Friday, June 25, 2010

More Black and White and Color Images

        If you've used Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing in your classroom, you know how powerful black and white images can be.  If, however, you haven't used WWYS,  you can find out more about this outstanding publication at and by scrolling to the end of this blog to read what the School Library Journal wrote about it. 
       One of the reasons black and white images are as powerful as they are is that they stimulate the subconscious more than color images do. Notice how the image shown above captures the eye and suggests many possibilities for writing. For an even more dramatic effect, click on the image to enlarge it.
                     But If You Prefer Color Photos, Try These
        In today's world of digital cameras many people seem to prefer color images over those that are  black and white. Here's an example of one such image you can use to inspire your students. To see more color images, visit and click on All ALBUMS. Feel free to download any of these images for use in your classroom.
      You won't find any written prompts at Photobucket, but you probably won't need them. In most cases you can simply show the images to your students, encourage them to discuss their responses, and then allow them to express themselves in writing.

Two Images By Cynthia Staples
          "A few years ago," writes Cynthia Staples, " I worked for an after school writing program. Kids, mostly middle-school aged, would engage in an activity and then have to write about their experiences.  Usually the activities were very physical like basketball or a scavenger hunt.  However, on a rainy day or in winter, the staff would sometimes have the children select an image from a folder.  The images varied greatly from a dog licking an ice cream cone to a little boy bowled over with laughter.  The children would have to write something about what they were seeing.  For some of the children it was hard, but for others, it was a wonderful liberating experience.  It was an activity that I carried with me for a long time after I left the program."
       These two images by Cynthia offer many opportunities for you to inspire your students. The image at the top is a negative image: the one below it is a positive image.
       Students will be able to respond to these photos at many levels. For example, the negative image might suggest danger, fear, or even a bad dream. What feelings or emotions does it engender? In what way(s) does the person shown in the photo seem to be threatening? What are the specific things in the photo that contribute to its effect?
      The positive image, however, is much more realistic. Who is the man? What does the hood he's wearing suggest? What does the expression on his face suggest? Does he have a family?
       For more images and ideas by Cynthia Staples please visit While you're there, be sure to study the many photos and suggestions you'll discover.
      Coming soon: Thunderheads over Haviland Lake by Molly Anderson-Childers; Two Babies by Cynthia Staples; Flowers and Poems by Sheila Finkelstein.

Here's What School Library Journal Wrote about 
Write What You See

Write What You See: 99 Photos to Inspire Writing 120p. w/CD. photos. reprods. Web sites. Cottonwood Press, 2009. pap. $24.95. ISBN 978-1-877673-83-2. LC 2008938630.This book is filled with black-and-white photos of all types–landscapes, portraits, action shots, stills, and more. The images are paired with a quote from scholars, writers, philosophers, celebrities, politicians, etc. For example, a shot of a gymnast supporting himself in mid-air is matched with Lance Armstrong’s comment, “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever,” and an image of a little girl taking a picture appears with a quip from Dorothea Lange: “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” Each entry is also joined with one or more of the following writing prompts: questions to consider, possible opening lines, ideas for writing, or possible key words. The book, which is accompanied by a CD containing all of the photos and text, concludes with five pages of suggestions by teachers as to how one can use the volume to inspire writing. A terrific resource for ELA and creative-writing teachers.–Joanne K. Cecere, Monroe-Woodbury High School, Central Valley, NY


Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Passion for Photos and Writing

         Sheila Finkelstein's passion centers on using photographs to inspire her readers to search within themselves for new insights and understandings. Sometimes these realizations lead to prose. At other times they lead to poetry. Here's an example of one of Sheila's photo-drawings along with the poem it inspired. The photo and poem are one of a series of four you'll discover  at
          You can see many more of Sheila's imaginative images and at the same time read  her suggestions  for using them as inspiration  when you visit her at

               “The Iris”
Icarus like wings, they flutter,
Petals in the sun. 
Rivaling the gods, they mutter,
Dewey drips, they run.
Incense wafting in the breeze
Luring all around.
Snaring swarms of buzzing bees,
Pleased with what they’ve found.
             Copyright © 2002 by Cyrano

