One of the cornerstones in my classroom surrounding literacy has the do multi modality. Basically, I believe that students need to be able to create and comprehend messages in many different symbol systems. While high level alphabetic literacy is increasingly more important, I also believe that students need to be able to create and understand messages using photos, videos, animations, etc.
For this reason, as the school year winds down, I had the students in my class working on a set of assignments that looks at images. We read, we looked and watched, we took our own photos and edited them and then took some time to reflect on that process. I thought I would share it all here in the hope that you can use pieces of it.
Step 1 – We talked in class about images, cameras, videos, apps, hardware and software. We rambled through facebook, instagram, SLR cameras and ipods. We talked internet safety and photos in old shoe boxes that their parents have.
Step 2 – We watched a few videos from Youtube about Photoshop and photo editing in general. This few minutes called Photoshop: the Perfect Lie was interesting.
I always love this Dove commercial and it never ceases to amaze kids:
We also watched this piece by McDonalds on how they make their food look good for commercials:
We talked about the effects of the media on our self image and the dangers of things like Photoshopping ads. I forced the kids to take a stand (literally, line up in order of how serious / concerned you are about the issue) and then defend their position against those around them. Want teenagers interested, get them to argue with those around them.
Step 3 – The next piece that we did was a written assignment. We use Google docs a lot in my classroom and this time is no exception. I made up this assignment and then shared a copy with each of the kids in my class. They simply made a copy of it into their own Google Drive account, completed it and shared it back with me for grading. This assignment involved several pieces of reading, a few questions and the kids having to look through galleries of photos others have classified as “classic” or powerful and comment on them.
Step 4 – I also wanted the kids in my class to create and edit photos of their own. We headed out on several warm afternoons to take photos around the community. The kids used Pixlr to edit them and complete this assignment. I like Pixlr. There are a number of online photo editors, but I like the fact that there are different levels of complexity with this tool and that kids can dig into it in different ways depending on the skill level they gain as we work our way through a set of lessons and tutorials in the classroom.
As part of this learning process, I had all of the students first edit a couple of different photos of my choice. I’m not usually into this kind of “do what I do assignment,” but it was interesting in this case. For example, I had all of the kids edit a photo of an old car that they found at a garage across the street from the school. I had them complete this so they could see that different things can be done with a single picture to achieve different effects.
In the end, the students took several hundred photos, shared them in a common local network folder and then worked on editing the photos they wanted (no matter if they actually took the photograph or not) and then uploaded the finished product to our Flickr account writing a description beneath the photo telling how it was edited and what they were trying to achieve.
Step 5 – The final step in this assignment was another written assignment where I wanted the students to reflect on what they had been working through over the past several weeks. That assignment is available here.
Overall, this entire set of assignments worked well in the classroom. Next time I am going to be looking for a few different essays for the students to read for the beginning assignment as some of the students (remember, I teach grade 7 /8) found the readings tough to do.
As always with my stuff, take what you want, modify it and use it in your own classroom. Everything is posted here in the hope that someone else can make use of it.