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Picture Projects for Visual Learners

Outside the Box Teaching Ideas


Picture Projects for Visual LearnersA picture is worth a thousand words, but to a visual learner it is worth so much more. Connecting the dots for a visual learner may be challenging, but with pictures it can be both creative and fun.


Here are some ways the use of photographs can stimulate your visual learner or just ignite creativity in students.

Pictures Encourage Creative Writing

At the beginning of the school year, I had students bring in a baby picture for our class bulletin board. Before placing picture on board, I had them switch pictures and write a creative story on what they believed was happening in the picture.


For a history lesson, I copied several pictures of soldiers or advertisements from WWII. Students were assigned writing a poem or other forms of expressive writing, or giving an oral presentation, explaining the picture.

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Pictures Create Class Memories

Since 5th grade is the end of the elementary years (at least in my school), I had the students purchase a 12 x 12 scrapbook at the beginning of the year. The last Friday of the month we would take the last thirty minutes or so to document special activities or events that occurred during the month. This not only served as a memory for the students but as a lesson in journal writing.


Throughout the month, I would hold onto writing projects, math projects, etc that were completed and stood out from the every day lessons. Students would express their thoughts about a specific event on the page with photographs, special writings, handouts, flyers, etc. Some students became very involved in the activity using specialty scissors, papers, die cuts, stickers, etc. Some kept the pages very simple.


It was wonderful watching each student express him/herself in various ways. By the end of the year, the scrapbook served as both a memory book but also as a writing portfolio.

Picture Projects for Visual LearnersPictures Strengthen the Home-to-School Connection

Most parents love to see what their child is doing in class. Some parents would sit in the classroom all day if we would allow them! However; for those who are unable volunteer or do not have time to just pop in and see what is going on, photographs allow them to connect to the school and child.


A couple of years ago, I invested in a smart phone - smartest thing I ever did! In less than a minute, I can photograph special activities and shoot out an email to all parents with a little “diddy” of what we were doing at the time. To elaborate on the photograph, I may ask parents to comment or to “critique” the activity. The responding emails would then be posted on our classroom community board or given to students for their scrapbook. (Not all parents respond but I have had at least 90% do so. For those students who parents did not respond, I will write something to post on the board).


Students love to see the pictures of them “caught working” and will comment on what they were doing when the photo was taken. Also, the pictures I send serve as a conversation starter at the dinner table when mom/dad asks “what did you do in school today?” Parents can show the picture and ask students to explain what was happening.


The out of class activities, encourage parental involvement and give a chance for parents to work with their child. It is also nice for parents to share with relatives who may not live near the child to feel more connected.

Pictures Simplify Challenging Lessons

Science is a hard subject for the visual learner, as it often calls for abstract thinking, for a visual learner that may extend beyond the realm of imagination and create confusion.  To put things into perspective or more concrete thinking, I may use classroom photos.


For example, I was teaching on light and spectrum. To help illustrate this concept, I assigned a camera project. I asked students to take pictures of various objects that fit into specific categories relating to our science chapter (for example, shadowing and reflection). Using what we talked about in class, students were asked using cameras, to find or create situations that met the required category and take a picture. For shadowing, of course the students had to take a picture during the day. Not only did they have to take a picture, but students had to be aware of positioning, the angle, and so much more (great extension to the science lesson).


When they were finished, each student was then asked to develop their pictures, place them in a small photo album (dollar store variety) and using an index card, explain the scientific term/concept for the photo placed in the slot behind the picture. Now the students had a fun, creative, and applicable use of the science concepts to which they could refer to for testing and other lessons. This can also be done studying weather, animal habitats, rocks and minerals, and so much more.

Pictures Help in Problem Solving

In an earlier blog, I expressed my love for math and math projects. Using photographs with various math activities and having students write out the steps, arranging sequence, and piecing together problem puzzle pieces, assists in learning the process to difficult math equations.


For example, we were learning how to calculate tax on purchases. Since it was near Christmas time, I had the students bring in various flyers. I asked each student to create a Christmas list and with a given budget, students needed to begin their “shopping”. After shopping for each person, we listed the steps to calculating tax together on the board (I took a picture of our steps). The students then had to complete a budget chart that showed price before and after tax.


This project took a few days to complete. I took pictures as students were in each stage of the project. (I.e. making list, selecting items, using calculator or working out problem by hand, filling in budget chart, adding tax, and final calculations). I then developed the pictures (or you can print out if you have picture paper and color printer) numbered the pictures, and posted on bulletin board.


Students were then assigned a number photo and asked to explain the methods to that particular step. This helped them understand the concept and procedures involved in calculating tax, multiplying percentages, and also could have served as a sequencing lesson. What did we do first, next... etc?

Pictures Personalize School Work Instruction

Students love activities and projects that are personal to their lives or that give the opportunity to share more about them. My class and I read together The World According to Humphrey, a delightful story about a hamster who joins a 5th grade classroom. At the end of the story, I gave each student a little booklet I created and a tag board hamster to color and name.


Students were then assigned to journal seven days in the life of their hamster. They were encouraged to take photos of their hamster in various settings and activities. They loved this! I received such wonderful adventures involving my students and their hamsters with pictures! By making this assignment personal, students were more involved than they would have been writing a standard book report.


Another example is a family project in which students were asked to take photos of their individual family members. Since we were discussing adjectives, students were to take the pictures, post one on each page and list adjectives describing the person, the clothes they were wearing, the background, etc. Since we put these pages in a student created booklet, they could be used for other activities such as descriptive writing, listing adverbs, nouns, etc.

Other Great Classroom Uses for Pictures

Other uses of pictures in the classroom include snapping pictures of body parts and allowing students to make puzzles, sequencing activities, creating trading fact cards, pictures representing parts of speech, and of course writing prompts.


How to Get Started Using Pictures in Lessons & Activities

Some of the things I have done in the past that have afforded me the opportunity to use pictures in so many activities throughout the year as well have pictures for students to add to their yearly scrapbook have involved:

  • collecting a “picture fee” at beginning of year,
  • contacting developing places such as Walmart, CVS, and other camera shops to see about grants or special discounts,
  • working with a photography club that would sponsor my class (special thanks to Manteca Camera Club for working with us the last two years),
  • obtaining volunteers to purchase disposable cameras,
  • develop pictures I have taken and placed on CD,
  • check tag sales and craft stores for cheap stickers, die cuts, photo splits, stencils, special markers, page covers, or special paper,
  • and of course just asking for donations. 

Different Ways You Can Set Up Photo Activities

Of course I did not do these special activities with every lesson, just those I felt would really bring out the creativity in my class or benefit the visual learners in my class. I would set aside the last Friday of the month, ½ days, or early dismissals, as time to work on the scrapbooks.


For other activities, it would take place as we were studying specific things such as the light/spectrum chapter in science, or students would complete outside the classroom.

Special Tips

With any extra project or activity, teacher direction is needed. If students are using a camera in the classroom, students must be taught proper handling and safety rules.   Be sure to take the time to go over basic photography rules and explaining how to frame or set up a picture.


Students may only take appropriate pictures and never without asking permission of the person first (this is top rule in my class). Make sure you have permission from each parent before beginning any type of camera project. Be aware of your school’s policies and check with principal and parent before posting a picture of a student (even in the hall).


Photographs are a wonderful extension to the classroom. With technology at our fingertips, the use of digital cameras, web pages, photo shop, and other applications serve as great tools to explore and understand other subjects, expand creativity, and allow those students who are not as expressive in writing an different method of completing the same assignment.


How do you use pictures in the classroom? Share in the comments section!