Telling stories with photos

montana ranching

Montana Ranching. Courtesy of Hall and Hall

Our essential question today is:

Do we need words to tell stories?

In our class today we will look at how images and groups of images tell stories.

We will be looking at a selection of photo essays to see how different subjects are covered by photos alone.

We are going to look at this photo essay by Ami Vitale.

Next, we are going to ask these questions:

What story does this series of photographs tell?

Does it tell one story or more than one?

What does using only photographs to tell a story add to the story itself?

How would this story be different if the storyteller only used words and no photographs?

Would it add to the story if the storyteller used both words AND photographs?

There is a strong theme to this photo essay.

For each photo, with a partner, say what you think, see and wonder. Take notes to help you remember ideas about the:

  • scenery
  • people
  • animals
  • theme
  • atmosphere
  • colours
  • space
  • community
  • culture
  • livelihood
  • family
  • weather
  • character
  • possessions
  • music
  • birds

You can think of other categories too.


You will write a short story using the theme, your ideas and the photos.

It will be a creative piece which brings alive your thoughts on the photos and how they speak to your imagination.

You will be using a personal narrative checklist to self-edit your own work – we will go through this in class. There is also a grading rubric to see where you need to be aiming.

Personal Narrative Codes Self_Editing Worksheet


The writing process will involve:

  1. First draft – printed copy to be handed in on 2nd May 2017 in class.
  2. Self-edit
  3. Second draft – to be sent by email on by the evening of 8th May 2017.
  4. Peer-edit
  5. Third draft and final draft – To be handed in by the evening of 15th May 2017.

First draft – due on 2nd May 2017 in class

First think of a storyline/plot. You should sketch this out by hand using your ideas from our classwork.

Sketching a Plot

  • Think of some characters for your story – you will need a main character.
  • Think of an interesting way to start your story – ‘hook’.
  • Think of a significant event (decide this in your plot) – develop the story around this event.
  • Think of a conclusion for your story with a message, or life lesson for the reader.

First draft

  • Start writing on a word document.
  • Remember to think of a title for your story – you can do this before you write the story or afterwards.
  • Remember to introduce the setting of the story and the people in the first few paragraphs.
  • Focus on the language you are using. Use similes and metaphors.
  • Use engaging dialogue and punctuate correctly.
  • Focus on sentence construction.
  • Write in paragraphs of at least 5 sentences long.
  • Use descriptive language and a variety of action verbs.
  • In the first draft, aim for 500-1000 words.
  • Print out the document for class next week.

We will go through the first draft in class next week.

Thank you.


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