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Self-Portraits: Photography and Memoirs


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Keywords: photography, self-portait, point of view, cameras, creative writing, short-stories, self-expression
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Reading, Writing, Photography, Art
Grades 6 through 8
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
View Full Text of Standards
School: Stockton Elementary School, Chicago, IL
Planned By: Bradley Balof
Original Author: Bradley Balof, Chicago

This project is a partnership with Chicago Artistic Partners in Education. I have worked with CAPE for 3 years and we have grown our unit in this time to be very extensive and academically and artistically meaningful. Our unit follows this general outline:

Photography classes are held in 90 minute segments

Day One: Introduce the guidelines to better photography and provide examples of each:
simple backgrounds, balance, shapes and lines, rule of thirds, mergers, focus and lighting. Students will then select and analyze a photography from a preselected assortment of renown photography and identify the above mentioned features. Before our next session students will then find their own photograph and offer an analysis of the photograph.

Day Two: Students will discuss and explore with the teachers emotional qualities of photographs and how these are conveyed through the use of photography guidelines and POINT OF VIEW. Students will then take cameras and complete an assignment in which they choose one subject and take photographs of the same subject from many different points of view.

Day Three: Teachers have uploaded all photographs onto the school's server and students will select their "best" photograph from their photographs and offer an analysis of the photograph's POINT OF VIEW and whether/how it adheres to the guidelines discussed in class.

Day Four: With their creative writing piece, students will begin to explore how they want to create a self-portrait that reflects the mood and spirit of the piece they have written. This will involve consultation with teachers and group members and a trial and error session with shared cameras.

Day Five: Lab Day Two: Students will be creating their final photographs.

Day Six: Computer Lab Day: Students will select their final photograph to be printed, will submit it on the server, and will write and type a short reflection on their photograph.

Day Seven: Mounting and Hanging. With the help of our professional photographer, students will mount and hang their artwork in our "gallery". A collection of their short stories will be available to read as well.

Language Arts Classes are held in 45-60 minute sessions and run on opposite days of photography classes.

Day One: Read short story "What's the Worst that Could Happen" in the anthology "13" by James Howe.

Day Two: Jigsaw learn in 7 groups on the following literary devices while finding evidence of each from the short story:

-Poetic Devices (simile, metaphor, onomatopeia, personification, hyperbole, alliteration).
-Mood/Tone
-Flashback
-Foreshadowing
-Irony
-Symbolism
-Dialogue

Day Three: Discuss Point of View while reading the one poem "Such Foolishness" included in the anthology.

Day Four: Students will self select a third text from the anthology to read and compare/contrast that perspective with one of the two other texts.

Day Five: Students will begin to construct a rough draft of their creative writing to accompany their self-portrait.

Days Six-Eight: Peer edit, revise and create a final draft of their personal narrative/creative non-fiction.
Comments
Our school serves 93% low-income students. They are high-risk, and high-needs. Our students can use this project to find their own voice, build their own self-esteem and create pride in their schoolwork and their lives.

Thank you for helping close the technological gap that exists in many low-income schools. Our students will have a better life because of the work your do and the opportunities you create for them to interact with many types of technology.

This project will be done yearly and this digital wish is a self-sustaining investment in a project that will affect students for years to come.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Social emotional growth, Health and Wellness, Geometry and Math (photographic elements and measuring for mounting).
Follow-Up
A student created anthology that is a collection of short stories and photographs that students will then receive as a memory book.
Links: See what CAPE does!
Visit our Stockton Website
Materials: Digital Cameras, Point and Shoot, CDs and DVDs, English/Language Arts, Reading
Other Items: 10 3-5 Megapixel digital Cameras, $100 each, total of $1000.00
5 Laptop Computers for photography editing and story publishing, $1000 each, total of $5000.00