Photography: Composing a Narrative

Since I am in a photography mind-set after finishing my latest post for my photography blog, I will share an activity and hand-out I have used in my English classes.

One way to incorporate  mass media into a class is to use  a medium other than traditional printed text to convey subject content/information. Either the teacher uses the medium to instruct or the students use it demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. Another approach is touse the medium’s structure ( codes and conventions ) to develop thinking skills and re-enforce terminology.

Using  the idea that a well composed photograph is very similar in structure to a well composed narrative (story), I re-enforced the terminology for interpreting a narrative. The analytical skill  that was used to “ Read a Photograph” could then be used to compose:

  • A diagram/chart
  • A report
  • A news article
  • A letter
  • A narrative

A wide range of photographs can be used. Select ones that are most suitable based on grade and level of the class. Junior grades will respond best if there is a clear conflict or tension being presented in the photograph or if the subject and setting has an implied mystery.

The key questions:

  • What is happening ?
  • What happened before the moment/scene was  captured in the photograph?
  • What will happen next?

A good source for photographs is . Here is an example of one of the photographs that would be effective for this type of analysis and follow-up activity.

Here is the handout as a pdf.     photo-narrative1


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