Recently I've started getting involved in media literacy with our Grade 1 and 2 students. We've started looking at what it means for our students to be literate, and we have decided that it goes far beyond simply reading and writing. With so many different media out there today, it's important for students to be able to "read" the language of photographs, films, advertisers and sounds.
My daughter is at university studying art history. She is learning about how to look at a painting and to analyze and deconstruct it from the point of view of an artist. Although she is really good at art, her course doesn't involve creating any herself. We decided, however, that as well as students being able to "read" images, they also need to create and manipulate them. Most people nowadays have access to a camera wherever they are (as they are on most mobile devices) and with a tap on the screen these can be uploaded to photo-sharing websites. We decided that being able to create their own photographic images was an important skill, so with our Grade 2 students we have started by teaching them photography.
A few weeks ago we asked students why people take photos, and whether photos can be art. We showed them how to use a camera and talked with them about techniques such as getting in really close to the subject, thinking about the angle, noticing where the camera was focused, considering the light and so on. We also gave a very brief introduction to the "rule of thirds". Having given students some basic instruction on how to use a camera and how to compose photos, we then let them walk around the school with a partner taking photos. After this we showed them how to attach the cameras to their laptops so that they could download the images.
Even at this stage it was clear that taking the time to look at photographs and think about some simple rules before taking photos had a remarkable impact on the quality of the photographs that the students were able to take. Our next step would be to edit these photos.
We chose a very simple, free, online editing tool PicMonkey. This actually has a lot of possibilities, but for our purposes we wanted students to be able to crop their photos, enhance the colour and possibly change how sharp the image was, and to be able to frame it. Students worked on a choice of 2 or 3 of their photos to make them really special. They then added them onto a Google Slideshow and gave them a title. We're going to turn this presentation into an eBook using FlipSnack.
The results have been amazing to us. The composition and editing have been really creative. Take a look at the photo at the top of this post which was shot and edited by a one of our students today. He has thought carefully about the angle, composition, colour and light and made a choice to take the photo through netting to give an impression of the tall building next to the school, and he has then gone on to think about adding a double frame and picking up the colour of the building and adding it to the frame. Even at the age of 7, he is someone who is already becoming confident in "speaking" the language of images.