Curriculum Integration – Photography


I am continuing my work on the photography unit I’ll be doing with second graders at Davis Magnet IB World School. I introduced this in two previous posts: first, here, and then, here. Today, I’ll discuss how I prepared my introductory workshop for students. First, the team and I talked about the nuts and bolts: I will be working with two classes, totaling 49 students. We decided that the introductory workshop will take place in the auditorium and I’ll do four 45-minute sessions — during each time slot, half the class and the classroom teacher will join me in the auditorium and half the class will remain in the classroom with a teaching assistant.

In order to put together my talk, I had to make some broad decisions. First, as we talked as a team, we realized that my primary goal is not to teach the students photography, but to equip them to use photography as a tool to help them learn about the school’s neighborhood. It helps to keep focused on the central idea: “Individuals and groups work together to build and maintain a neighborhood.”

The second helpful step was to review the visual arts curriculum objectives for the unit. I had pulled these objectives from the Mississippi Department of Education’s Visual Arts Curriculum. For artists who don’t have experience in elementary school classrooms, these objectives are a wonderful resource. In particular, they help with making sure the material is at the right level. For example:

5a. Identify art that tells stories and expresses ideas and feelings.

5b. Know ways that artwork and design communicate ideas, actions, and emotions.

2b. Identify foreground, background, and middle ground in a work of art.

2e. Recognize dominant elements of art in art work. (line, shape, color, texture, form, pattern.)

So, in my talk I will introduce myself as an artist; and then as a photographer. I will tell them why I take photographs (i.e. what I want to communicate and what I want to learn). I will then introduce the photography of Roland Freeman. Together we will look at and analyze some of his documentary photographs. My talk is peppered with questions for the students. They will get up from their seats to examine the photographs; they will listen to my observations, but they will also make their own.

In addition to my talk, I developed two activities: one we will do in the auditorium and one will be done in the classroom. The first is a cutline matching activity. I will read the cutlines and the students will try to identify the photograph that it belongs with. I want the students to understand that photographers also use text to communicate. We will talk about how the photographer collected the information in the cutline. (I created a one-page sheet of thumbnail versions of the Roland Freeman photographs we’ll be talking about so students can continue to refer to them in the classroom: they will be writing about them in journals.)
The second activity is a simple one that will get students thinking about framing. Students will use paper, a pencil, and a ruler to make a frame. The teaching assistant will supervise this activity in the classroom.

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