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Come Flaneur with Me! by Sue Rounds


I ran across this term on Twitter and I was intrigued.

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What is a flaneur?

For creative purposes, flaneurs use photos to chronicle interesting and beautiful places in their travels around the world. The hashtag #flaneur on Twitter shows endless photographs documenting streets, artwork, and many other sights. A quick google search reveals articles, magazines, and other hits with similar quests.

While exploring the hashtag, I saw a single entry about a “Flaneur Journal.” The lightbulb went off! I ran (okay—drove) to Staples and purchased a new notebook and started writing.

Using the idea of stories in photographic art, I made a habit of taking a photo (often imperfect) of something during my day. I printed the photo, taped it into my “Flaneur Journal,” and wrote!

Sometimes, writing about a picture gave me an idea for a WIP (work in progress) and other times it evoked a memory or a story to share with my students.

I spent the summer using photographs to stimulate my own writing and thinking.

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Well, hello there!

When school returned in the fall, I brought my Flaneur Journal into my classroom. I turned my journal entries into narratives and nonfiction to demonstrate the writing process for my students. I shared stories about my summer and showed the kids how this journal had turned into a regular writing habit for me.

I thought my Flaneur Journal might motivate my students to write. Kids love taking photos. In our techie world, taking photos of everything in sight is second nature to them!

I found a new mission: to turn the idea of a Flaneur Journal into something that my students could use to build their own writing habits.

I’m not a big fan of writing prompts. A photo, though, taken by the writer, can help maintain the choice I work so hard to preserve in my students’ writing.

This spawned a flurry of requests for iPads at recess so students could capture moments to add to their Flaneur Journals. My students eagerly looked for things to photograph, ponder, and write about.

They wrote about the perfectly straight line of ants that started at the classroom door and trailed around the rug to the spot where snack had fallen. They documented a safety issue on the playground. They even wrote about the snake that wandered into a book bin one warm October afternoon!

Walking, biking, riding in the car--my eyes always search for an image to capture. In keeping a Flaneur Journal, I notice details around me that I may not notice otherwise. And sometimes, the photos (and backgrounds) surprise me!

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An unexpected discovery!

As adults