LESSON

Using Photographs to Teach Social Justice | Supporting Social Border Crossings

Photographs may tell a story or make a statement about a greater concept or ideal. Sometimes photographers use the subjects in a photo to convey a message. This lesson is part of the Using Photographs to Teach Social Justice series.
Grade Level

Objectives

Activities will help students:

  • recognize and interpret the message in a photograph
  • analyze the subject(s) in a photograph
  • think about what it means to be inclusive
  • explore the concept of diversity
Essential Questions
  • How can photographs be used to illustrate a concept or ideal?
  • How can the subject of a photograph help reveal the photographer’s point of view on a topic?

Introduction

Photographs may tell a story or make a statement about a greater concept or ideal. Sometimes photographers use the subjects in a photo to convey a message. Examine the photograph below.

 

Copyright Jim West

 

Activities

  1. Individually, make a list to describe each person in the photograph. Use these questions to guide you:
    • What is this person’s gender?
    • What is this person’s race?
    • What is this person’s religion?
    • What is this person’s sexual orientation?
  2. Form groups of four and share your list with your group. Discuss:
    • Did you describe the people in the photo the same way? If not, how was your list different?
    • What can you usually tell about people just by looking at them? What can’t you tell about them?
  3. The subject of a photograph is the main person or thing pictured. As a group, analyze the body language of the subjects of this photograph.
    • What emotions do they seem to be conveying?
    • What assumptions can you make about them as individuals? As a group?
  4. This photograph shows a diverse group of young people. What message do you think the photographer is trying to convey? As a group, write a caption that captures the message. If you need help brainstorming ideas, consider using some of the following sentence starters:
    • All people want to be _____________.
    • The one thing we all have in common is _____________.
    • We may look different, but _____________.
  5. Record your caption on the board. Take turns so that each group can present and explain its caption to the rest of the class.
  6. Jim West took this photograph during a Mix It Up at Lunch Day at Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan. Learn more about Mix It Up at Lunch Day. Then start to organize a Mix It Up at Lunch Day at your school.