Friday, June 17, 2016

Using Photographs in the Classroom

I have always been a photographer. We went swimming at a public pool every day of the summer growing up. One day parents asked me at age 6 to take a photo of them-it came out perfectly centered, perfect lighting, I was a natural. My sister was not struck with the same talent, when she took the same pic-hers was also perfect centered-- she got the pair of shoes on the corner of the blanket-she has never lived that down! :)

Because this was an interest of mine, I took a wonderful class in high school where we got to take pictures and actually develop them ourselves. I still have a black and white pic of my cat that I took for that class. Around the same time a relative of mine took me to NYC to visit artist friends of hers. He took this pic of me in a graveyard (it became part of his exhibit! :).  I know it's hard to see because I had to take a picture of the picture--but it was very exciting.

It also sparked in me an interest in photography. There was actually a time I considered becoming a professional photographer. I am a big fan of people like Ansel Adams whose pictures have become art. I am in awe of the feelings and moments some photographers can capture.

So it seems only natural that I would use photos in the classroom! They can be great for so many different activities. I do a warm-up in the morning with poems/songs for fluency and then we view several different photos. I literally have over 2,000 photos that I've saved over the years in powerpoint slideshows. I am so thankful to have a smartboard now because I used to have to print them out each day to use them!

Here are some ways I use photographs in the classroom.

1) to use Unanswered Questions-what don't we know about this picture. So for this pic, I would expect them to ask things like--

What is the relationship between these two people?
Who ended up winning the game?
Was the little boy mad if the man beat him?
Do they play other games together?
Was the man happy or was he worried about the boy?

2) Making inferences-what happened right before this picture? What will happen after?

3) Where is this? My students may only be in Kinder but they are familiar with the names of other states, other countries primarily because we do this. If it's a picture with snow-do you think this is Texas? Is it Hawaii? Where do you think it is? Is it in America-can you see writing in a different language, do they dress the same way we do?

4) Global Learning-comparing cultures. My favorite pics to share with them are children doing the same things they do! We can discuss the similarities and differences.

5) Storytelling-either in writing or as a whole group activity. I show them the picture and ask them to tell me the story. One day there was a .....

6) Vocabulary-oral language development-use adjectives to describe the pictures. Speaking in full sentences to describe. Adding in the who, what, where, why. We also make up titles for the pictures so they start to do that orally before we actually begin to write stories.

You can even incorporate it into math! I do Unanswered Questions-but thinking like a mathematician. So it's not necessarily about answering the questions (although the ones we can we do), but what can you ask math-wise.

Estimate about how many houses are there?
What is the pattern?
What shapes do you see?
What do you think the temperature is?

Is this a growing pattern?
What would the next thing be in the pattern?
How many cars are there?
If there are 4 on one side and 4 on the other, how many altogether?

It's a quick way to incorporate some objectives that a lot of students have difficulty with.


  1. These are excellent ideas. A workshop I took this summer encouraged questions to help kids know how to ask questions.

  2. That sounds like a workshop I would definitely enjoy!