technology · writer's notebook

Instagram Can Help Treat Writer’s Block

There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day. –Alexander Woollcott

Last month, I noticed there was a classroom-related technology article being pinned all over Pinterest last month The We Are Teachers Blog published “10 Ways to Use Instagram in the Classroom,” which included some fantastic tips for integrating this beloved app into the classroom. The ninth idea was “Discover ideas for writing. Tap an ‘inspiration fairy’ to take ten photos that could serve as a prompt for writing—an empty bird’s nest, a For Sale sign and a broken doll, for instance.

Click on the image to enlarge OR view my Instagram profile,
Click on the image to enlarge OR view my Instagram profile,

This brought me back to my classroom days when I had my students keeping “Things I Can Write About” Lists in their writer’s notebooks. (My students used to keep these lists in the back of their writer’s notebooks. Every night they were encouraged to add 2 – 3 new items on to their list so they’d have possibilities they could write about if they ever got stuck when they were sitting down to write at home. ) What if students, many of whom use Instagram, began to utilize Instagram in an additional way. What if they snapped a photo of something they could write about later and posted it to their Instagram account? Then, when they needed something to write about, they could return their Instagram page, look through the pictures, and then pick one of the things to write about.

I decided to try this idea out myself. I started using Instagram again since I stopped during that whole Terms of Service debacle last year. Earlier this month, I began snapping pictures on-the-go, whenever I didn’t have something to write with and/or TIME, on-hand. I began snapping photos of anything I wanted to go back to and write about. There were some predictable shots (e.g., Isabelle playing with her water table, my favorite ice cream treat) and images of moments I wanted to savor (e.g., sipping iced tea at a sidewalk cafe in Morningside Heights, the first night my daughter slept through the night in a big girl bed). I took pictures of things that will turn into funny family stories (e.g., the lineup of figurines Isabelle made in our dining room, the peanut butter that always lands up in the fridge at my parents’ house). This past Sunday I snapped photos of a singular event, which I used to bookend a slice of life story I wrote earlier this week that taught me a lesson about parenting and a lesson about cooking.

While I don’t intend to use Instagram as a place where I will share family photos, I have enjoyed using it to capture things I can write about. (And besides, it’s fun making up hashtags, some of which I will use when I write “long” about the photo I captured.) I’m going to continue to use Instagram as a place to curate the things I write more about.

Worried about your students using Instagram? If so, I’ll leave you with this thought from Cornelius Minor, a staff developer from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which can be applied to Instagram as well as all forms of technology.

“We’re the profession that teaches kids to use scissors safely. We can teach kids to use phones and iPads safely.”

6 thoughts on “Instagram Can Help Treat Writer’s Block

  1. What a great idea. I can even imagine how I might use this with my teachers to get them to write stories about life in their classrooms. I am hoping to encourage more observational writing as part of our assessment process this year.


  2. You’ve just given me an idea for next week! It’s no wonder I love you guys. Wander by on a Saturday morning and come up with a lesson plan! had to share the quote on Twitter, by the way. I love it!


  3. Love that you included Cornelius’ awesome quote – so very true! This is a great idea, Stacey. Creating an album like this is a wonderful way for our kids to build an idea bank to dip into for writing. I may even try it!


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