Storytelling with a Photo

In this activity, students carefully examine a photograph that is culturally authentic and has an emotional element. Then, they answer questions that encourage them to make up a story and character backgrounds about the photo. Finally, they write an original story.


  1. Teacher shows a photo to the class and allows time for students to think about it.

  2. Teacher then conducts a question/answer session guiding students to think critically about the photo.

  3. Students fill in a graphic organizer to document their thoughts.

  4. Students write a draft story about the photo. They share the story with a classmate for feedback. Both the writer and the partner use the teacher created rubric when giving descriptive feedback.

  5. After incorporating their classmates’ feedback, students confer with the teacher who discusses their work and gives additional descriptive and actionable feedback.

  6. Students revise their stories and turn them in for their teacher to review.

  7. The teacher considers both the draft and the final versions of the story looking for ways that the students used the feedback they received.

Helpful Tips

  1. Ensure that the photos are authentic and have an emotional element.

  2. For students who need support, provide written questions and/or language frames to guide their stories.

  3. Based on the age, availability of technology and the target language, the teacher may consider having students type one or both of the drafts and use an electronic tool (ex. Google Docs) to provide feedback instead of writing and editing by hand.

  4. If this is a graded assignment, it might be ideal to base the students’ grades on the improvements made from the draft to the final story.

  5. The teacher may choose to model by providing a sample story about a different photo along with the rubric so that students have a clear idea of the expectations for their work.

  6. The teacher may choose to provide more than one photo so that students have a choice of topics.


  1. Authentic images including an emotional element

  2. Questions to promote students’ critical thinking such as the following examples:

    • Describe what you see in this picture.
    • What are these people doing and why?
    • What do you think they are feeling?
    • Where are they?
  3. Graphic organizer for students to use as they brainstorm their original stories.

  4. Rubric written in student-friendly language that explains the teacher’s expectations for the original story.