Beyond the Snapshot – Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan: Beyond the Snapshot

Overview

Photographs must do more than just capture a memory. They must capture a moment in time and tell a story.

Critical Engagement Questions

  • What makes a photograph catch your attention?
  • How do we recognize a good photograph?
  • What can we do to take more interesting photographs?
  • Why are photographs an important element in media?
  • Why do we respond to certain images?

Objectives

  • Photograph the “moment”, or peak action that tells the story.
  • Watch for the human side of the story
  • Face and hands reveal emotion
  • Get the facts (ask for names, correct spelling, other caption information)

Activities and Procedures

Activity 1

  • Students will watch a Powerpoint slideshow that introduces photographic composition techniques such as cropping and the rule of thirds.
  • Students will be asked to view magazines and newspapers and to select photographs that appeal to them. The students will analyze the photos to determine why they were appealing and explain how and which composition rules are used.

 Activity 2

  • After being introduced through lecture on photography basics, the class will take a walking tour of campus and be required to take photographs of “hands, feet, and faces”. These images must illustrate various concepts such as rule of thirds, standard daylight exposure, back lighting, depth of field, panning etc. They must also reveal emotion.

Activity 3

  • For homework, students will continue working on their “hands, feet and faces” photo assignment. After the photos are developed or printed, each student will submit at least five images. In addition, they will mount their best photograph to a piece of black construction paper and will present it to the class.

Resources and Materials:

  • paper (black construction paper)
  • pencils/pens
  • camera
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Writing the lead – Lesson Plan

Every news story begins with a lead, the most important part of the story.

A good lead to needs to catch the reader’s interest and make them want to read the rest of the story.

Less is often better as it helps you get your point across quickly.

Think Twitter’s 140 character limit.

Social media can help you become a better writer.

Lesson Plan: Lead Writing

Objective

  • Student will learn to write effective leads using 140 characters or less.

Activity 1

  • Students will identify the lead sentence of three stories taken from a newspaper article. Students will explain why a particular sentence was chosen as the first sentence, why it is important, and what makes it interesting.

Activity 2

  • Students will write at least 10 questions (no yes-no questions) and spend 15-20 minutes interviewing a fellow classmate. Their assignment is to gather information that will be used in a future assignment to write a short bio about their classmate.

Activity 3

  • After completing the interview, students will think about how they want to begin their story. Students will identify the most important and/or most interesting piece of information. Students will write a short sentence (140 characters or less) using the 5Ws and H to write an informative and interesting lead.

Assessment

  • Students will be given three short articles and will identify the strongest and weakest lead and explain why it is strong or weak. In addition, they will explain what catches their attention when they pick up a newspaper, what makes them want to read a story, what makes a story interesting, and what can cause readers to lose interest in a story.

Materials

  • Paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Newspapers

 

Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games as a teaching tool

Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games can be used as a teaching tool to promote storytelling and foster creativity and learning.

Every student has a different style of learning but an effective strategy to motivate all students is to focus on how students can create meaning in what they are learning. By incorporating the constructivist learning theory into the curriculum, educators can help students learn beyond the classroom experience and encourage creativity.

Storytelling is an important form of media that teaches critical thinking skills and helps people improve their communications skills. More importantly, it encourages students to be creative and gives them a chance to learn by doing something fun.

At the 2011 Gifted and Talented Symposium held in Austin, TX, Bonnie Cramond, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Georgia discussed how she used interactive fantasy games to teach mythology. Using a simplified version of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), she gave her middle school students a chance to collaborate and learn material in a different way. She discovered that her students would read the myths (they weren’t assigned readings), thinking that they could gain an advantage in the game (Mewes, 2011).

There is a boarding school in Denmark that developed its curriculum around roleplaying. Østerskov Efterskole (Østerskov School) provides their students with an opportunity to learn and express their creativity. According to the school’s website, their goal is to use roleplaying as a teaching method for all academic subjects.

For many years, a friend of mine who is a high school science teacher organized an after school club to teach students how to play D&D and other roleplaying games. He believes that these games not alone provide students with educational benefits; they can change their lives. These games can be alternatives to less productive hobbies or activities, such as drugs, gangs, etc.

