Catch Attention with Giant Picture Posters

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

We’ll pick up our passports again next week and continue our travel to the informative International Festival of Attention-Grabbers. Last week, my blog featured stories from Dr. Ozturk who attended elementary school in Turkey.

This week, while the October weather offers a pleasant interlude between the hottest and coldest days of the year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, let’s head outdoors to a popular children’s play space…a sandbox. Look closely at the photo below. They’ll be a quiz about it later!

What do you see?

Catch Attention with a Picture Poster – I took this shot outside one of the elementary schools where I taught last spring. It was a sunny day, the sand in the box was warm and inviting in a corner of the playground, but the bell had rung and all of the children had returned to their classes when I snapped the picture. I knew that I would use this sandbox photo as an attention-ology tool; I just didn’t know how at the moment I clicked the camera. I took the shot because I found the sandbox intriguing. The toys had been so busy in the young children’s hands at playtime. Then, in the children’s absence, the toys were still. I decided to enlarge the photo and turn it into a picture poster.

Here’s an invitation for you…Find or take a photo that catches your attention, enlarge it to poster-size at a local copy/print center if it’s not already the size of a poster, and use it to catch and keep your students’ attention in class. How?

Hold the poster up proudly and ask your students to study it for a few minutes. You can mount it on a bulletin board or easel if you prefer so that your hands are free to discuss it with the class. A giant picture poster is bold and commanding. It asks its viewers a discussion-opening question, “What do you see?” Help fourth or fifth grade students (recommended grade levels for this activity) explore answers to that question and you will help them become more observant, more thoughtful, and better able to stay focused longer on tasks.

How do I know? I’ve spent time talking with a masterful teacher of photography, Fred Schreiber, now based on the rugged coast of the state of Maine. Fred read my May 23, 2011 blog, Catch Attention with a Garden of Creativity that offered ideas on how to challenge K – 5 students to view a photo of a garden as MORE than just a collection of flowers. From that blog (check it out) Fred suggested that I blog about ways to use large photos as attention-ology tools themselves.

Fred credits John Szarkowski as a source for the suggestions below. Szarkowski (1925 – 2007) wrote The Photographer’s Eye, a book based on an exhibition by the same name at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Szarkowski was Curator of Photography at MOMA.

FOCUS ON FOCUSING – With the giant picture poster at center stage, open your class discussion with the question, “What do you see?” You may hear a few snickers as students answer with obvious observations. Tell them that there may be more to see than first meets the eye. Ask students to hold their focus longer and consider the ELEMENTS numbered below. Form questions about each element that relate to your picture poster, like I’ve formed questions about my sandbox photo. You may want to pop a quiz. Answers to my “quiz” questions are below.

1. LIGHT – What time of day was the sandbox photo taken? What besides sunlight adds to the lightness of the picture?

2. COLOR & FORM – What colors and forms are in the photo? What colors catch the most attention?

3. COMPOSITION – Is all of the sandbox visible in the photo? How are the toys inside the sandbox arranged? What single toy is (still) upright?

4. FRAME – What forms a frame in the photo besides the edges of the full picture?

5. ENVIRONMENT – Where is the sandbox on the (school) playground?

6. CONNECTION – Have you had personal experiences that connect with the photo?

Sandbox Photo Quiz Answers: 

1. The photo was taken at mid-day when the sun was high. The whitish sand itself adds to the light in the photo.

2. Colors and forms include red brick, light brown ground, green tufts of grass, blue sandbox, whitish sand, toys in green, aqua, pink, blue, yellow and red. The red and yellow toy truck and bright blue sandbox are the most eye-catching.

3. The lower left corner of the sandbox is out of the picture. The toys are scattered and all are on their sides except for the toy truck that is upright. Note that the truck is the largest toy.

4. The four sides of the sandbox itself form a frame inside the photo, inside the edges of the whole picture.

5. The sandbox is an enclosed environment placed against a brick school wall in a corner. The wall appears to be protecting the play area.

6. Fourth or fifth grade students might laugh at a picture poster of a sandbox because they’ve outgrown that kind of play. Still, intermediate kids may have fond memories of time in a sandbox that the photo helps them recall.

In-depth exploration… of objects like a giant picture poster, of school subjects, discussion topics, etc… may be more readily associated with students in upper grades. But, many teachers I’ve talked with believe as I do that elementary school students today are ready, willing and able to take on investigations that don’t stop with a single answer. Embracing possibilities and applying the ability to focus are critical skills in the twenty-first century. 

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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