Writers gain inspiration from many different sources including pictures, so it makes perfect sense to use images in the classroom with our students. My kids loved it when I introduced pictures as writing prompts. Even my most reluctant writers rarely complained. I found students produced better writing when the images were thought provoking or humorous. A benefit of using pictures as writing prompts is no two students view an image and see it the same way.
So how do you target reading and writing standards using pictures prompts? Let's consider an example lesson. Start by making sure your students understand dominant impression, truisms, inference, conclusion, and sensory details and language, so they have a good grasp of the skills they’ll be using during the writing process. This is easily accomplished in mini lessons.
Modeling the Process
I always model first, and then we complete a descriptive writing activity together before I assign independent work. Here is a peak at my lesson flow. First, I project the image and give students a few minutes of quiet time to consider the picture. I don’t ask them to write anything down, just simply look at the image observing as many details as possible. Then I ask them to tell me what they saw, calling on students and recording their responses on a form I created in my picture prompt resource. Look at a preview of the resource here.
Next, we decide on a title for the picture followed by writing a dominant impression statement. It’s important to discuss title suggestions together, so students “see” the thinking process that happens. The dominant impression is the overall impression or idea expressed in the picture, much like the main idea in reading. After that, we write a truism that expresses an accepted truth or lesson inspired by the image. Students will use this truism in their own writing as an introduction or thesis statement.
Now I ask students to make inferences based on what they see. After making a list of inferences, we write details and observations from the image that support each inference. Mastering this step takes some practice. You’ll want to have students share their details and discuss as a class whether or not they support the inference. Once you’ve listed the inferences, have students develop a conclusion. You can use this part of the writing lesson to take several daily grades for different standards when students complete the assignment on their own.
Time to Write
Finally, it’s time to begin crafting a response to the prompt you assign for the picture. If you are focusing on descriptive writing, simply ask students to describe the picture using sensory details and language. Another option would be for students to create a dialogue narrative, fictional story, or free write. During the model lesson, my students and I will draft a response together, and we discuss word choice, sentence structure, and other writing skills I'm targeting.
Picture Prompts in Google Forms
Another way I use picture prompts is with Google Forms. Create a Google Form with one image and include several questions to help students brainstorm ideas for their writing. You can see how I set mine up in this free picture prompt form. Try it out with your students. If they are anything like mine, I know they are going to love it.