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Snapshots Writing Strategy

Context for this Lesson


Focus Questions: 

  • What is a snapshot?
  • How can we use image work to create "snapshots" in our writing? 


Have you ever heard the statement “a picture is worth a thousand words?”

  • What do you think that statement means?
  • What kind of person might say a statement like that?

Sharing Information

As writers, we paint our pictures with words. When a writer uses words to zoom in or expand out and create an image in the reader’s imagination, they are using a strategy called snapshot. Today, we are going to look at and create some images to help us zoom in on our writing and expand it out to find more details.



I have a mysterious picture I found in my files and I would like to share it with you. I’m not sure exactly what’s happening in the picture and I was wondering if you could give me some help figuring out what the story might be? (Share images and scribe answers as students come up with them.)

• Describe what you see?

• Zoom in on a particular part of the picture, what do you think might be happening?

• What types of words have we been using to describe the picture?

Write a brief snapshot

Using some of the words and ideas we brainstormed together, I would like you to write a snapshot (2 -3 sentences) about one area of the picture. Use your words to really zoom in on that part of the picture. You can even invent some of your own details. Things that we can’t actually see or experience just by looking at the picture.

Transition: Now, that you have some practice writing from pictures, We are going to practice zooming in and expanding out by creating some two person pictures with our bodies.

Complete the image/ I am a tree

In this activity, I am going to stand up here, create an object with my body and describe some of the details you might not be able to see. For example “I am a sad old maple tree who has lost all its leaves.” The next person will say, “Noah is a sad old maple…. And I am” You have two choices you could zoom in to add more detail about the tree and say something like “and I am the dry bark, cracking off the sides, and dripping sap” or you can expand out to be something related to the tree “and I am an energetic squirrel who has made their home in the branches.” The next person will tag out the first person and either expand or zoom in based on the second persons idea. For example “Lisa is the energetic squirrel and I am a bee buzzing nearby, landing on flower for nectar.” (Play activity with students tagging in and out and stating what they are.)

Transition: Let’s see if we can put some of these great picture making skills to use to zoom in and expand out areas of our writing.

Group Image

I have a sentence that I am working on and I want to share it with you. I was hoping you could help me come up with some ways to help bring it to life. "The kid read a book in their room."

  • What do we know from this sentence?
  • Great, I am going to have someone come up and be the kid. Where do you think they should be placed? How are they reading the book?
  • Let’s zoom in on the character in our story. What else can we add to the picture to help us really understand who this character “the kid” is and how the character may be feeling?
  • Now, let’s zoom in on the setting. What other kind of things might make up our character’s room?

(Scribe as students brainstorm ideas for the picture)

Wow, this is quite the interesting picture now. I would like for you to turn to your table partner. Work together to write a snapshot that captures all that is happening in the image we created.



  • What did we do today?
  • How is this similar or different to what writers do?
  • Where can you see doing snapshots in your writing? 
Extensions/Applications : 

Snapshots/image Work with our own writing 
Break into small groups and have the students identify a sentence from their own writing that they could expand with a snapshot. The groups will create and process images to get ideas for details to enhance their writing. 
You might have them use the following prompts on a worksheet to guide their process. 

  1. Original Sentence
  2. Zoom in on the character in your sentence. How is this character feeling? What are they doing that shows their feelings?
  3. Zoom in on the setting in your sentence. What are some other things or people you might see? What do they look like? Describe the details to help the reader imagine this place.
  4. Now, create the image using your bodies. Think about how the character feels, what they are doing, and the details in your setting.
  5. Write your new sentence or sentences with details about the character and setting.