Thursday, March 15, 2012

Using Images in the Classroom

Rather than work on my senior paper today (lack of motivation is the result of assigning an activity, rather than letting the student have full responsibility over her own education), I discovered Yes! Magazine and spent hours pouring through the website. Although it's aimed towards adults and children older than elementary-age, it fits greatly with my Pledge to Guide Today's Students, discussing topics from peace and justice, the environment, happiness, and activism. There's even a section for teachers that includes lesson plans!

The lesson plans on Y!M follow a specific format. They begin by showing the students an image, usually ambiguous one, such as a unique macro or perspective. Step two is to ask the students to use their observation skills to note what they see and their inference skills to try to figure out what the image is or what is occurring. Third, the teacher asks what questions the students might be thinking about what is happening in the picture. Fourth, she tells the children the title of the image (which usually answers the questions about what the picture is about) and reads some background information about it, which leads into a discussion. Finally, the students are allowed to investigate more through extension activities.

Along similar lines, I've been collecting images online, mostly from National Geographic's Photography site, to use in the classroom. I had planned to use them as journal prompts, asking the children to either write what they think is going on, make up a story to go along with the picture, write what the story makes them think of, or anything else, really. Anything the students want to write would be acceptable.

I like my idea of using the images as journal prompts, but the Y!M method of teaching through images is wonderful as well. It's better in some ways, allowing the students to use observation and inference, as well as grabbing the students' attention, setting the stage for an important lesson, and using real-world situations to teach. However, it doesn't call for the creativity that's involved in writing from the students' own minds or producing an original, inspired work of art.

Both methods are perfect for my classroom, and it will depend on the situation and particular image as to which is more appropriate. I can use the Y!M's method when there's a powerful image I want to use to make a specific point and still use the journal prompt / creative writing method when there's a powerful image that conjures emotions or lends itself to stories. In other words, I can use images for the sake of photo journalism or for the sake of aestheticism.

Edit 08/17/2014: Here's an article from Edutopia that came across my Facebook feed. Someone else commented with this website, which isn't strictly related, but still interesting.