Teaching students to tell stories through photography

For our final assignment in Teaching Multimedia, we created a lesson to pass the skills we’ve learned over the past 16 weeks on to our students. I chose to construct a lesson on photo essays.

I currently advise both yearbook and newspaper. The yearbooks students take thousands of photos and many never see the light of day. The newspaper staff is small and struggle to provide content for both our print and online site. Many of the students on staff consider photos to be an after thought or a lazy way to publish information.

My hope is that the lesson plan below will result in the following:

  • Allow more of the photos taken to be used in meaningful ways
  • Increase the number of times students are used in our publications
  • Drive more traffic to the news website
  • Help the writers see that photos are a benefit not a copout


Lindsey Ross

Gardner Edgerton High School

Gardner, KS

Title: Telling the Story through Photos

Overview and Rationale:

To effectively perform their duties as a staff member of GEHS’s student publications, student journalists need to be able to recognize, plan and capture photos that have impact and tell the story of larger events.

Goals for Understanding:

Students will be able to capture and select photos that work together to visually tell the story of an event.

Students will be able to process these photos for web use and publish them on the school’s online news site, gehsnews.com

Overviews and Timeline:

Activity 1 (One 85-minute class)

  1. 5-10 minutes) What is the purpose of a photo? What kinds of photos should we select for publication?
  2. (30 -40 minutes) Review the JEA “Capture the Moment” PowerPoint. Have students discuss the qualities of these photos.
  3. (30 -40 minutes) Pair students together. Students should look through current pages for this year’s publications as well as the two years’ publications (yearbook/newspaper/website).
  4. Students should identify 3-5 photos that truly capture the moment and 3-5 that are not as successful. Student should be prepared to explain what elements (composition, technique, etc.) help the photo capture the moment or what areas are weak in those that they chose as unsuccessful.

Activity 2 (One 85-minute class)

  1. (5-10 minutes) Review concepts from prior class period.
  2. (30-40 minutes) Students should present their photo selections from last class period. Discuss their choices as a class. Address any misconceptions and answer questions.
  3. (10-15 minutes) Review Telling the Story PowerPoint & assignment.
    1. After instruction and practice identifying photos that capture the moment and tell stories, students will be required to take and submit for assessment 5-10 photos that capture the moment and work together to tell the story of the event.
    2. Students will then write captions, process the photos and upload them as a photo essay on gehsnews.com
  4. (20-40) Students should view the photo galleries on scholastic publications websites as inspiration. Some sites that could be used include the following:
    1. http://fhntoday.com/category/multimedia/photos-2/photo-stories/
    2. http://phsview.com/2017/01/kansas-city-market-photo-essay/
    3. http://www.bvnwnews.com/category/photos/
    4. https://www.bvswnews.com/category/photo-gallery/
    5. http://smeharbinger.net/category/photos/

Assessment (One – Two weeks to shoot and event; One 85-minute class for processing)

  1. Following instruction and practice identifying photos that capture the moment and tell stories, students will be required to take and submit for assessment 5-10 photos that capture the moment and work together to tell the story of the event.
  2. After taking photos, students will make any necessary edits (crop, image size, etc.) the photos and publish them by creating a slideshow on the school’s news website, gehsnews.com.
  3. Students will access the Camtasia tutorial on this through Google drive. This will allow them to view the information and complete the steps at their own pace.


Capture the Moment PowerPoint

Telling the Story PowerPoint

Telling the Story Assignment & Rubric

Camtasia Tutorial


JEA Curriculum Initiative. Photojournalism: Unit 3 – Basics of Photojournalism. (http://curriculum.jea.org/lesson-capture-the-moment/)


Venturing into Video

Video. This relatively small word caused me a large amount of anxiety. Ironically, the courses I teach fall under the Audio/Video Communications Pathway – yet, to be honest, we do little of either in my program.

Until this course, I have received ZERO training in audio or video production. The mass media (broadcast) teacher and I have tried to collaborate as she has little reporting experience, unfortunately, we don’t have plan or production courses at the same time.

However, these are simply excuses. In order to be college and career ready, students in journalism courses need to receive training in more than just reporting and layout. Avoiding the multimedia does a disservice to my students and our readers.

With this in mind I tried my hand at producing my first video package. I wanted to make my package over a topic that I would want my students to cover so I chose to focus on the school-wide lip dub the mass media students produced on Friday, April 28.

I had my DSLR camera and shotgun mic set up to record the lip dub run through prior to the main event. However, when I reviewed the footage The mic hadn’t picked up any sound and the video did not work correctly. There was no time to look up a fix and the mass media teacher and her students were understandably busy.  So I adhered to the adage that the best camera is the one you have and shot some footage on my iPhone. I had also planned to film them editing the footage they took to create the final product but as luck would have it a discipline problem with one of my students prevented me from getting to the mass media room during my lunch and by the time my next break rolled around they were done editing.

I did not want to stage any footage so this left me with my iPhone hallway & assembly footage and the interview I had conducted with the lip dub’s producer. As I started to put the video together I quickly realized I did not have enough B-Roll. Luckily the mass media students were allowed me to include some of their footage to fill in my gaps and I was able to “Make it Work” as Tim Gunn says.

The final product can be viewed below. It is definitely not the best video package but it’s a start and now that I have some basic skills, I can take them to the classroom and my students and I can learn to improve together.

*The music on the video came from the lip dub itself, not an outside recording. The school secured the permission to use the song for the purpose of the lip dub.