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How to Be (Me!) Photo Book

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Keywords: Photography, books, writing, reading, collaboration
Subject(s): Art, Photography, Social Studies, Social Skills, Technology, Early Learning, Science, Life Science, Reading, English/Language Arts
Grades K through 2
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Oak Hill Elementary School, Austin, TX
Planned By: Christine Barre
Original Author: Christine Barre, Austin
This activity is designed to use children’s natural curiosity and desire to explore in order to engage them in an early reading and writing project. Inspired by the book How to Be by Lisa Brown, we intend to introduce the concept of characterization by describing animals in the environment around us. The book is a simple story about how a brother and sister imitate the behaviors of their favorite animals. For example, the how to be a bear chapter has images of the children acting brave (making a big jump) and hibernating (sleeping on a couch). Our objective is to engage our kindergartens’ interests in animals and tie these to emerging oral and written literacy skills in creating two class books. The first book will focus on team-work and on identifying characteristics of the pets and animals that we keep at our school. The second book will focus on the students themselves, showcasing their individual characteristics and diversity.

The project will consist of several lessons to develop the student-created photo books using a child-friendly iPad application. Before reading the How to Be book together, we will work on predicting behaviors and outcomes in the book based on the illustrations on the title page. After reading the book aloud, we will then discuss some of the ideas presented in the book and compare animal traits. The students will separate into small groups, 1 copy of the book per group, and then work together on an activity to physically mimic the actions in the chapters of the book.

The students will continue to work with this same group to create the first book. We have a lot of animals on campus: chickens, snakes, bunnies, butterflies, bugs, and frogs, to name a few. The groups will each choose an animal, take ‘field trips’ to visit the classroom pets, and take photos of the animals for the class book. They will then discuss and document characteristics of their creature. The pictures loaded onto the website, and the children will write a caption or “How to Be” statement about their group’s animal for each picture. These pages will be compiled into a digital class book.

We titled the next unit “How to Be Me!” to encourage a greater understanding of the self-esteem and diversity within our class, school and beyond. In pairs, the children will start developing their ideas and thoughts about their unique and best traits. They will also take photographs of each other interacting in groups, pairs or as individuals. One class day will be dedicated to students identifying and writing about what they think are each other’s best characteristics. Another day will be dedicated to students identifying and writing about what they like best about themselves. The teacher will engage classroom volunteers or literacy specialists in order to have individual assistance for the children who are struggling with writing or reading tasks. The students will have assistance to write their creative ideas about how to be themselves and about their unique traits.

The written texts and photo pages that each child or pair produces will be compiled to create a book that can be presented to the class in “show and tell” style. This activity can be replicated by all the kindergarten classes in our school and the lesson can be modified to include photo essays and poems or other creative writing and photography projects for higher grades.

The project will be evaluated by the completion of photos and written materials produced by the children. Each child will have individual pages and photos that encourage creativity with literacy. The books and materials will continue to be part of future reading and writing activities and this will ensure students’ progress in reading and writing literacy skills. The teacher will evaluate through class participation and review of the materials produced whether or not the students gained greater awareness of nature, humanity, self-image and diversity issues.
Materials: Point and Shoot, Books, Authoring and Publishing, Early Learning
Other Items: 1 iPad mini, $249.00 each, total of $249.00
5 "How to Be" books by Lisa Brown, $15.00 each, total of $75.00