos in the DemoLab photo collection (69 MB zip file). Please note that most print and internet photos are copyrighted and cannot be used in any publication offered for sale.
PHOTO SELECTION ACTIVITY:
USING MAGAZINE IMAGES and/or PHOTO PRINTS:
Create six sets of interesting photo images; collect at least two images per student. (Many teachers choose to laminate their photo collections.) Divide the students into groups and assign a different set of photos to each different group.
USING DIGITAL IMAGE FILES ON COMPUTERS:
Pre-load all of the computers with “Image Sets for 4 Groups.” When kids are sitting at their computers, you can have students count off using numbers 1-4, assigning the corresponding photo set to each student: 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2,...). – Or you can use Post-It Notes to mark each computer with the group number.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR STUDENT PHOTO SELECTION:
1. Create a new file folder on the computer desktop and title it like this: YourName-Images
2. Open your assigned folder of photos and look through the set.
3. Choose a few photos that really “speak” to you. (You don’t need to like what you see, you just need to feel a strong reaction when you look at it. Your response can be positive or negative; the important thing is that you feel strongly about it.
4. Place 2-3 choices in your personal folder.
5. Choose one of your photos for the next writing activity.