I know an individual who believes D&D saved his life and kept him out of prison. This individual once had a quick temper and would often let his anger dominate him. Instead of acting out his aggression, the game allowed him to focus his emotions on characters within the game. Creativity defines his identity. Ever since he was a child, he was a storyteller. He would make up fantastic stories about science and fantasy. His favorite part of these role-playing games is being able to create worlds, cities, and cultures.

There are other types of games that can be used to encourage storytelling and creativity. An example would be Rory’s Story Cubes, a game that uses dice to tell a story. With this game, nine six-sided dice are used and each side has a different image (54 different images) that can be used to inspire the storyteller.

Roleplaying and storytelling can be used to motivate students and encourage them to want to learn. Roleplaying games can teach students about vocabulary, math, public speaking, teamwork, and about dealing with loss and success. These games are effective because students engage in learning more when they are actively participating and it is important to work with their interests.

Roleplaying games also encourage students to work together and learn from one another. Together, they make these imaginary worlds come alive. It is often believed that only individuals can truly be considered creative. However, teamwork can be an important aspect of creativity. Berleson (1965) used a description about theatrical productions that seems rather appropriate to compare to. He explained that a group could not have created Shakespeare’s work, but it takes a team to perform them. In D&D, every person plays an important role. Without teamwork, these adventures do not happen.

“Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable” (Jung,  [1921] 1971, p. 82).

 

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References

Berelson, B. (1965). Creativity and the graduate school. In G. A. Steiner (Ed.), The Creative Organization (pp. 214-226). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Jung, C. ([1921] 1971). Psychological Types (Collected Works, Volume 6), Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Mewes, T. (2011, June 16). Foundation continues symposium support. Austin Daily Herald. Retrieved from http://www.austindailyherald.com/2011/06/16/foundation-continues-sponsoring-symposium/

 

 

 

 

Tackling Racism

Everybody is a little racist.

Avenue Q, an American satirical musical, made a good point about how “everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes”. The show is best defined as an adult version of Sesame Street. It addresses issues associated with entering adulthood.

One of the messages presented in the musical is that even though everyone might be a little racist, it does not mean they go around committing hate crimes.

Racism does not always mean we wish to harm someone who is different. It can be as subtle as a fleeting thought or assumption.

Racism is a complex issue and everyone is biased in one way or another.

It is our human nature to identify more with people who are like ourselves. People have a preference for the familiar.

However, we must not use “human nature” to dismiss it as not being problematic. Having preconceptions based on how people appear may not cause any immediate harm, but when this is compounded over time and by everyone in society, it can lead to much greater harm.

Admitting racism is not easy but it is an important step in tackling the issue.

The problem will never go away as long as we neglect to acknowledge it in both society and within ourselves.

This issue is especially important as evident with recent events.

Tim Wise, an American anti-racism activist and author, posted a reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. In a video posted on July 19, he asks his audience to consider an important question: “Does having black friends mean you’re free from racial bias?”

The answer is no. As stressed in the first sentence, everybody is a little racist.

It is also crucial that people understand the role the media plays.

According to Rem Rieder of USA Today, the media played a role in the Zimmerman case that cannot be ignored. Rieder suggested in this case, the media went after the best story rather than the truth.

The media perpetuates stereotypes. Therefore is of upmost importance for people to learn to understand the complex messages presented by the media.

In a previous blog, Why Media Literacy Matters – Stereotypes, I discuss how photographs, film and video are used to perpetuate stereotypes. I explained how these images are used to present people of other races as “other” and establish them as inferior.

Such media messages perpetuate the idea of “us versus them”.

People need to be aware of how media messages influence them. They need to learn how to analyze those messages so they are not misled by false information.

People need to understand the importance of being media literate.

There needs to be a push for media literacy education.

It will help minimize the harm.

Roles and responsibilities of the media

There are two important points that need to be reiterated.

First, as I stressed many times before, journalists must not mislead.

Next, we need to remember why we need photojournalists.

The role of the media is to inform the public, to share accurate information and more importantly, the truth.

The four fake Asiana Air pilot names should never have been broadcast.

A summer intern working at the National Transportation Safety Board was blamed for this fiasco.

Intern or not, this problem shows that there needs to be better communication between government agencies and the media.

