Sunday, March 21, 2010

Grade 4s Express Themselves using Photography

We are now in the final week of the How We Express Ourselves unit in Grade 4. This unit has been slightly different to the others I've supported this year in that each of the Grade 4 teachers was responsible for one area of expression, and the students spent a week with each teacher. I decided to give IT support to Heidi, the teacher who had chosen to do photography with the students, throughout the entire unit.

Each week for the last 5 weeks, Heidi and I have had one of the Grade 4 classes for the whole of one afternoon and the following morning. Luckily the change to a flexible schedule for me at Christmas has meant I was able to plan these large blocks into my week. We started giving the students an introduction to what makes a good photograph, with the emphasis on composition, texture and colour. We asked questions like "Why do people take photographs?" and "Are photographs art?" We also showed them the Kodak Top 10 Tips for Great Pictures website and discussed why some photographs were better than others.

After this introduction we took the students outside on a walk around the school grounds and along the lane towards the farms further up the hill. The students had already discussed the need to get down and move in close to their subject, and we also noticed some of them moving the objects they were photographing around in order to avoid a distracting background. We had discussed the rule of thirds and the need to take some vertical pictures and we were pleased to see how enthusiastically the students embraced these ideas - some of them even getting right down in the snow to get their close-up shots.

Over the 5 week period we have had very different weather in Switzerland - some weeks it was thick snow, other weeks it was cold and damp and some weeks it was sunny. The photographs of each class were therefore very unique - different from all the others.

We spent about an hour outside, then it was back into the school to transfer the photographs onto the laptops so that we could edit them in iMovie the following morning. We showed the students how to crop the photos for effect and how to adjust the various levels - the exposure and contrast, the shadows and highlights, and the saturation. We also showed them a couple of the effects such as black and white, sepia and blurring the edges. We told the students they would eventually be choosing 3 photos to print, one of which would show composition, one would show colour and one would show texture.

We talked to the students about how to frame their photos - this is easy to do from the print menu of iPhoto, so we showed them the various themes, background and borders available. We stressed the need to make sure the frame complemented the photograph and was not a distraction to it.

We were very, very impressed by the beautiful photographs the students ended up printing out for their art portfolios. Each student printed out their "best" three - though many had a hard time choosing as they were all so great. I absolutely loved doing this unit with the students and am looking forward to more photographic projects in the future.

You can view a slideshow with more of the Grade 4 photographs by clicking here.

Photo Credit: All photos were taken and edited by Grade 4 students: Katie, Mads, Jack B, Lucy, Jordi, Soma, Struan and Zsa Zsa.


  1. What an excellent project. Thank you for including some photographs, I am absolutely amazed and impressed. I would love to try a similar project with my students, thank you for the inspiration!

  2. Congratulations to this class! Your photos are excellent - I hope you are very proud. I'm impressed with the approach to this UI, and the scheduling flexibility which made it possible.