Included within Ralph Fletcher's most recent book, Focus Lessons, are fifteen individual Craft Lessons for teaching writing. Each lesson draws a parallel between the decisions that go into taking a photograph and the decisions that go into writing. In Craft Lesson 6 we are reminded to:
Play With Foreground and Background
Most people who take pictures focus on the subject to the exclusion of everything else. But it's important to consider all the elements that go into creating an image:
- Foreground: anything that lies between you and your subject
- Mid-ground: typically (though not always) where you place your subject
- Background: everything behind the subject
In our quest to get kids writing we can use their familiarity with photography as an entry point. Students can be made aware of all the decisions they are making when crafting a photo and be encouraged to apply that thinking to their writing.
This notion was covered in the podcast conversation with Fletcher (and in our opinion, is worth a listen.)
...Writing is not magical. You can get there from here, and I think that requires understanding some of the ways that language goes together to make sentences that work. I think that the same thing is true with taking pictures, that it's not just taking a snap and just getting a great picture. You've got to consider a lot of decisions. I always say to kids that writers are decision makers. You're making decisions all the time, and I think that's true in taking pictures, and I think if you really get kids to reflect, they're making decisions all the time when they're taking those pictures. Do I want to get in close, do I want to get back, do I want to angle it this way? Who's going to be in the picture? Kids are thinking about this stuff. They may not be aware that they're thinking about it, but they are thinking about it.
Learn more about Focus Lessons at Heinemann.com
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Ralph Fletcher has been a mentor to teachers and young writers everywhere. He has helped hundreds of thousands of teachers understand the importance of letting go and trusting their writers. Ralph's professional books are part of this tradition.
His newest book, Focus Lessons, helps teachers use the natural links between writing and photography to enhance their instruction. Another recent title, Joy Write, explores the value of giving students time and autonomy for the playful, low-stakes writing that leads to surprising, high-level growth.