New Entrants/ Year One :How can we combine the elements of photography to tell a story?
Digital Photgraphy is not something I was comfortable with , let alone teaching it,but major learning occured for me through these sessions. In Term 2 I attended an eshare run by my inspirational colleague Tracey, who gave very practical tips on teaching digital photography to juniors.
With the digi awards coming up our junior team planned our inquiry learning around using digital photography to tell a story. We allowed 4 weeks for this, booking our school set of cameras at various times to ensure we all got a chance to use them.
The unit took much longer than this for my 5 year olds, Short sharp bursts worked the best. But once the photos were taken it took the next two weeks to allow the time for the children to work with the Picasa programme to arrange them into story format.
I greatly appreicated the PD session that our School IT lead, Kate Dare, ran introducing us to the bacsics of Picasa. Kate was amazing at patiently supporting me as I came to terms with the programme over the next few weeks and subsequently as I introdceed my children to it.
This is how the Super K-9's came up with their incredible photo esssays:
As tuning in and introduction we used the thinking tool KWL. The students explored the cameras with their thinking/talking buddies and from this I scribed what they already knew about digital cameras and photography. All the students had had some kind of experience using a camera before so most already knew about the on, off button and how the lense was where you pointed the camera and using the viewfinder. One girl noticed the "TV word sony" and this lead to some children hypothesising that a camera and a TV were very similar as they captured images and played them back. The symbols on the dial were unknown. Some guesses were that the flower button was for taking flower pictures and the people one for taking pictures of people. " Do you think you could take a picture of a flower if the camera was on the mountain button?'' I asked, most students didn't think so which lead to use listing some wonderings or what we want to know. " how do we take a photo of different things?" " What happens to all the photos in the camera when you turn it off?" I proposed the wondering " What is a good photo? Can there be Bad photos?"
With their thinking buddy the chn then took a camera and took five minutes worth of photos each out in the playgound of anything they wished that they thought would make a good photo. This meant the pair had to make their own decisions about who would have the camera first and how to record who had taken the photo ( most took photos of each other but some did not). In our finding out about what we already knew about cameras most children agreed the strap was for holding onto but I did ask them all to use the wrist strap at all times so the camera was safe, otherwise I gave no instruction or overemphasised the fact that these were expensive pieces of equipment. As five year olds they all monitored each other encouraging safe respectful use- ''here it's your turn now", " put the wrist strap on" "hey this is cool. Take a photo of this"- KC's in action!!
Returning to class the children were eagar to see the results of their photos. We looked at how to use the playback button then I downloaded each pairs photos and filed them under their names. I had them come and observe me do this as an intro to this process.Most children agreed that photos that weren't clear ie unfocussed, and not about anything interesting or too black were not good photos.The process took a long time to do each pairs individaully and I needed a strong coffee afterwards!!
In the next seesion we looked at the photos the children had taken and again with thier buddies decided which of their photos worked the best. These were printed out then I provided some professionally taken photos and we grouped them according to the elements they had in common-. These were-colour, subject ( often people or an object ie swing, flower, bike), light and shadow, arrangement ( ie lines ) view point ( up high or down low). Of course their were lots of overlaps ( on reflection this would have been great to have done as a venn diagram).
I could assess at this point which of the children could manage the camera sucessfully and indepentently.This was all but 3 , I made sure their buddies supported them in the next photo taking session. I then deliberately showed the uses of the macro button for extreme up close shots.I was amazed at how great the photos the children had already taken were, as if they instinctively knew how to compose a photo wihout any rules or woories about doing it "wrong"
The next seesion was about using images to communicate messages. We relooked at some photos the children had taken using the "See think wonder" thinking tool. The students then decided that you could tell a story using just pictures.
I modelled the example of me eating a banana- peeling the skin off, eating the banana and disposing of the skin. The children then storyboarded the story they wanted to tell by drawing [ictures in squence. This did not work. The idea of beginning, middl, end was a concept many of them had difficulty with so I abandonned this and asked the buddies to go off and take photos that would tell a story!! I was curious to know what this would lead them to do.
Some buddies pairs worked as they had orginally and one would take lots of photos involving their buddy then swop. Other children made a story up together and used other children as models. Others went off and took photos of images that seemed random to me.
I did not have time to download the photos with the students present hence my "alarm" that they had missed the concept of conveying a message or story particularly as these photos were to be entered into the Digi awards under the category of photo essay!!!
However student voice lead me to decide that the children needed to retain ownership of the process so I then planned activites that would allow me to work with individual buddy groups and we arranged their photos using the criteria of the digi awards ( ie 5- 7 photos) and the children decided on layout ( most chose collage) and colour, font and sequencing.
This was very time consuming as each student had set ideas on what they wanted and it was interesting what constituted a story to them. One girl even refused to use the stipulated5-7 photos and insisted on just two as that was her story!)
The results were delightful and the children very detailed over ownership of the pictures "thats my photos but that one someone else took "( ie if they had wanted a high up shot tehn the camera had been handed to someone else higher up on the slide so therefore they had to have their name included as photographer too!
The results can be seen on our class blog
The children take turns in being the daily photograher with our class camera now and they are extremely motivated and confident about this. They were ceartainly empowered as learners.
During our final seesion we relooked at the KWL and I scribed the things that the buddies agreeded that they had learnt- these included deleting photos, using macro, being aware of and using different elements of photography ie line, colour, light and people and angles, using picasa and the possiblities of using other programmes with support for displaying and arranging photos.
This KWL indicated to me that the activity had been succesful and it was fun, all the children ( and me!!)had grown in confidence. The key competencies of thinking, participating and contributing and relating to others, as well as managing self and using the language of images were all evidenced in various ways throughout the e-learning.
Now that I feel so much more confident about photography in general and especially the Picasa programme I see the potential for using some of the other features to create different effects and what makes the best layout for various stories.
If you haven't used the pIcasa programme it is easy to download onto your computer ( free) and just give it a go!!
Picasa is software that helps you instantly find, edit and share all the pictures on your PC. Every time you open Picasa, it automatically locates all your pictures (even ones you forgot you had) and sorts them into visual albums organized by date with folder names you will recognize. You can drag and drop to arrange your albums and make labels to create new groups. Picasa makes sure your pictures are always organized.
Picasa also makes advanced editing simple by putting one-click fixes and powerful effects at your fingertips. And Picasa makes it a snap to share your pictures, you can email, print photos home, make gift CDs, instantly share your images and albums, and even post pictures on your own blog.
The latest version includes Web Albums (along with other improvements), but requires that you request an account from Google.