[Mentor Text Monday] Using Photos

When I’m looking for mentor texts, I often forget to consider photos. “Reading” a photo uses some of the same skills as reading a text with words. 

One of my favorite sources for online photography is www.wprasek.com. There are a variety of categories and the photos are vibrant and rich. When I look for photos to use as mentor texts I am looking for photos that encourage questioning–that aren’t static or purely a still object.

For example,

I  will share how  I “read” the photo above using some of the same guiding questions I would use with a written text.

What do you notice?

blue skies
bathing suits
4 young-ish people
a shadow of the closest object/surface in the upper right corner
no boats or other swimmers nearby
hills or mountains at the edge of the water

What does that tell you about the photo and why?


  • The setting looks like a lake because the water is very still and the hills in the background remind me of what I’ve seen next to a lake before.
  • The weather is probably warm because the jumpers are wearing shorts and bathing suits and the sky is blue.
  • The color of the sky looks like the sky in the Spring in the places I’ve lived, which makes me think it isn’t Summer or very hot. I would have to look up more information about the color of skies and the season to be sure.
  • The kind of vegetation showing on the hills is different from the kind I see in the places I’ve lived (west coast), so I think it is further east.
Point of View
  • The photographer is below where they jumpers jumped, and next to surface the jumpers jumped from because the shadowed area at the top right was in the view of the camera.
  • I don’t think the photographer is friends with the people jumping because they aren’t waving or acknowledging the camera in any way.
  • Right before this, I imagine the jumpers were laughing and talking loudly like people do when they are excited or nervous.
  • Right after this, after the jumpers have landed in the water, I think they will come to the surface smiling and yelling.  I think they will swim towards the shore, but they might play in the water for awhile before they jump again because it probably takes a lot of energy to climb that high.
  • At first I thought these four jumpers must be very courageous, but then I realized that not all of them have to be. Sometimes there only needs to be one courageous person in a group in order for other people to try it.
  • Where are their shoes?  Did they leave them up there? Did they climb barefoot?  Did they throw them down?
  • Is the photographer a friend of theirs?
  • Are they jumping more than once?

Simply “reading” the photo is a worthy task. Using the photo as a writing prompt is equally worthy. We can take it further though:

Geography/Setting/Expository Writing:
  • In what part of the world does this photo take place? What can you use to make your determination?  How specific can you get? What is your evidence?

Narrative Writing:
  • You are the photographer.  What’s your story?
  • You are with this group. What are you thinking?
  • You are with this group and you didn’t jump. Why?  What are you thinking?

Opinion/Argument Writing:
  • You are one of the jumpers. Convince the other jumpers to jump again–even if they don’t want to. 
  • Make a true statement about this photo and prove it is true using online resources (example: prove jumping into lakes is dangerous using news articles that show injuries).
Fun, huh?

Herea re a couple more photos I love to use.

Try it out!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s