Black and White Images Are Powerful

        Although images reproduced in color can stimulate the mind and generate many ideas, black and white images are at least as powerful, if not more so. To experience this effect fully, click on the photo shown above. 
        This image appears on page 90 of Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing. Different  prompts designed to trigger ideas accompany each of the images. In this case a quotation by Tennessee Williams introduces two specific ideas for writing: (1) What story might be behind this photo? (2) If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go, and what would you do after you got there? Several key words follow the prompts. Other entries in the book present different combinations of photos and prompts.
       For more information and to purchase the book, please visit

Find Out More at The National Writing Project
          In an article titled "Teachers Use Photo Prompts To Spark Writing," Gavin Tachibana presents a wealth of information that's accompanied by several links to related sources that are interesting and very useful.  To read the article, please visit
And As If That Isn't Enough 
        Writer-photographer Cynthia Staples has worked with education nonprofit organizations exploring concepts of culture, community, and sustainability for more than ten years. Her photos are interesting and sure to inspire writers at many levels--both in and out of the classroom. To see more of her excellent work visit
        Here are two examples of Cynthia's work that are sure to trigger almost unlimited ideas for writing. For greater impact, please click on the photos to enlarge them.
        In each photo we see a person looking into the camera. One of the people is smiling: the other isn't. The man seems to be thoughtful, detached, somewhat distant. The woman, on the other hand, is smiling, open, and perhaps playful as she looks directly into the camera.

         Who are these people? In what ways are they alike? Different? If they met on a park bench, what would they be thinking? What would the say to each other? What influences would have shaped their lives? What are their professions? Why is the woman smiling? Why is the man pensive?
         These are just a few questions that you and your students can respond to as you use photographs to inspire writing. For even more imaginative approaches to writing by Cynthia Staples, visit And while you're there don't miss my own series of ten articles on using photography to inspire writing.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Poetry from Photos

  A Watermelon and Poetry?
      When it was first published during the 1960s, Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon by Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith became so popular that it was reprinted time and time again for many years. It's out of print now, but you can still find it at used book dealers on the Internet.
       The book presented a series of black and white photographs accompanied by poems written by well known and not-so-well-known poets. Although it was created primarily for an adult audience, Reflections quickly found its way into classrooms after teachers discovered that they could use the photos to inspire student writing.
        The two photos shown here (click to enlarge)  didn't come from  Reflections. The tulip is the work of  Florida-based writer-photographer Sheila Finkelstein. You can see more of Sheila's work at Scroll down to "Categories" where you'll discover a listing of other photos, as well as a goldmine of ideas. While you're there, sign up for Sheila's free Ezine,  Picture To Ponder.

  Two Flowers and a Poem

        It's easy to see that, either singly or as a pair, these photos can trigger numerous ideas that could inspire many forms of creative writing. Here's an example of a poem my friend Joe Kato wrote after he viewed the  photos.

                Two Flowers

                     Two Flowers grew
                  In a corner of my garden.
                  Nearby, weeds waited
                  For the flowers to wilt and die.
                  "Go away," whispered the flowers.
                  "Soon you will die! 
                                                       But we will live forever."
Teach Specific Skills
        Of course, you can use photos, either singly or in pairs, for more than just inspiring poems. For example, if you want to teach specific skills, you could use these two photos (or others that are similar) to emphasize contrast  in the writing process. After discussing the differences between the photos, students can choose either objects,  people, or places to discuss in their writing.
        Please visit the archives in this blog to discover many more photos and ideas you can use to inspire writing in the classroom. And for even more ideas and information buy my book, Write What You See at


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Leaves of a Hosta Plant.

       The World Up Close
       Here's a closeup of several leaves of a hosta plant. When you look at them, do they suggest a feeling of calmnessHow do the different shades of green affect the viewer?  In what way or ways does the photograph appeal to the senses?
Copyright Hank Kellner 2010

Don't Miss Sheila Finklestein's Excellent Images
       If you want to discover  more exciting photos and comments that are certain to inspire you and your students, be sure to visit Sheila Finklestein's website at While you're there, I'm sure you'll  want to subscribe to her wonderful e-zine, which is jam packed with interesting images and concepts.
    And for even more inspiration, don't forget to visit the archives that follow this entry to my blog. Thank you. 
     What's more, I hope you'll buy my book, Write What You See. That's where you'll find 124 pages of photos and inspiration that are sure to inspire your students. Write What You See is on sale everywhere and at