Photography Lesson Plan: Documenting Learning with Digital Cameras

Submitted by: Angela Watson

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, K-3

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades K-12, students use BrainPOP and/or BrainPOP Jr. resources to explore the functions of digital cameras. Students will then use a digital camera to take photos which utilize simple photography composition principles. Students use their photos to share ideas and information with peers and the community, both in person and online.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of basic digital camera functions.
  2. Utilize simple photography composition principles when taking photographs.
  3. Use a digital camera to take photos and use them to share ideas and information.

Materials:

  • Internet and BrainPOP access
  • One digital camera for each student or group of students (phone cameras and iPad cameras are acceptable)
  • Several inspiring digital photos to use as examples

Vocabulary:

lens; subject; framing; composition; balance; contrast; statement

Preparation:

Prepare the sample photos to show students. Preview the BrainPOP Photography movie and/or BrainPOP Jr. Taking Photos movie and features, and plan talking points.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Show students some of your favorite photographs in digital form (shared on a blog, website, etc.) These may be personal photos or those of famous photographers.
  2. Ask students to notice what makes the photos visually strong and appealing. What techniques have the photographers used to convey emotions, ideas, or information? Encourage students to notice the use of color, various angles, zoom functions, etc.
  3. Facilitate a discussion around a unit of study your class has been completing. How would students like to document their learning using photography? They could take photos of projects or presentations, interview sources and take their pictures, capture photographs of related resources (for example, a life or earth science unit might inspire some outdoor photos taken in the community or on a field trip), or take photos to document experiments or experiences in and of school. Encourage students to be creative! Let the class know you will consider their ideas for documenting learning with photography and develop the project around their suggestions.
  4. Tell students you are going to share a BrainPOP movie to help them build their photography skills before they begin taking pictures. Use BrainPOP Jr.'s movie Taking Photos for K-3 classes and BrainPOP's movie Photography for grades 4-12.
  5. You may want to use one of the three Activity Pages to help older students broaden their understanding of photography concepts. For younger students, use the Talk About It feature.
  6. For homework, have students reflect on their own favorite photo. They may wish to show their photos to the class in a follow-up lesson. Younger students can use the Write About It page to help them document their thoughts.
  7. The following day, share the project guidelines with students. Provide time in and/or out of class for students to take their photographs. You can assist K-3 students in this activity during centers or independent work time by pulling small groups of students to take their photos with your help.
  8. Assist students in uploading photos to a class blog, wiki, Flickr account, or Voicethread. Allow students to share and comment on one another's photography.

Extension Activity:

Encourage students to keep a digital scrapbook of their learning throughout the year. They can take one photo for each major unit of study or project and compile them in a digital album online.