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"A Picture Is Worth A Million Words"

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Keywords: Photography, Poetry, Creative Writing, Book Making, Language Arts
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Photography, Music, Writing, Technology, Art
Grades 7 through 8
School: Liberty Bell Jr Sr High School, Winthrop, WA
Planned By: Jane Orme
Original Author: Jane Orme, Winthrop
A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

A Seventh Grade Photography Unit
Composition and Literature
Jane Orme, Instructor

For the fifth year, students in the seventh grade classes at Liberty Bell will participate in a photo/composition/bookmaking project with support from the Public School Funding Alliance and Methow Arts, two local educational non-profit organizations.

John Hanron, professional photographer and Methow Valley News editor, teaches photo composition. Then provided with cameras and film processing, students shoot pictures of their choice and create an "album" of photos with a common theme. Many students choose to take photographs of our incredibly beautiful Methow Valley in fall or winter months; however, often students bring in photos of their pets, their favorite collections, family members, and other subjects of their choice.

The composition part of the project is guided by a series of poetry lessons and activities from local musican and poet Bill Davie, in addition to other lessons taught by Jane Orme, 7th grade composition and literature teacher. Students use the selected photographs as inspiration for their writing. One example of a poetry assignment is an activity called "This Is A Picture Of...." Using strong adjectives and verbs, students describe a significant person in a photograph they have selected. We work on attention to description and emphasis on detail, resulting in profound observations and memories about the person.

The bookmaking part of the project is taught by local artist Robin Doggett. During this part of the unit, students begin with heavy cardboard covers which they cover with beautiful paper, learning the art of folding, cutting, and finishing. Inside, the students create collages with the poetry, photographs, and colored papers, magazine words, and other “found” objects such as stickers, beads, feathers, and ribbon. The merging of the photos, writing, and art results in a multi-dimensional art project shared publicly at a poetry reading in the spring, attended by the students’ parents and invited guests.

The students ultimately shoot about 26 photos. The cameras are shared by two students at two different times so we can process the film and give the students an opportunity to critique what they have shot without using all of the film at once. The cameras, as mentioned, need to be cared for. Students have the cameras for a certain period of time and then must return them to the classroom so that they can be passed to their partners. The second person using the camera must return it to the classroom so that all of the film can be processed before John Hanron's second visit. Then the process begins again, and the cameras must be returned before the third visit. I tell students how many days they have each time they have the cameras. While this project has been funded in past years to purchase disposable cameras, I am hoping that we will be able to use digital cameras in the future.

The students are asked to use the provided cameras for this project even though they may have access to other cameras. In the event that the student loses the camera(which we hope does not happen), the camera must be replaced. The students are certainly aware that they are using a camera with important shots belonging to their partners and need to be careful to keep the cameras in good working order and in a place that is safe.

Combining photography, creative writing, and art proves to be highly motivating and results in students showing improved photography skills, a more critical eye for photo composition, visual art awareness, and a chance to make connections with written expression.

Time: About 14 days-photographer - 3 50 minute periods, poet - 3-4 50 minute periods, classroom teacher - 3 or 4 addtional 50 minute periods, (revising, editing, typing poetry one on one with the students if possible), bookmaker - 3-4 50 minute periods.

Jane Orme

I have had much success with this project, but again, I wish I had digital cameras. If so, the cost would be much lower and we'd be able to use our classroom computers.
The students write an autobiography later in the school year. They interview someone over 50 and take photographs of the person. They include their poetry books in their autobiographies.
Links: link to school website
Materials: Timeline, Worksheets, Slideshow, Database, Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Flash/USB Drives, Batteries, Camera Bags, Digital Voice Recorders, Sports, Digital SLR, Yearbook, Wildlife, Point and Shoot, Mobile Labs
Other Items: 50 camera processing, $ 9.00 each, total of $450.00
50 digital cameras, $ 6.00 each, total of $300.00
50 bookmaking materials including paper, cardboard, screws, etc., $ 10.00 each, total of $500.00
total, $ 1,720 each
2 gallons book glue, $ 10.00 each, total of $20.00
9 artist-in-residence visits, $ 50.00 each, total of $450.00