Adult Ed
Picture This: Photography in Adult Basic Education



Using photographs can add variety and energy to a reading, writing, or ESOL class. This unit is another way to solve the "I don't know what to write about" problem. Photos are full of information and details. They can easily generate opinions, descriptions, and stories. Also, this is chance to appeal to a variety of learning styles.

Subject Matter

  • All stages of the Writing Process, but especially the planning and pre-writing stages, Oral Language Skills, Critical Thinking.

Students will be able to:
  • Write more fluently (writing more with greater ease)
  • Telling a story through pictures
  • Write about pictures
  • Sequence pictures
  • Write reflectively
  • Produce better organized pieces of writing
  • Write captions
  • Write descriptions
  • Create a narrative essay

National Standards
National Reporting System of Adult Education standards are applicable here. These are the standards required by the 1998 Workforce Investment Act. See for details.


You can go high tech or low tech here. More cameras and more pictures make for more involvement. Any kind of camera will do. Disposable cameras work just fine. Internet access is an asset to this project, but not necessary.

In addition to cameras, you will need pencils, pens, markers, crayons, glue or paste, and paper to make displays. This can be fancy or simple. Poster board and markers make bigger more exciting displays that are likely to be more exciting to your students.

Media Components

Photography is a visual medium, so this whole unit is one big media component.

You will need to budget for this unit, since you need a camera for some of the activities. You can have a fancy one or a simple one. Polaroid™ cameras and film are expensive, but it's great to have pictures right away. Unless you are using a digital camera that allows you to print out pictures on a computer, you will also have to have the pictures developed.

Digital cameras give you pictures right away. You can also take lots of pictures and only print out the ones you like. If you have a few digital cameras, multiple projects can be going on all at once. If no cameras are available through your program, you can consider asking students if they have cameras to bring in. Just make sure they keep on eye on them. Even if students bring in the cameras, there is still the expense of film and developing. If you have no cameras and no budget, they are still parts of this unit you can use.

Here are some Web sites that you can review on your own or with your students.

Prep for Teachers

Make sure you try each of the activities yourself before you ask students to do them. That will give you a better understanding of the activities and help you recognize any potential points that may be confusing or difficult. This also gives you a sample to show the students. It’s much easier to create a photo display if you are shown an example of one.

Also, make sure you check all the Web resources suggested here before trying to use them with students. Web sites change. Sometimes links stop working.