I LOVE to write… fiction, non-fiction, post-cards, Christmas cards, emails, even post-its. There’s just something so wonderfully mystical about the process of ideas taking shape in our minds and finding form in words on a page. Sometimes, though, even I find I need a little inspiration when comes time to write. My students are no different. Even for my exceptional writers, simply landing on an idea can be a chore. All the more so for those who struggle with writing, for whom writing is nothing more than drudgery.
So I started thinking. Back in my pre-teaching days, when I had more time to write for fun, I started a blog with photo prompts.
I had a blast taking photos, writing about each one, and reading the work of a handful of creative folks who joined in each day.
A few years ago I decided to try using the same photo prompts with my third grade students. They loved it! I used the photos as the main ingredient for a perfect morning warm up:
Photos + Colorful Spiral Journals + Lovely Music + 15 Minutes of Freedom to Write ANYTHING in Response to the Photos + the Share-Out Session After = GOLD
We were all amazed at the variety of directions our responses took. My students’ enthusiasm for writing sky-rocketed and many of them wove one response into another to create a larger story. It also happened that many of the same characters began to pop up in the stories of different students! From poetry to personal narratives, from scientific explanations to fantastical fiction stories, my students learned that writing has the potential to be deeply creative and joyful. That enthusiasm carried over into the rest of the day’s work.
Recently I decided to gather up all of my photos again, polish them up and turn them into a unit for this year’s batch of third graders and a resource for other teachers. Here’s a peek at that unit!
1) 42 Mini-Photo Writing Prompt Cards
These small writing prompt cards can work much the same as task cards. The cards can be printed in color or grayscale and put on a jump ring or in a pencil box for centers or a warm up. It could also be fun to print a class set in grayscale for the students to glue into their writing journals beside their written responses. Later they can show their parental units the actual picture as well as the written response!
2) The Same 42 Photo Prompts in a Larger Size
These larger versions can be printed in color or grayscale and placed into a three ring binder for independent work or literacy centers. As a whole-class activity they can be projected onto a big screen.
3) A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words Intro Activity
Step by step lesson plan for introducing A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words to your students.
4) Two sample written responses to share with students or use as a guide for writing your own mentor texts
5) A Mini-Rubric for Easy Grading/Feedback
(Pssst… here’s a freebie copy of the rubric for you. It can be used as feedback for any writing. Enjoy!)
6) A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words – Choice of 4 Different Journal Covers
However you get inspired and inspire your students to write, I hope the magic comes and makes a home in your classroom.