The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Photography

I’m always excited to hear from followers of my blog and connecting with readers through Twitter or by e-mail. Recently, teachers from Mere Green Primary have shared ways they have been using the Young Children Can Create books, which I published with Kristi Meeuwse and Jason Milner in August 2018. This is the second blog post which has been written by Terri Coombs and Rebecca Murray from Mere Green Primary School. In this post, they share the impact that The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Photography guide has had on their early years practice.

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Terri Coombs is the IT Lead for Mere Green and SLE in Computing and IT across the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership. She has 20 years teaching experience which includes 10 years of leading IT and is passionate about using technologies to inspire creative teaching & learning and enable all children to engage.
Rebecca Murray is the IT Lead for Early Years at Mere Green, she has 5 years of teaching experience in Early Years and promotes the use of iPads to encourage levels of independence.
Mere Green Primary School is an outstanding two form entry, family orientated school. We are driven to ‘make a difference’ for all our children, through support, nurture and trust. In addition to our mainstream children, we also have 20 places for children with statements for speech, language and communication from North Birmingham, who have enhanced speech provision across the school day. We are a fully inclusive primary school, which reflects the society in which we live.  We have a whole school vision for embedded use of IT to enhance authentic learning opportunities.

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Celebrating Earth Day with Oliver Jeffers

Screenshot 2019-04-28 at 13.26.35Next year, Earth Day will celebrate it’s 50th anniversary. Back in 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the impact of 150 years of industrial development. 49 years later, the campaign continues in 192 countries with over a billion people participating.

This year, children’s author and artist Oliver Jeffers and Apple Education designed an education project for Earth Day to inspire young children to think about the future of their local area.

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Oliver’s message was simple. Snap a photo of your environment, draw how you’d like to see it in the future and share your idea with the world. He describes himself as an optimist in a short trailer about the project, explaining that the world becomes a better place because people it imagine it that way. You can watch the trailer here.

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My class watched the trailer and we paused the clip in a few places to talk about the message or discuss the whimsical sketches Oliver makes. I then modelled to the children how to take a photograph of our outdoor area then use the mark-up tools in ‘Edit’ to create our own images to share.

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A Spring Time Photo Walk

Back in January I took my young learners on a winter photo walk to appreciate the beauty of frosty scenes and notice the patterns in the natural world. You can read about this activity here. Wednesday 20th March was marked as the first day of Spring, and we were learning about the Hindu festival of Holi, so we took our cameras out on photo walk to capture the colours and signs of spring time.

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Before the walk we looked at the photographs from our winter walk. This was an effective way to link learning and notice the changes that have happened in the seasons but also to review the teaching point of good photography. Using photography in the early years is important because young children have access to cameras in almost all devices they touch. We must teach children to use cameras effectively and for a particular purpose so that they don’t fill devices with endless, repetitive images and learn that photographs tell us visual stories.

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Adapting Stories With Photography and Drawing

Having cameras in our mobile devices has changed the way we capture, edit and share photographs. Shooting an image outdoors now means we can crop it, adjust it and share it immediately afterwards. Whilst we are amazed at this as adults, the young children in our classrooms see this as normal and it’s a regular life for them. Children are exposed to cameras in almost every device they can put their hands on so we have a responsibility to teach children how to take and use photography for a particular purpose, otherwise their devices, and yours, become full of repeated, useless images like these:

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In a week themed around adapting the story of The Gingerbread Man, Reception children took their iPads to Woodland Workshop to capture and edit story scenes for their own runaway food stories. Previous learning has focused on taking close-up photographs outdoors or using the camera to capture story scenes of a naughty bus puppet misbehaving in the woodlands.

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A Frosty Photo Walk and the Impact on Writing.

Teaching young children to take photographs is one of my favourite uses of technology in the early years. The potential of children’s photography is rich in learning opportunities for many areas of learning and a purpose which supports all aspects of the Enabling Environment principle.

Supporting Exploration

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The cold weeks of January and the frosty mornings gave perfect scenes for outdoor photography at our Woodland Workshop so our iPads came with us. Children were challenged to take close up photographs of the frost. They needed to get closer, and even closer, then wait for the camera to focus before pressing the shutter button. It needed a steady hand and firm grip but the children needed an artistic eye too. Children had to look closely at the frosty environment and notice patterns. A good photograph works with the rule of thirds and the more photography children admire the more their eyes are trained to capture good images. Photography is an opportunity for children to explore the beauty around them.

