Photoblogs Part 2: Classroom Use

Yesterday we provided you an overview for two photoblogs: The Burning House and Every Day Carry.  You looked through them.  You thought they were great.  But where’s the bridge between photoblog and classroom-ready lesson, you thought?

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It’s right here.

Both of the blogs are great for talking about characterization or point of view.  With the Burning House it would be easy enough to show an image (of your choosing of course) and use the following classroom discussion questions:

  • What impact does the arrangement of the images have on the actual items as a whole?
  • What categories of items do you see appearing within each photograph?
  • Taken as a whole, what do these items argue about the individual themselves?
  • Who are they (based on their “stuff”)?
  • Can you tell the gender of the individual or their age based on their possessions?
  • What is the value of this type of photography or project? Is it worth less because non “experts” can submit their photos for publication?

“Media” literacy is an important strand in education, and the questions above certainly allow students to work within that realm. The opportunity for essay writing becomes clear is in Forrington’s project for the anthropologist, a blog for the clothing store anthropology.  He creates a generational study ranging from the Greatest Generation to the iGeneration.  The difference in possessions from age to age is enormously.  Each generational group is defined specifically by the possession they choose.  Each photo stands as an argument about the individual as well as their generation.  For students who are struggling to write their college essays or a personal narrative, either version of Forrington’s work is great as starting point.

  • Have students consider their own “burning house” list.  They can draft on a piece of paper, or if you like, have them take their own photos and bring them in.
  • For each item have them draft a hook or opening paragraph, not necessarily about why they would “save” the item but instead about the memory or moment behind the item.  The story that makes the item irreplaceable.
  • Have the students rank their opening lines/paragraphs.
  • Have students share their number one either via class discussion thread, read aloud or simple paper copy.  Any kind of discussion about what makes writing personal narrative captivating is a must.

But what about literature, you ask?  To link the blogs to literature, Anne Bradstreet’s “Upon the Burning of our House” is a good place to start.  Quite frequently when using that poem, students discuss Bradstreet’s perspective as being out of date.  As a result, it is easy to feel defensive and at a loss. Do this instead:

  • Choose any of the photos after teaching Bradstreet.
  • Discuss the contrast between Bradstreet’s point of view (possessions aren’t necessary) and the images on the blog.
  • Then look at David Ding’s post from 8/19/11.  His photo, an empty room, is followed by a rationale that somewhat matches Bradstreet’s point of view.  The only difference is that religious belief isn’t what motivates his choices.  It’s a great way to engage students in a more meaningful and modern discussion using the poem as a basis.

The same thing can be said of the blog Every Day Carry.  With the novel The Things They Carried the primary focus is on the items that each character holds as a talisman.  It would be simple to have students examine some of the images from Every Day Carry and pose the following types of questions:

  • What is a necessity in everyday life for you?  Where or how do you carry it? Purse? Pocket? Wrist?
  • Of the objects in the photo, which seem the most practical? Why?
  • What is the difference between those things that are necessary and those that we just like to have?  What makes us carry both?
  • What are your talismans?

Much of the same ability for starting a personal narrative exists.  This time, though, consider having students take what’s in their pockets, on their wrists and around their necks and use that for discussing necessity versus luxury. What’s important here is to use the images to foster critical thought that can be turned into meaningful writing not just to create a “feel good” conversation.

So that wasn’t so bad was it?  You are now officially an “expert” on Photoblogs.  More importantly, perhaps you took care of a good introduction for the personal statement essay within your classroom.







  1. hhitz says:

    What a great connection to writing–especially the college essay idea.

    • Aubrey & Emily says:

      The college essay is so hard for seniors to write. Anything that gets the kids to think more about abstractly about themselves and their values helps! Thanks for the feedback!

  2. [...] Day Carry A classroom activity, posted about earlier in the fall, could include using the photoblog  Every Day Carry as a discussion about how we determine necessity in The Things They [...]

  3. [...] they would take with them if their house were on fire.  This is based off of a website we have featured on our site before:  The Burning House.  Essentially, I was asking them to activate prior [...]

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