This guest post comes to us from Sherry Levitt of the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources â€“ Northern Virginia Program.
Teachers agree that ease and fluency in writing come with frequent practice for a variety of purposes, whether making personal connections, analyzing information or constructing an answer to a document-based question.
One way to incorporate more writing in the classroom is to create assignments using high-impact primary source images from the Library of Congress.Â Â Their real-world authenticity can rivet studentsâ€™ attention, spark inquiry and draw them into a writing topic or task.
To begin, find images that relate to the particular lesson, skill or curricular objective.Â Whatever the assignment, millions of images are readily available from the Libraryâ€™s digital collections and from the Teachers Page. For prompts and questions to focus and guide students, use the teacherâ€™s guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints.Â (Other versions are specifically adapted forÂ maps, manuscripts, political cartoons, and sheet music.)
Even very young students can talk through the basic steps of inquiry:Â observing and questioning before writing down their ideas.
- Without looking atÂ the bibliographic information for this 1917 photograph, what would your students write when asked to observe, connect with and question?
- What hypotheses or predictions would they make?
- What new thoughts and questions would they have when presented with more information?
Consider the purpose of the writing task.Â Do you want students to inform, persuade, describe or tell a story?Â Free-write to capture random thoughts?Â Do you want them to develop an argument, categorize, evaluate, discuss, research, explore, compare/contrast, or formulate a hypothesis? Perhaps you want to discover the extent of their background knowledge or present them with a formative or summative assessment?
Primary source-based writing prompts can stimulate creative and critical thinking while also helping students master content. By offering a choice of images and a variety of questions and outcomes, you can differentiate for ability levels and learning styles.Â For more complex writing tasks such as a document-based question or analysis, choose several images that represent different viewpoints and have students evaluate the primary sources, formulate a question and construct an argument.
How have you used images to help students build writing fluency?