Thursday, November 13, 2008

Using Photographs To Inspire Writing

Comparison and Contrast

Most students probably don’t realize that they exercise the mental processes of comparison and/or contrast every day. For example, each morning they may compare two choices of clothing. Or they may contrast two kinds of breakfast cereals. Or they may even compare or contrast you to other people who influence their lives.

But when it comes to using comparison and contrast in their expository writing, students don’t seem to make the connections as easily as they do at other times. Fortunately, some photo-graphs can easily help students develop compositions and/or contrasts using these two patterns of organization.

Using the photographs shown here, students could develop papers that are organized in terms of the differences between the two women. In their compositions, the students could discuss the differences in clothing, hairstyles, facial expressions, lighting, and even the jewelry the women are wearing. They could also speculate as to the period of time during which the photos were taken. And they could speculate as to where the photos were created.

But that's not all. The same two photos could also inspire stu-
dents to create stories or poems.

The Addsion Gallery of American Art

The Addison
Gallery of American Art is a department of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, When you visit this website, you’ll discover more about this organization’s Photography and Writing Program, which is “designed to enable and inspire students to express themselves in words and photographs.” Definitely worth a visit.

Call for Submissions

I’ve been writing a series of articles titled “Using Photography To Inspire Writing” for publication at and Please visit those two websites to read the articles published to date.
As in the book Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing (Cottonwood Press, 2009), each article contains samples of photo-writing activities educators have used in classrooms at many levels nationwide.
If you have used photos to stimulate writing in your classroom, and if you would like to share an activity that’s been successful, I’d love to hear from you. Please send approximately 100 words describing your activity to me. Don’t forget to include your name, title, school or college, city, state, and a brief statement granting permission to use your submission in my articles. Thank you.

A Marriage Made in Writers’ Heaven

Mary Borg’s Writing Your Life presents hundreds of ideas and suggestions that can help to inspire writers at all levels. Together with Write What You See, this book will form a perfect union for teachers who want to offer their students almost limitless opportunities to write. Cottonwood Press publishes two versions of this fine book, one for grades 6-12 and one for adults.

Book Description

Many readers of my mailings, articles, and blog have written to ask for more information about Write What You See. That’s why I’m including a book description in this blog entry. If you still have questions, please contact me.
Write What You See is a collection of photographs and accompanying prompts that belongs in every classroom in which the teaching of English composition plays an important role.
Written by a retired teacher of English, this work presents 99 dramatic black and white photographs accompanied by insightful prompts that are certain to captivate and motivate students of writing at many levels.
Ranging in subject matter from people to places to animals to things, the photographs in this work depict a wide variety of locations, activities, and moods. Students who view the photos are sure to respond positively as they tap their inner resources and create prose and poetry they never thought they would create.
In addition to the photos and prompts, Write What You See contains two special sections that are especially noteworthy. One section cites ten creative ways to use photographs to inspire writing. Another section reveals how more than two dozen master teachers nationwide stimulate their students’ imaginations with photographs.
Although brief written prompts accompany each photograph in Write What You See, students are not required to use them. If they wish to do so, aspiring writers may simply view the photographs and allow their imaginations to guide them in their writing. This feature makes the work suitable for use at many different levels of instruction.

In Write What You See students at many levels will be:
  • motivated to write compositions more easily than ever before.
  • encouraged to use their imaginations and creativity as powerful stimuli.
  • encouraged to express their feelings and ideas in writing.
  • offered opportunities to exchange ideas with their peers.
  • permitted to express their thoughts in writing without fear of negative
  • offered the opportunity to display their works in a variety of ways.
  • exposed to a variety of approaches and techniques that will improve their

Write What You See is a must not only for instructors who want to offer their students a fresh, creative approach to the writing process, but also for anyone who wants to broaden his or her writing horizons.

Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing by Hank Kellner. Includes supplementary CD with photos and writing prompts. Original Edition. Cottonwood Press. 8 ½ x11, 120 pages, perfect binding, ISBN 978-1-877-673-83-2. $24.95. Write What You See will be available from Cottonwood Press at in late January, 2009.