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Family Photograph Essay

Assignment Summary

Students begin by making observations about the picture that they brought to class. They divide their notebook page in half, making two columns. They head the left side "50 observations about the photograph," and the other "My thoughts as I examine the photograph."

After completing this list of observations, they freewrite on the following prompts:

a. What is not in the picture but is somehow important?

b. Tell the story of either the occasion during which the picture was taken or a story or stories about someone (or more than one person) in the picture.

c. Create a portrait in words about someone in the picture. Use vivid description to bring this person to life.

d. What does the picture tell the truth about? What does it lie about?

e. Why did you choose this picture?

f. What other moments, events, memories does this picture bring to mind?

g. Create a typical dialogue (about a page long) between yourself and someone in the picture, or between two people in the picture.

h. Reread what you wrote. What does this dialogue say about the relationship between these people?

i. How does this "private" photograph connect to a "public" reality?

Once they have freewritten on these topics and read what they have to say, the writers should take some time away from the writing and the picture to allow their ideas to germinate. Afterwards, they write an essay about the photograph, based on their observations and freewriting.

Instructor's Comments

genre narrative
course WRT 101, WRT 102
activity type individual writing assignment
skills close observation, description, analysis, voice
duration 1 class
personal photograph, journal
handouts: none available
contributor: Sharon Marshall