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5 Fantastic Photos: Using the Camera in the Classroom

By Meghan Everette on September 12, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

If pictures are worth a thousand words, smiling student photos must be priceless. Digital cameras, tablets, and even document cameras have made capturing classroom moments quick, easy, and economical. Break out the battery packs and use photography for more than just the holiday card in your classroom this year.


Make a Home Connection

Most parents have only experienced school as a student. Teaching is ever-evolving and is very different from the classrooms of the past. Students are encouraged to collaborate and objectives are taught through conceptual learning instead of skill and drill. Let parents inside the walls of your classroom with pictures and video that show exactly what happens in your room. Parents can see the morning routine, watch a math game played in class, or just see their smiling child working happily. Sharing moments like this opens up the conversation with parents and lets them feel confident their child is happy and cared for at school.

Get Social

Once you have these photos and videos, where should they go? I post photos to my private Facebook group. I created a totally separate profile, so that no information would be shared, and then created a private group for my class within that profile. I set the controls so I have to approve every comment and photo tag. Parents are able to see pictures of their children interacting in class, having snack time, or celebrating classroom accomplishments. If you want to limit comments even more, post photos to a private website or blog. Sites like TeacherWeb.com offer pre-formatted sites for under $50 a year. If online posting won’t work for you, add pictures to your newsletters or parent notes. Even mundane updates become interesting when families are on the lookout for photos.


Deck the Halls

Photos in the hallway and on bulletin boards add interest. Students suddenly become aware of the information hanging around them. Parents will stop to look at student work in the halls. Take pictures of students creating work in class and hang the photos alongside the finished product. Let kids take home delicate projects, but take photos of them holding their work first. Put a small photo of each child at the bottom of their writing to identify the author. Even a plain doorway comes alive with photos of each child. Take one good, plain head shot of each child and save the file once. You’ll be able to use it again throughout the year!


Students as Teachers

Common Core and modern classrooms call for teachers to work as the facilitator, allowing students to take ownership of their learning. Photography can be a great way for students to share their work and stories with others. Older students might take photos outside of school that illustrate their personal writing or show science and math in the real world. Even very young students can capture photos with digital cameras and iPads. Let students search for geometric shapes in the classroom and capture them in photos. Hook up your device to the computer and share findings with the entire class. Have students film one another playing a learning game or completing a problem. Let students narrate the video, or add photos to a simple slideshow, like those on Smilebox, to display.


Curriculum Boost

Photos are a fun way to supercharge student engagement. Take photos of everyday scenes in your school and allow young students to practice writing captions for each picture. Let older students infer emotions or cause and effect relationships using pictures from around the school. Use a camera to make an easy time-lapse slide show of the class plant growing. Incorporate photojournalism to get students writing about the world in a factual way. Students in kindergarten learning about themselves to students in high school learning about the stages of development can match baby pictures with current appearances and learn. The possibilities for lessons are endless, but every time you pull out the camera, you also will draw students into the lesson.

Many schools ask for permission to photograph and video students universally, but you might want to take the extra precaution of getting a photo release from families before getting snap-happy. Photography and simple video can be an invaluable learning tool in the classroom. Make positive connections with parents and engage learners at every age and ability level just by taking a few snapshots. Say, “Cheese!”

What ways are you using photography in the classroom? What lessons could use a boost by incorporating pictures? Share your ideas!




Comments (13)

Wonderful ideas. I take pictures of my students each month and then at the end of the year they write why the picture was taken and we glue the picture in a MY JOURNAL book with their added writing. It is a keep sake for 2nd grade. I seem to take a lot of pictures of them in hats we make.

I've learned that kids don't remember and the pictures help bring back memories and classmates names.

That's a great idea. I've never made a full yearbook from mine, but I was thinking I'd try doing it this year. Having them add the writing is an awesome idea. Both my boys had teachers make them a scrapbook from their K3 and K4 years, which they still love going back to and seeing old classmates.

Thanks for sharing!

Having kids work cooperatively to do books about simple things--Alphabet books, opposites, rhyming word books, Number books--the kids get so creative with these projects. We make the books up and give them to first grade classroom--the little kids love the books. My student "photogs" include a picture of themselves up front in the book--so that they are remembered as the creator of the book.

That's a great idea. I love the idea of class books. I wonder if my kids could do the alphabet photos that are so popular (taking photos of letters in the neighborhood or school). It might be really neat!

We also use Shutterfly for classroom websites. It's FREE and the parents love it!

I take pictures of kids sitting, leaning against the wall and pose them to look like they are hanging. Then I crop the pictures so there is no background. I then hang the kids in their various poses around the window of my classroom door. Some kids look like are sitting on top of the window, others are hanging from the bottom of the window. The others are leaning against it on both sides. Then I make a sign..."Just Hanging Out in Mrs. R's Class". It is a big hit with the students and the parents! I have also printed out "Welcome to Second Grade" (one letter on a page) and given a letter to each child. Then I take a picture of each child with their letter. I crop the kids out and put them letters together to spell "Welcome to Second Grade". It looks great!

That's super cute. I've seen some where you draw with sidewalk chalk on the ground and position the kid with the drawing. This actually sounds much easier! Thanks for sharing!

In love with all of it!! I'm a student teacher this semester and am getting ready to take the reins, so to speak, for a writer's workshop unit. Sadly, so far, little has been done to empower students, inculcate ownership of learning , support identity or engender community. Will definitely start out the first week with a "What are you reading?" photo wall! Thanks.

Good luck to you! We need student teachers that are enthusiastic and ready to take on new projects. "What are you reading?" works so well for any age. Little ones can do just the picture and title, older ones can write little reviews. It's a fun activity for sure. Keep your head up :) Student teaching is tough!

We use cameras when ever we go on field trips and then kids create brochures, quizzes and other things to display their learning. We often send a copy of our brochures back to the places we have visited. We have also used cameras to create scavenger hunts around our school building.

Fun! I've done the scavenger hunt with photos during the writing fair. I take the pictures and the kids look for the spots they were taken. I've done it the other way too; when we learned about angles, the kids went and took pictures on the playground of the different angles they found. I love the idea of sending the brochures back to where you visited! I'll have to try that!

Good ideas. I like the idea of using a video of them in math. You could show it back to the whole group too.

Great idea -- showing them what another group is doing would be so much easier than explaining it. They do love watching themselves!

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