Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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How to Use This Resource

For an overview of the course read through the information provided here.

  1. Start with the videos. Learn first-hand about the many ways photographic images impact and inform what we know about our world.

    Begin by watching A Closer Look. This video includes teachers, and it models and describes how to analyze photos, think about students’ interactions with photographs, and integrate photographs into the classroom.

  2. Follow up your viewing of A Closer Look by using the Focus In feature.

    Interact with this step-by-step application of the analytical framework demonstrated in A Closer Look by using a select set of images from the collections.

  3. As you work with the collection activities and the photographs, notice how the learning targets and guiding questions help enhance students’ understanding of the subject you are teaching.

    Each collection activity may be used in its entirety or modified to fit with your existing lessons. The direction provided with each photo-enhanced activity was developed to help students think about the photographs and meet the learning target(s). Your students may learn better with these photos if you tailor the activity to fit your setting, context, and students’ needs.


    To download this collection, you must agree to the following terms:

    Photos downloaded from the Essential Lens site are cleared for educational use only.

    I Agree

    All photos in the online and print version of the collections, and in the online archive have been cleared for classroom use only. You will be asked to agree to these terms before downloading a collection PDF.

    Note: While images can be saved in many formats, the photographs in the Essential Lens course are available for download as PDF files in the appendix of the collections (print version).

    If using the activities as written, note that each is accompanied by specific instructions for using the photograph(s) with students, however there is some flexibility built into each activity. For example, an activity may suggest that you print out photos and distribute them to your students. However if printing is not possible or desirable in your classroom, you can project images on an overhead and proceed.

    All photographs in the collections and the online archive are accompanied by caption and metadata information, such as the location, date, and source of the image (if known).

    Some activities require students to read the caption information before proceeding, while others ask students to first observe what is in the photo and share what they see before they read the caption information (see Focus In). For the latter, you will need to crop out the caption. If in print, you can use scissors to cut the caption off before handing out to students. To project the image on an overhead without the caption, go to the Essential Lens archive, and click on the image to enlarge it. The enlarged image does not include the caption.

    Though students are used to looking at images, they might not be in the habit of examining them critically. It may be helpful for you to begin the conversation and raise questions that set the tone or direction for the discussion. Note that the collections include student prompts to help guide discussion.

    Keep in mind that photographs, which often depict scenes from real life, can sometimes be difficult to understand, contain disturbing imagery, or provoke visceral reactions. Students may also lack adequate context or vocabulary to interpret photos. Establish ground rules for discussion. Emphasize that as they look at an image, students should attempt to describe what they see, rather than interpret—at least at first. Remind them that each person who sees a photo is likely to have a unique perspective on and personal reaction to it. As in all classroom discussions, students should be open to hearing different opinions and be respectful of one another. Each collection is accompanied by a complete list of references and further resources.

  4. Explore the Essential Lens website for additional support materials. For example, browse the Archive to find photographs that will work with your classroom needs. Or check out the Guide to Researching Photos, and the Additional Photograph Resources for information on finding and using photographs with students.

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