“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
It’s usually true. But for teachers of writing, maybe the precept should be “A picture is worth a thousand STORIES.”
In the world of infinite (and often times questionable) Google Images, however, teachers can be hesitant to leverage one of the most motivating factors that gets students writing – visual topic choice. It’s incredibly convenient that the thousands of writing ideas on Write About are easy to use, but you should also consider how they open up access to a brain-based literacy approach.
When students have access to inspiring imagery, it serves as a catalyst for powerful personal narratives, amazing arguments, or insightful reflections. The possibilities are endless. An image becomes the springboard for something that only the writer in that moment can define. That is empowering.
Visual writing Ideas are a great way to springboard reluctant writers into writing, giving them a support they need to gain confidence. Pictures also provide opportunities for confident writers to expand their horizons, and “bored” writers to get energized or curious.
When learning to read, children start out with picture books because a visual format helps them make sense of the story. As students move beyond emerging readers and writers, their world doesn’t get any less visual. So why wouldn’t we reverse engineer that process to help students access visual scaffolds? They can become the story creator, the persuasion publisher, or the explainer-in-chief.
Sparking writing through image choice gives students a reference point, but the pictures should not define the piece. Visuals help the words being formed in their heads to have a touch point with the real world. They activate intuitions from the right side of their brain as they use the left side to deploy the structure and strategies from your lessons.
For struggling writers, a moment has already been created for them. They don’t need to brainstorm the setting, what the character is doing, or what the character looks like. They don’t need to struggle with creating a moment before they even begin. They get to simply start writing, overcoming barriers that haunt even seasoned adult writers.
Put Idea Choice into Practice
Scaffold a short amount of time for students to search and select an Idea at the beginning of sacred writing time (or for writing practice in a specific genre).
You and your students can pick:
- How often these pieces remain quick writes and when other pieces move through the revision process.
- Who the audience for the writing should be, and therefore how it gets published (or doesn’t).
Writing is uniquely positioned to be a creative outlet that also directly supports literacy growth. Access to thousands of safe and interesting images is one of the many benefits your writers have as part of the creative Write About community.
Your students might not reach 1,000 words each post, but getting them writing more is always worth it.
Tynea Lewis is a former Title I teacher from Pennsylvania. She was named a 30 Under 30 honoree by the International Literacy Association in 2016 for her work with LitPick Student Book Reviews, an online reading and writing program. When she’s not busy overseeing the program, she loves to spend time with her husband and young daughters, write for a variety of audiences, and escape to the quietness of the mountains. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @TyneaLewis or on her blog at tynealewis.com.