Though paragraph/composition/essay writing is a required skill at all grade levels, teachers should consider occasional straying away from the traditional to try another vehicle through which students can express their understanding of lesson content. Some teachers already encourage students to use power points, others timelines, still others webquests. Here is another creative way for students to demonstrate their unique insight into a topic--the photo essay!
A photo essay is highly motivating for students who normally shy away from the more traditional writing assignments. This activity would not replace writing, but instead would build key background information which would could support students in later writing activities based on that assignment. With the wealth of pictures on line through Life Magazine, Pinterest, Time Magazine, etc., students would have access to a treasure trove of materials to use to build their photo essays. If the internet is not available, students can cut out pictures from paper magazines (colleagues can generally be relied upon to donate their already read copies). Here is one on the Invention of the American Teenager. The photos are from the 1940s. Teachers might wish to take students through a professionally compiled one before they create their own (alone or with partners). The class can discuss why they thought photographers selected those photos. Also, comparison/contrast content would naturally surface as students look at the life of teens in the 1940s vs. life of teenagers in 2013. Giggles will undoubtedly surface, but that is OK:) Through carefully guided questioning and discussion, students begin to develop a better understanding of what will be expected from them.
This academic task will not replace the written writing assignment, but for some students, it will provide a very clear purpose or direction in developing her/his eventual essay.
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