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Focus Lessons

How Photography Enhances the Teaching of Writing

Enhance your writing instruction through photography. 

In Focus Lessons, Ralph Fletcher makes the link between writing and photography clear. He offers new ideas about taking pictures to spark creativity, using a camera as a writer’s notebook, learning to “read” images as mentor texts, and helping students develop writing from photos.

He also shares fifteen craft lesson ideas that bring these ideas to life in your classroom.

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Full Description

"Writers, like photographers, are image makers." 

We teach our students to write using words and sentences that create a desired effect. You might encourage them to zoom in on a small moment, focus on a specific detail, or experiment with a new point of view. The language of writing has a natural link with photography.

Linking Photography with Writing

In Focus Lessons, Ralph Fletcher makes this connection clear. He offers new ideas about how this link can enhance your instruction.

  • Using a camera as a writer’s notebook
  • Taking pictures to spark creativity
  • Learning to “read” images as mentor texts
  • Helping students develop writing from photos

Craft Lessons Ideas

Ralph also shares fifteen craft lessons that draw on the photographic world. Each lesson highlights a different technique like creating tension, using arresting details, or setting a mood. Then he shows how to achieve each one—in both photography and writing.

“A series of savvy decisions are required to produce a memorable photograph,” says Ralph. “That’s true with writing, as well.”

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)



Part One: The Journey

1) Getting Close: A Personal Note

2) Steep End of the Learning Curve

3) The Camera as Writer’s Notebook

4) Upon Reflection

Part Two: The Classroom

5) Craft Lessons

  • One: Beware the So-What? Pretty Picture
  • Two: Consider the Point of View
  • Three: Capture Arresting Detail
  • Four: Bring Something Strong
  • Five: Create Tension
  • Six: Play with Foreground and Background
  • Seven: Take a Wide Perspective
  • Eight: Zoom in Close
  • Nine: Create the Right Mood
  • Ten: Include an Extra Element
  • Eleven: Embrace Surprise
  • Twelve: Show Motion
  • Thirteen: Draw in the Viewer
  • Fourteen: Use Gesture to Reveal Character
  • Fifteen: Tell the Truth

6) What’s Happening in This Photograph?

7) Photographing to Learn

8) How Photographs Spark Writing (or Do They?)

9) Double Exposure: Ralph Talks to Ralph



"Focus Lessons is one of the most interesting and best-written books on the teaching of writing I’ve read in years. I love how Ralph Fletcher shows us the connections between the craft of photography and the craft of writing, and how we can use photography to enhance how we teach writing to students of all ages. (And getting to see Ralph’s stunning photos is a special bonus!)"

—Carl Anderson, author of A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences 

"In this age of visual literacy, Ralph’s new book is perfect. Ralph connects photography to writing in a way that helps teachers see the power in both words and images. He helps us see the possibilities that this natural connection gives us and encourages us to invite each student to explore the world as photographers and writers."

—Franki Sibberson, teacher, coauthor of Still Learning to Read

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Email if you would like to contact Ralph Fletcher directly about professional development support.