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Photography and Story Writing

The Naughty Bus is one of my favourite stories to read to children. The text is presented in a fun way, with words that help convey meaning. It’s the illustrations that bring the story to life for me though, real photographs in a fiction book. I love the way a real London Bus toy comes to life on the pages in the way that children imagine when they are playing with their own toys.

These illustrations made me think about the ways that photography can inspire children to write. What if children used their own photography as a stimulus for writing?

Each day this week, children have come to school to find our own Naughty Bus in various scenes of chaos.

These scenes created lots of conversation and excitement each morning, and I modelled how to capture these moments with our camera. In a few taps of the iPad, I could snap a few photographs, swipe through them with the children on the spot, select the ‘one best’ photo and print it wirelessly to display on in our classroom. The children then set to work cleaning up after their Naughty Bus but the moment was captured forever (and shared with parents via the class blog).

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Remembrance Day Exhibition

This year for Remembrance Day our school planned an exhibition of work. As with any time of remembrance and reflection, the community comes together to support each other. Differences are put aside and similarities are found between us.

I wanted the Foundation Stage exhibition of poppies to show this so I took inspiration from the new Everyone Can Create Photography guide.

Physical Art

First of all, children drew their own simple representation of the iconic poppy symbol of The Royal British Legion.

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Young Children Can Create

In England we teach young children (Birth to 5 years old) from a non-statutory curriculum now known as Early Years Outcomes (formally Development Matters). The curriculum is structured around 7 areas of learning but themed on A Unique Child, Parent Partnerships, Enabling Environments and Learning & Development. Learning across these themes, principles and areas of learning are woven together through The Characteristics of Effective Learning.

Development Matters, and Early Years Outcomes, explain that theEE theme Enabling Environments theme should ‘value all people’ and all learning. Yet there is a division in the early years community about the role of technology in learning. Our young children have access to technology in the home and there are an abundance of reports and opinions claiming screen time is a contributing factor towards low attainment in physical, social and language development. For this reason, there are settings who switch off to technology provision.

Technology is the one strand in our early years curriculum, and throughout the National Curriculum, where the application in the learning environment is different to the application at home:

  • talking at home is similar to talking at school,
  • sharing at home is similar to sharing at school,
  • reading at home is similar to reading at school,
  • numbers at home is similar to numbers at school,
  • whereas technology at home is different to technology at school.

At home, children (and adults!) watch TV and video rather than film movies ourselves. We use the internet at home to browse and shop. We more often choose to listen to music rather than make it. We look at photographs at home rather than take them. We regularly relax in front of screens. 

At school and nursery, the Early Learning Goal for Technology states that children should ‘select and use technology for particular purposes’. In the National Curriculum for Key Stage 1 this extends to digital skills such as using images, video and sound for creative projects.

We should be teaching children how to create with technology, in meaningful ways that are cross-curricular where ‘experiences respond individual needs’ and interests.

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50 Things To Do This Summer: Number 49 “Make a PicCollage”

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I am an advocate for using Spread The Happiness resources for more effective partnerships with parents.

 

Last year Shonette Bason-Wood introduced 50 Things To Do This Summer; a checklist of activities to get families having fun together. It's full of real simple ideas that sometimes get forgotten in busy life, but when we look over it as adults, we remember those things from our childhood – well most of them!

Number 49: "Make a PicCollage"

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Technology is part of children's lives now and 'screen time' gets a lot of bad press. Not all screen time is the same though. No doubt many of us are in settings where children's communication, language, social and physical development are behind age-typical development so we are quick to assume this is because of their use of technology.

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One Best Photo Gallery

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  Saturday 17th June

Here is a day that has been marked on my calendar for several months, but also a day that 2 years ago, I never have thought would have been marked on my calendar!

One Best Photo launched at Sherwood Pines.

What is One Best Photo?

This project came about through a partnership with myself and the Learning Rangers at Sherwood Pines. In 2015, I met the Rangers to talk about ways in which I am using technology outdoors on field trips to their forest. For several years I had been taking classes of Foundation Stage children (aged 4 – 5) and leading photography walks with them.

Why?

Children have access to cameras in devices and photography is huge part of their every day lives. We now have a responsibility to teach them camera skills and what it means to be a photographer. If we don’t, then this will continue to happen on our devices when our young learners use them…

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