I previously wrote in Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis:

Media involvement in the emergency management process can help minimize misunderstanding. The goal is after all, to provide the public with accurate information as quickly as possible. Media agencies are great at doing that.

This means that journalists and government agencies need to work together and establish positive mutual working relationships. However, it is important to note that journalists are not the only source of media.

Another news organization recently got rid of its entire photography staff.

According to Jim Romenesko, Michael Gebhart, the chief executive of Southern Community Newspapers (in Georgia) wrote in an email, “How many photographers need dark room skills to develop film and make prints?”

Like many other professional photographers, I have not used a darkroom in a very long time. With the advancement of technology and digital cameras, no one really needs a darkroom anymore.

Gebhart obviously does not understand the importance of professional photographers.

Photography is a powerful tool and a universal language that can be used to inform the public and share with them the truth about what is going on in the world around them.

I previously stressed that reporting and photography require different levels of training and understanding.

I wrote in Importance of professional photographers, Part II:

So does having a blog make you a journalist? Does having a professional camera make you a photographer?

Anyone is capable of taking a snapshot or writing an article but the answer to both questions is no. They might possess the tools and equipment but that does not mean they have the technical expertise to do the job.

They are different forms of storytelling and we need them both.

Reporters and photographers are different types of storytellers and neither is more important than the other.

But one thing is for certain, as journalists they are responsible for telling the truth.

The media needs to remind themselves that people need to be informed, not misled.

Guest blog: The disconnect in modern media

The disconnect in modern media

by Erin Caballero

Upon coming home late last night, I turned on the TV and saw on the little scroll on the bottom that Sopranos actor James Gandolfini passed away on June 19th, 2013.

Naturally, I Googled it the second I got a chance, and every major media outlet (CNN, MSNBC, FOX) reported the same set of facts: Gandolfini died at 51 from a massive heart attack. However, smaller websites reported that his death was a hoax, and that he was indeed alive and well.

A major fuel to the fire of media misinformation is the need to get the story first, and it seems the approach with modern-day reporting is the throw-spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks one. I understand every journalist’s desire to be the next Woodward/Bernstein that breaks a scandal powerful enough to end a presidency, but what made these two men great was that they took their time and did it right the first time. They didn’t just publish whatever sounded the most titillating, but rather did the necessary fact-checking and kept their sources confidential.

A second major fuel is the natural human tendency to want “news” that already dovetails neatly into their preconceived notions and beliefs. The whole purpose of news (and journalism) is to challenge a prejudice one may have.

Combating media misinformation is as simple as taking a single deep breath and asking some simple questions. Who wrote this? What is their motivation? Where did they get their sources and other information? What  is their credentials/training/expertise?

Journalism is not dead, importance of storytelling

A recent study conducted by Bankrate.com shows journalism as one of the worst  return of investment for a bachelors degree. According to Bankrate.com, it will take 31.83 years for journalists to repay their student loans.

Ken Layne suggests that sailing would be a better career than journalism.

Journalism, however, is not dead.

Newspapers might be declining but storytelling continues to play an important role in our daily lives.

Nic Coury explains on Sports Shooter, an online resource for photographers and photojournalists, that he was a journalism major and loved it. According to Coury, who works as both a reporter and photographer for the Monterey County Weekly newspaper, even with the decline of newspapers there will still be crime, politics and sports that needs to be covered.

I was also a journalism major and to this day, I believe that it was a valuable investment.

The skills I learned through my journalism courses taught me how to become a better storyteller, a better communicator.

Earlier this week, I stressed that photography and journalism are different forms of storytelling and that we need them both.

There are also other important forms of storytelling, which will be discussed in future blogs.

Storytelling is an important form of media that teaches people how to think critically and to improve their communication skills.

This brings us back to the importance of media literacy.

Media literacy is about teaching people critical thinking skills and helping them understand the complex messages presented by the media. However more importantly, it is about teaching communication skills.

A journalism education teaches students how to become better storytellers, a skill that is useful in every field.

We need to emphasize the importance of journalism and photography as forms of storytelling.

In previous blogs, I stress how students used photography for storytelling, as a means to express themselves and to learn about others. I also explain how photographs can make a difference.

Stories can make a difference.