Photographs as a Teaching Tool


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“What do you see?”

“What makes you say that?”

“Who do you think they are?”

“What are they doing in the photograph?”

“Write down what the person is thinking in the photograph.”

“What might they be thinking but would never say?”

*   *   *   *

Historian and author, David McCullough was asked in an interview, “If you could give teachers one piece of advice, what would it be?”  His response was, “use pictures when teaching history.”  Whatever your content area, images and pictures are vital to students’ learning and deeper understanding.

Using photographs in your classroom repertoire help students synthesize, infer, connect, evaluate, understand point of view, rethink and revise.

Here are a few different activities to make using photographs more meaningful.

1. Photo Reveal – Cover photographs with sticky notes and reveal one sticky note at a time.  Students focus on the details and predict what the story of the photo will reveal.  Students write down observations of what they see looking closely at the details of the images to uncover the story in the photograph.

2. Photo Scavenger Hunt – At the beginning of a unit of study I offer my students a basket filled with images and I ask students to choose the pictures that capture their attention.  On sticky notes students catalogue observations and questions.  In small groups students share the images they have collected and begin creating categories for the photos.

3. Image Gallery Walk – Leave pictures on student desks with a blank sheet of paper.  Students to go around and leave responses of what they see, notice, think, and wonder.

5. Become the Person in the Picture – Have students volunteer to create a tableau (frozen picture) that mirrors the photograph and then have the picture come to life.  Students have to go beyond the literal image and infer a scene that conveys the story presented in the picture. Students can do this as an improvisation or write out the scene in their journal.

6. Compare and Contrast two images.  Students might look at the pictures in different ways when two images are presented next to each other.

7. Photo Connections – After the reading a text, students select a photograph that best supports the reading.  In their journals, students write additional details to support and extend the ideas presented in the text.

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