January 13

Conversations from Photos

At this time of year, I find lots of teachers who are looking for ways to inspire students to write.  In classrooms everywhere we would love to have a wealth of resources for that wouldn’t we?  Yet, I recall that this time of year sort of seems like crunch time for getting students prepared to take on-demand writing assessments.  I would even go so far as to say that Prompt Writing might even be considered a genre much like Persuasive Writing, Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Expository Writing, etc.

I know that in the case of my students, they did need to practice a certain type of writing such as Persuasive or Expository because that is what would be expected and scored on the state assessment.  Practice in this vein, they did, too.  Yet, I firmly believe that simply experiencing lots of writing is really what made my students score high – more than anything else.  I also firmly believe that if you were to ask any of my former students, they would assure you that we did spend a LOT of time practicing writing!

Even though I’m no longer in a traditional classroom, I still see many things and think, “Wow, that would be a great way to inspire some student writers!”  So, when a teacher asked me for ideas on how to help her middle school students have purposeful practice using quotation marks and punctuation, I was glad to pass along a couple of ideas.  Today I decided I’d share one of those ideas here.

Why not take an unusual grouping of photographs that students probably have never had exposure to and use them as prompts.  For example, the collection called Incredible Photos Show New York City in the 1900s posted at 22 Words is something I like.  My assignment would probably look something like this:

  1. I would assign students to pairs or small groups.
  2. The images would be posted in a Google Classroom assignment or printed and posted in various locales within the classroom.

    graded for accuracy of punctuation usage, cohesiveness with the image, grade level appropriateness, and interesting or intriguing vocabulary/conversation

    After crashing in Central Park, a vehicle balances on the edge of a bridge. via

  3. The assignment instructions might state: A website informs us, “Have you ever wondered what the ‘concrete jungle’ of New York City looked like more than 100 years ago? Thanks to the Library of Congress Flickr account, now you can see hundreds of remarkable images documenting New York City at the turn of the century. It was an era of unprecedented change for America, and it’s amazing to see how things have changed since then. Here are a few highlights of photos from between 1910 and 1915.”  Using one of the photos as inspiration, write a conversation which might have taken place when the photograph was taken.  Your conversation will be graded for accuracy of punctuation usage, cohesiveness with the image, grade level appropriateness, and interesting or intriguing vocabulary/conversation.

    A group of babies in New York’s Lower Eastside. via

    A group of babies in New York’s Lower Eastside. via

  4. Each group would work with one image for about 10-15 minutes creating a conversation that might be taking place when the photograph was taken.
  5. Students would be required to hand-write or key into a document correct punctuation usage including quotation marks and commas.
  6. At the end of the designated time, students would change to a different image and create a new conversation, rotating until the end of class or all the images have conversations created by the team.

    A man receiving a straight razor shave a barber at the Hotel de Gink. via

    A man receiving a straight razor shave a barber at the Hotel de Gink. via

  7. The conversations would be posted for peer groups to offer feedback, critiques, and questions.
  8. Conversations would be graded for accuracy of punctuation usage, cohesiveness with the image, grade level appropriateness, and interesting or intriguing vocabulary/conversation.
  9. Students could vote to determine their take on the different concepts previously mentioned.
  10. Students would write reflectively to express what they learned, how they self-monitored the usage of appropriate punctuation, and how they felt growth as a writer as a result of the activity.

    Apparently swimming at the Coney Island beaches wasn't fashionable. via

    Apparently swimming at the Coney Island beaches wasn’t fashionable. via

If you put this concept into practice, I’d love to see what images you and your students use and the conversations created!  Happy writing!

January 12

Create a Comic

I’ve often encouraged teachers to use a comic or cartoon as a way to encourage students to sythesize information.  The teacher can select a political cartoon and ask students to determine tha nature of the message in relation to events, attitudes, climates that might be taking place at the time.  Teachers have used editorial cartoons as inspiration for student writing – writing prompts, if you will.

With this in mind, why not ask students to create a comic or cartoon instead of writing?  For some students creating a comic might seem less intimidating than developing an essay or short story.  It also would give a different insight to a student’s thinking and interpretation of material or information.

A couple of resources which are my go-tos for this type activity or assignment are MakeBeliefsComix or Piktochart.  These can be created using one panel or multiple panels.

I recently discovered that there is more offered with one of these resources.  MakeBeliefsComix offers writing prompts as well.  The templates and prompts can be printed out or used online.  There is an ebook called Something to Write About offered by MakeBeliefs Comix containing multiple writing prompts.

Do you have students who feel intimidated by writing?  Do you have students who need something as inspiration for their writing?  A way to get them started might be to offer them an option of a simple comic!