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These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop.
Students will research a subject of importance or special interest to them (e.g., a community they know or are interested in knowing about, or a local or national event or a political or social issue they care about) and use interview techniques to develop their project.
Students will create a photo essay about their subject that meets their definition of "social documentary." (See suggestions in "Steps" for modifying the lesson if students do not have access to cameras.)Cameras, film, photo paper, darkroom If no darkroom is available: Use digital or Polaroid cameras or have film developed at a commercial lab.
Aesthetic Valuing 4.1–Construct and describe plausible interpretations of what they perceive in works of art.
Grade 7 Creative Expression 2.6–Create original artwork using film, photography, computer graphics, or video.
Why is photography especially well suited for the essay format?
Students discuss topics for their photo essays and brainstorm ideas for how to visually express them.(This approach approximates the way in which photo essays were most often presented in magazines and other publications.) Students can also make accordion books in which to present their images. Fold long sheet of paper in half and crease fold with bone folder. SPEAKING AND LISTENING Comprehension and Collaboration 1.Bringing the left and right sides to the center, fold and fold in half again. Cut two pieces of cardboard 1/8 inch larger than the height and width of pages. OPTIONAL: Cut two pieces of colored or patterned paper or cloth 1½ inches larger on all sides than the height and width of cover board. Spread glue stick over one entire side of one cover board. Center glued side of board on paper/cloth cover and press down firmly. Cut corners of the cover at a diagonal but don't make cuts closer than 1/4 inch from the corners of board. Glue and fold edge of cover material around corners of board. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.Materials for presenting photographs: 16-x-20-inch paper or board for mounting and displaying photographs with captions or materials for accordion books—good-quality, heavy-weight paper eight times as long as it is wide (for a nine-page book, paper should be nine times as long, etc.); two pieces of cardboard, foam core, or other paper board for book covers; rulers; scissors; glue sticks; and tools for scoring and folding (e.g., a bone folder). What sort of response do you think the photographer wanted you to have? What details in the photograph help to tell the story? What group, event, issue, or community is shown? Homework: Each student researches the term "social documentary" and drafts a definition.Students also brainstorm interview questions for individuals they may photograph as part of the project.Homework: Students continue researching their topic and then write a one-page plan summarizing the key story they hope to tell in their photo essay and strategies for doing so, keeping in mind their definition of "social documentary." Day 4 (Homework or class time): Students shoot one roll of film for their photo essay.During photo shoot, students interview their subjects and record responses.If cameras are not available, students collect existing images representing their topic from the Internet, newspapers, magazines, and other sources, or they make a series of drawings from observation or based on sources described above. Spread glue stick on back of photos and texts and attach to pages. Technical: careful framing, detail, clarity, contrast are evident in proof sheets and enlargements; careful craftsmanship evident in presentation of photographs and written captions. Students will define "social documentary" and consider the function of social-documentary photography. Students will research one or more of Dorothea Lange's social-documentary projects.