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March 29, 2017

Using Photography in the Classroom: Lesson Ideas for Elementary and Middle School

Written By: Brandi Jordan
How to Use Photography in Lessons

Using Photography in the Classroom

There is no denying that we are living in the digital age and now, more than ever, students are exposed to images from around the world in almost real-time.  Figuring out how to integrate those images into lessons while still meeting standards can be difficult.  The ideas below are practical ways to introduce students to photography and encourage them to use it in their work.

How to Use Photography in the Classroom

Writing and Language Arts

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes.  For your students, a picture can be an excellent jump start for journal writing, poetry, and other creative writing.  Select a picture and cover part of it to encourage students to think outside of the frame and figure out what the picture is.  Have them defend their position about the picture’s contents in a persuasive essay.  Reveal the entire photo at the end of the week to see who got it right  Photographs can also open a whole new world of vocabulary words with their content.  Capitalize on the images to draw as many new vocabulary and descriptive words from the photos as you can.



Perspective and scale are hard to understand sometimes, but when you give a student a digital camera and have them photograph a tree across the playground and then close up, it becomes easier to understand.  Have students measure the distance between the two perspectives and talk about the perceived height of the tree based on where each photograph was taken.  You can also introduce lighting and shadow using photography to create a real-world lesson.  Refraction and reflection can also be explored in a way that will interest students and make sense to them.


Social Studies

Compare and contrast cultures using photographs from different countries.  If you are studying a specific country or time period, collect pictures from that place and era for a unique look back at what the area looked like.  For a study on the United States, compare and contrast different regions and landforms while discussing that they are all part of the same country.  Seek out similarities in cultures to help students understand that the human race is much more alike than not.


Lessons using photographs can also be incorporated into lessons on advocacy and change, community, and more using movie making software, slideshows, and even a student photography show.  iPhoto and iMovie are particularly useful tools on Apple based products.  Other photo storage and organization sites, such as Snapfish, can also offer photo editing options.  Let your students be creative with their photographs and rally around causes, such as advocating for a new playground or collecting books for the school library.  Not only will they enjoy the lessons and the use of technology, but you will be able to incorporate everything from persuasive writing to flow charts in the lessons.


Photo Resources

Find images of just about anything using the resources below.  Remember to preview the pages and search results before showing them to your class.  If the sites are banned at your school, print out the image or save it to a memory stick to use in class.

How to Use Photography in Lessons

What are some of your favorite ways to use images in the classroom?  Share them with us below!

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