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Lesson Plans Created by TeachNet Adaptor Grants
Composition Compostions
Name: Dan Downs
School: MS 266 Park Place Community Middle School
Address: 62 Park Place
City: Brooklyn, NY, 11217
Original Project: Composition Compostions
Author: Meryl Meisler
URL: http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnetnyc/mmeisler/composition.htm

How did you modify this unit for use in your own classroom?: I combined Composition Compositions, by Meryl Meisler with “Getting Down With The Alphabet” by Susan McMahon-Dyogi for our lesson. “Design Principles” have been the underlying framework for creating lessons and assigning homework in our art class. As a yearbook editor/photographer, I’ve been looking for ways to introduce a section using photography in art class. The first google search for “basic composition for beginning photography” yielded almost identical results to the “Design Principles,” which we have already been involved with. We took the general study of Design Principles that Meryl Meisler has developed. We combined the idea of Susan McMahon-Dyogi’s in which she uses cameras to make a creative scavenger hunt for visual clues found around the school, then cataloging and analyzing student work.

List your primary instructional objectives for your students.

  Students will understand and recognize photographic compositional principles.
  Students will learn to make unique, personal and creative photos.
  Students will analyze photos in terms of design principles.
  Students will describe images and articulate their observations.

What role did technology play in this curriculum unit?: The students used digital cameras to find and record their images, then laptops for their presentations (this lesson could be done without student laptops). The internet provides lists and guidelines for photocomposition and visual examples. I distributed a handout which listed the rules and projected visual samples. http://azuswebworks.com/photography/ph_comp.html http://asp.photo.free.fr/Composition/photoProgramCompMainClass.shtml http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_(visual_arts) http://photoinf.com/General/KODAK/guidelines_for_better_photographic_composition.html http://photoinf.com/General/Geoff_Lawrence/Composition.html http://photoinf.com/General/Gao_Mu/Introduction_To_Photography_Composition.htm http://photoinf.com/

How did you assess and evaluate student performance?: Students pasted their selected images into a Microsoft Word document, then categorized and analyzed their choices. At end of class I took their documents onto my flash drive. The following criteria are used for evaluation: 1, Did student become involved in the process of photo taking and result in his/her group producing many original images? 2. Did photos taken have a purpose of illustrating one or more of the "Photo Composition Rules" out lined? 3. Was student able to justify/explain in words why a paticular image illustrated one or more of the "Photo Composition Rules" outlined?

Please tell us briefly about your background & teaching experience: I’ve taught for 19 years in NYC schools as a middle school art teacher. My art classes have always been centered on traditional art materials: drawing, painting, cut paper and discussions. I’ve been the designer of the yearbook for 17 years. All of those years, I’ve contributed 100% of the photography. Our school is part of the iTeach/iLearn project students have access to laptops. With project art’s money, we have bought enough inexpensive digital cameras’ to start a photo project.

What are your recommendations for other teachers interested in adapting this unit?: As with anything experimental, this project left it open to considerable adjustment to your own needs. We didn’t need the laptops as much as the cameras in this lesson. A student monitor uploaded all student’s cameras onto one computer so that I had all student work. That allowed me to edit some and share examples with other students. And it proved to be the most efficient way to get all images uploaded. That may change to let students be involved in all of their own editing instead of the final part. I believe the student editing is an important part of the process. In the future it would be better to have them email their documents to me. A further lesson extended beyond this might be to have students pick specific themes/subjects for further exploration.

Samples of Student Projects

  1. Photo Analysis-alexis,j.n., n.g..doc
  2. Photo Analysis IonaJohnson802.doc
  3. Photo Analysis Jasmine.doc
  4. Karen Photo Analysis.doc
  5. Photo Analysis Antoinette.doc
  6. Photo analysis Sasha.doc


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