Stories from Text Messages and Cell Phone Photographs




Lit./ELA – Writing Exercise




The lesson, including reading of student work, will require one 45 – 55 minute class period.

Common Core State (Curriculum) Standards:

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 & 10 for Writing and related standards. See CCSS pg. 41.


The following lesson offers two opportunities for students to make use of their cell phone texting or picture-taking to exercise writing skills usually taught in more traditional assignments. Teachers may want to precede this lesson with TWM’s Teaching Students to Write a Narrative.

Learner Objections/Outcomes:

Students will exercise and improve narrative-writing skills, including description and dialogue.


In these lesson plans, cell phone texting and picture function as a motivational device to interest students.


LESSON PLAN #1 — Stories from Cell Phone Text Messages



1. Prior to the planned activity, teachers should print TWM’s Cell Phone Texting Lesson Plan Handout or create their own. The handout is designed for students who do not have cell phones or do not have text messages to use for the assignments. Some students may be reluctant to reveal any information on their cell phones; the handout will be of use to them as well.

2. Tell the students that they must bring their cell phones to class on the day of the assignment. This may be contrary to the rules.

Step by Step

1. Define narrative-writing, if your class has not yet addressed the skill set associated with this genre. A narration is storytelling which relies on description to show, rather than, tell about the people and events that form the plot. Be sure they are clear that the use of dialogue is an important narrative tool.

Instructions to the students:

1. Copy onto a sheet of paper 10 of the last cell phone text messages you have received.

2. Using these messages as the dialogue that occurs in an interchange between characters, write a story that makes use of all 10 texts. No added dialogue is allowed.

3. In the narration that precedes and follows the text message, use descriptive language so that your reader can get to know the speakers, where the conversation is being held, and what is going on.

4. Use tone words to create mood and show feeling that may not be apparent in the text message but that helps shape your story.

5. Be clear about your ending. The narrative must conclude, rather than simply stop.


1. Ask students to share stories with one other member of the class.

2. Ask students if any one of them read an interesting or entertaining story and select among the responding students a few who will read the chosen stories aloud.

3. Pursue comments from students in the class about what made the stories they have heard interesting. Consider the following:

  • Were the story’s characters presented so they could be visualized?
  • Was there a well-defined place where the event in the story occurred?
  • Did the action or event in the story make sense, create a bit of drama, or did it puzzle the listeners?
  • Did conflict and resolution emerge from the dialogue?
  • Was the story nonsense, yet still fun to hear?

4. Allow the students to “grade” the stories themselves, on a scale from one to three, according to the following:

  • Score 3: Interesting story with lively characters sharing meaningful dialogue. Place and event clearly definable.
  • Score 2: Story could be followed; characters differed from one another and dialogue made sense. Place and event were vague but did not detract from the conversation.
  • Score 1: Story could barely be followed and characters seemed to talk nonsense in a place that could not be determined. Unknown event.


LESSON PLAN #2 — Stories from Cell Phone Photos



Tell the students that they must bring their cell phones to class on the day of the assignment. This may be contrary to the rules.

Step by Step

1. Define narrative-writing as above and inform students that captions, which are brief explanations printed beneath a photograph, identify a place or event, the people in the picture, and any significant information that explains the purpose in the photograph. Thus, stories are illustrated.

2. Direct students to select six of the photographs that they have saved on their cell phones and to place them in a suitable chronological order so that they can be used to tell a sequential story. The photographs may be unrelated; this allows for creativity, and though a bit more complex, may be entertaining.

Instructions to the students:

1. Look closely at the six photographs you have chosen and find a connection between the pictures. On a sheet of paper, identify the photograph through a quick drawing and a brief description of what a viewer sees. Place all six of your efforts on one page.

2. Write a story, using description, action, and dialogue that weave the images together into one coherent narrative. Children’s books often use photos or drawings for this purpose. The photographs are separated from one another by your writing and illustrate visually what the viewers are seeing.

3. Write brief captions associated with each photograph that clarify elements in your narrative.

4. Your stories may appear as a travelogue. They may be offered as evidence in a courtroom. The unfolding narrative is entirely up to you.


1. Ask students to share their drawings and the narrative with one other student. They can feel free to show the actual pictures themselves from the cell phone.

2. Ask students if they saw any interesting photographs and heard an interesting story that was created from the sequence of photos.

3. Have students whose assignments were defined as interesting from classmates to read the stories and describe the photographs to the class as a whole.

4. Students can then critique the stories and photos using the questions to consider and the three-point scale from above as their standard.