Student Task

Photo Essay Exhibit

Do Something
Grade Level


Students put together and collectively display sets of photographs that convey stories, feelings or messages related to themes in the central text.

Estimated Time

Two to three weeks


Photo essays allow students to express their ideas through the images they capture. This medium requires students to use critical thinking and creativity to select and arrange photographs in a manner that conveys a message.


Get Ready

  1. Assess your school’s photography resources. If the school does not have enough cameras to check out to each student, consider having your students use:
    • Disposable cameras
    • Personal digital cameras
    • Borrowed cameras from the community
    • Phone cameras
    • Shared cameras
  2. Research basic photography skills and tips to share with students who may have little experience with cameras.
  3. Find examples of photo essays to share with students.

Get Set

  1. Introduce students to the Do Something Student Planning Guide. Instruct them in mapping the steps necessary to complete their photo essay.
  2. Share the sample rubric or adapt it into a checklist for students. Refer to the rubric to define expectations.
  3. As a class, brainstorm themes or topics inspired by the central text that might make good photo essay topics.
  4. Share example photo essays with students. Point out decisions made by the photographers, and talk to students about how to use similar principles in their own photo essay. Remind students that the goal of their finished product is to raise awareness of an issue and suggest possible solutions.


  1. Instruct students to put together their photo essays, highlighting social justice issues and including possible solutions.
  2. Showcase student photo essays in a location that can be shared with families and the greater school community. Consider having an opening reception and allowing viewers an opportunity to leave comments for the photographers.


Students can journal about their photo essay. Some suggested reflection questions include:
  • How do your photos connect to a theme, topic or issue from the central text?
  • What message(s) does your essay convey?
  • Why did you organize your photos they way you did?

English language learners

Photo essays give students an assessment option that is creative, visual and not solely language-based. This task engages spatial/artistic and potentially interpersonal learning modalities (if the photo essays involve other people).

Connection to anti-bias education

Each photo essay reflects the lens through which each student views the world. The result is a powerful collection of essays that both represent the learning community and allow others to interpret the images. Including photographs of and about possible solutions encourages students to envision a more just and inclusive community and world.

Add to an Existing Learning Plan
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