Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Photo Stories

Dear Tutors and Teachers:

We do not often give guarantees in the teaching business, but I will go out on a limb here. If you try this technique, I can guarantee a measure of success at getting your learner to generate sentences and tell you things you did not know. Deborah Spark, a creative writing professor at the University of Wisconsin gave her class (myself included) these instructions:

1. Take out a sheet of paper.
2. Stick a photograph of someone or something (she suggested a family member) on the paper.
3. Write about the picture and what it makes you remember.

When Prof. Spark gave me the assignment I attached a photo of my mother to the paper and put it in my typewriter. Then I sat down on in my cave and started a fire with a flint and steel as I began to write. Page after page spilled out of.

The photo story idea is simple and it works. It can be a way to use the Language Experience Approach (LEA) with your learner. In the LEA technique the tutor begins by acting as a listener/scribe. With a picture provoking a story as described above, get your learner's words down on paper, leaving a blank line between each line of printed text. Verify the story by reading it back to your learner. You can read the story several times together, always tracking each word with a finger. With repetition your learner will begin to pick out new sight words to use on their own.

Give it a try. And when you do, ask your learner if he or she is willing to share it with others. Literacy Network is looking for learner visual art and writing to put on its walls. We are calling it the Home Writing Project.

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