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How Baby Pictures Can Help Writers

posted: 9.16.09 by Traci Gardner

I’m not very good at perspective. I never think my latest draft is good enough. Every time I skim through, I doubt I’ve made any progress.

It’s hard to see any substantial changes when we’re deep in the writing process. That’s where baby pictures can make all the difference. No, not pictures of actual babies. Baby pictures of the texts we’re working on.

Here’s an example. Take a look at How 20 popular Web sites looked when they launched. The article includes baby pictures of the most popular sites on the Internet. You’re bound to notice some significant changes when you think about the sites as they exist today. Google looks similar to the site of today, but Facebook, MySpace, and Yahoo look nothing like today’s version. A comparison of past and present versions quickly demonstrates how much they’ve evolved.

You can easily arrange a similar comparison for the writers you teach. Early in their composing process, ask students to capture a photographic version of their work:

  • Save a first draft by printing out an extra copy or making a photocopy.
  • Have students take a snapshot of the first part of their texts with a webcam.
  • Take a screenshot of the work on the computer.
  • Snap an image with a cell phone or other available camera.

Next, save these baby pictures for later in the process. You can collect paper versions or have students submit files online. If you want, students might even share these first photographic images with one another and reflect a bit on their process so far.

Later in their composing process, explore websites from the Telegraph article and then ask students to make similar comparisons between the baby pictures of their work and their current versions. They’re bound to realize that they’ve made much more progress than they thinkā€”and gain some great perspective on themselves as writers.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Drafting, Revising, Writing Process
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