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Rules of Thirds

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Keywords: photography, rules of thirds, art, digital
Subject(s): Photography, Social Skills, Math
Grades 3 through 5
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Progress Elementary School, Veradale, WA
Planned By: Devin Moan
Original Author: Devin Moan, Veradale
1. Students will view a photograph up on the screen that have the grid of thirds over it. The students will be asked to observe what they notice and then share with a partner.
2. Prompt the students with this question: If I told you that this is an example of the "rules of thirds" in photography, what do you think that would mean? *If your students are not familiar with fractions, you will need to do a prior lesson to help them what thirds means in math.
3. Let students discuss their inquiry.
4. If no one came up with the definition, explain to the students that the rules of thirds helps you to focus on the part of the photograph that you want your views to look at.
5. Find a collection of photographs that show what the rule of thirds looks like to project. You can use the lesson from https://digital-photography-school.com/rule-of-thirds/ to show pictures that are already overlaid with the grid.
6. Point out to the students the 4 intersecting lines in the middle of the grid that give them an automatic place to line their camera up with. Let the students discuss and explore how the rule of thirds works.
7. Put a photograph up on the projector that does not have the grid. Ask the students to discuss with their partner where they think the four focal points are on the photograph would be located. Once you have located them with the students, put dots on the board to show the students. Then draw out the grid so the students can see where the grids could be on the photograph. Let the students discuss and explore what they notice
7. Hand out photographs that you collected earlier. Give each student a marker, photograph and ruler. You may choose to have students work in partners and give each partnership two photographs to explore. Have the students draw where they think the 4 points are and then draw out the thirds on their picture. Once partnerships have done this, then have them get into groups of 4-6 and allow them to share their pictures.

If time, you can then take the students outside to practice taking pictures with the rule of thirds. You may need to explain to students that most the time you have to imagine the grid or you may set the cameras to the grid view.
This is one lesson out of a series of lessons that we are implementing this year for our new grade 3-5 photography elective. Feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This lesson automatically ties to fractions.
The next step that we will be doing is taking pictures using the "rules of thirds." We will then start looking at the difference between landscape, portrait and graphic art. We will be taking some field trips and having professional photographers come into our class to work with our students.
Materials: Digital Cameras, Wildlife
Other Items: 1 box of permanent markers , $22.27 each, total of $22.27
28 photographs printed or cut out of magazines, $0 each, total of $0.00
2 16 packs of Rulers , $9.99 each, total of $19.98