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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!