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Lesson Plan #:AELP-WCP002
Author: Rebecca Sexson, Anasazi Elem., Scottsdale, AZ Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 2, 3, 4


  • Language Arts/Writing (composition)

OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to:

  • Understand the purpose of a photo essay.
  • Sequence a series of events.
  • Understand the format in creating a photo essay which includes a caption for each picture.
  • Complete a photo essay as a creative activity by using photos, magazine pictures or drawings to illustrate a story.
  • Read and enjoy a photo essay.
  • RESOURCES/MATERIALS: Teacher – a picture of a face with obvious emotion, a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 white drawing paper for each student, a visual example of a photo essay would be helpful but not necessary. Students – a piece of poster board that is an appropriate size for their essay; photos, drawings, or magazine pictures; marking pens, pencil, glue.


  • Ask students to name materials they read that contain words and pictures. (ex. newspapers, magazines, books, etc.)
  • Show a picture of a happy or sad person. Have the students identify the emotion and explain that a picture can express an emotion better than words: A picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Explain that a photo essay is a story told in pictures with short statements (captions) under each picture.
  • Demonstrate by using a whole group activity. Choose a story, or part of a story, from your literature series, that examples following directions; i.e. making bread or building a bird house, etc. I have used a story from our Houghton Mifflin series called Mrs. Birdie’s Bread. You could also use the topic, A Day at School. Give each student an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of white drawing paper. Fold the paper into four squares for younger students or six to eight squares for older students. Number each square in sequence. Decide together as a class what happened first. Have each student draw a picture and write a caption for the first drawing. Continue this process until all squares are completed.

    This example could be completed as an individual activity, a whole class activity, or a cooperative learning activity.

  • Send a letter home to the parents explaining the photo essay and assign the essay as a home project. The pictures for the essay may be photos taken with a camera, pictures drawn by the student, or pictures cut from a magazine. If students have a difficult time thinking of a topic/title for their essay, you might want to list suggestions from a class discussion. All photo essays should have a title and the pictures should be mounted on poster board. The poster board does not have to remain rectangular.
  • The assignment should be given two to three weeks to complete because of film processing.
  • Assign the project on a Monday. Record each student’s topic on Friday, or on the following Monday at the latest.
  • TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: Upon completion, let each student bring their essay to class to share. Students should present an oral summary of their essay and explain each picture.

    These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.