A story is a picture in words

It’s the end of the year and a few of my classes have finished their books and won’t start anything new until January. So I’ve had a few lessons to play with and I decided to share one of my favorite short stories with my students.

This is a story by Kevin Stein that is titled “For One Picture.” It is the story of a girl who, in spite of her mother’s misgivings, sets off on a motorcycle with her camera promising to come back when has has found a perfect picture. Throughout the story, the girl sends her mother pictures she has taken and her mother begins to understand her daughter’s vocation, hoping, in the end, that the world really is full of beauty and feeling amazed that her own daughter is a person who can find it and capture it.

I hope you will read the story yourself because, even though I’ve already summarized it, the beauty really is in the way it is told.

I wanted to share a few things I have done with this story this week.

For my 13 year olds, I read the story to them. While they listened, they drew pictures that illustrated the story.

by Emily

by Emily


I read it again for them to fill in the gaps. They took their pictures home and rewrote the story based on their pictures.

by Lorraine

by Lorraine

A few of them chose to retell the story orally, and actually those were the most complete tellings. They ended by writing letters to the author. (And so that the author need not panic, I will say now that I have told them not to expect answers.)

2014-12-31 11.05.00

For my 15 year olds, I gave them the story first and let them read on their own. They were most interested in the photographs described in the story and we discussed the beauty that can be found in unexpected places. They took the paper home and chose a picture to write about. They invented short scenarios about the picture they chose. These led to further interesting discussions, especially where they told different stories about the same pictures.

by Alfred

by Alfred

by Chris

by Chris

by George

by George

by Nina

by Nina

by Dian

by Dian

All work shown here is shared with the permission of the respective students. 

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  • kevchanwow  On December 31, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Wow. I’m wordless. This was perhaps the most unexpected and best gift I could have possibly received. The thought that you have put into your lessons using the materials I produced, and the passion your students have shared with those same materials…just thank you so much.

    If you send me copies of your student letters to me, I will be happy to answer each and every one. And please tell Dana, Jenny, Sooah, and Yubin that I am humbled by their comments. I do not have any other story quite like this one. Although I think all the stories I write are somehow about loss, growing up, and finding new things. But I would love to read more stories about this wandering girl and her camera and if you or any other students in your class send them to me, perhaps we can find a way to publish them together.

    Most Sincerely,

    Kevin Stein

    • livinglearning  On January 1, 2015 at 12:22 am

      Happy New Year, my friend. Thank YOU for your stories which inspire me and my students. You know yourself how hard it is to win teenagers over, but they are so impressed that I know someone so talented.

  • annloseva  On January 6, 2015 at 5:50 am

    This is just wonderful. There’s only one teenager that I teach and I second your thought in the comment above – the fact of me knowing someone so talented (an actual writer!) is mind-blowing for her. We’ve done most of Kevin’s stories, plus after a few stories she wrote questions, or her own view of how story would develop (this one in particular!)… and we emailed them to Kevin. Who, kind as his nature is, actually replied. So there was correspondence between this one teenage girl and this one writer I happen to be soo lucky to know, and know the email of =)))

    I will take this blog post and your students’ summaries in my class with that girl! Thank you!!

    • livinglearning  On January 6, 2015 at 9:47 am

      How cool it is to actually be able to facilitate interaction between our students and the materials they are using and the writer of the materials (and to be considered extra cool for doing it!). I would love to hear more about how you used the stories with your student.


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