When you’re reading an article in print or online, don’t forget to “read” the photographs too. Photos can provide a perspective and context that text alone cannot. The terms defined below relate to what we see when we look at an image. Consider their definitions as you look at the three photos pictured. Each photo corresponds to an article in this issue. Read each caption, then answer the questions that follow on a separate sheet of paper.
the main person or thing shown in the picture
the part of a picture or scene that’s in front, nearest to the viewer
the part of a picture or scene that’s farthest from the viewer
the position or standpoint from which something is viewed
the way in which the parts or elements that make up a picture are arranged
the feelings or emotions conveyed by the image
IS THE IDITAROD CRUEL TO DOGS?
The lead dogs of a dogsled team take off from the starting line for the Iditarod.
Why do you think the photographer focused on the dogs instead of the mushers? Would the image have the same impact if the vantage point were different?
TOP OF THE ROCK
Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson at their portaledge camp on El Capitan’s Dawn Wall.
What attracts your eye first, the foreground or the background? Why? Which elements convey a sense of great height? How does the light affect the photo’s mood?
CHINA’S TEST FACTORY
A student preparing for the gaokao naps at his desk during a break.
Why do you think the photographer took this photo with the student in the background? How does the composition affect the story the photo tells?
What’s in a Picture?
OBJECTIVE Students will develop visual literacy skills by studying photography-related words and then using those terms to analyze photographs.
KEY STANDARD RH6-8.7
TIME FRAME Approximately one class period
BACKGROUND This article teaches visual literacy skills. It presents six vocabulary words related to photographs. These terms are subject, foreground, background, vantage point, composition, and mood. The article then has students apply those terms as they analyze a few different photographs from this issue of JS.
STEP-BY-STEP LESSON PLAN
1 Introduce the Activity (5 minutes)
Ask students what they think photographs add to an article besides “decoration.” Why do authors/editors often include photographs? What is important to notice about a photograph? Discuss briefly.
2 Full-Group Reading 110-15 minutes)
Read the introduction to the article and the vocabulary words as a class. Then pick a photograph from JS (but not one from this article) to illustrate each term. For example, you could pick a photograph from In the News or “Wonder Woman.” Ask students to identify the subject, foreground, background, vantage point, composition, and mood of the photo, making sure they understand what those terms mean.
3 Independent Work (15-20 minutes)
Now have students go back to pages 22-23 and complete the skills activity by studying each photograph and answering the questions about each one.
4 Group Share (5 minutes)
Have students share their answers to the questions, either in a group or with the full class.
5 Synthesizing Visuals and Text (10 minutes)
Have students choose one of the photos from pages 22-23 and write a one-paragraph analysis of what the photograph adds to its corresponding article. They should discuss how the photograph provides information or a unique perspective that you can’t get from just reading the text.
Lower Level Spend more time on each vocabulary word and give more examples for each word.
Higher Level Have students choose another photo from this issue and write their own thought-question for it, using the vocabulary terms.
Did students understand the vocabulary terms and use those terms to think critically about each photograph?
Don’t forget to keep using these visual literacy terms throughout the rest of the school year as you read future issues of JS!
ACTIVITY, PP. 22-23
Answers will vary.