Lesson Plans

Piecing the Story Together: Visual Literacy Activity Using Photo Puzzles

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An older miner and a younger boy are chin deep in frigid water 150-meters below the surface as they work a gold mine near Syndicate on the island of Masbate. Image by Larry C. Price. Philippines, 2012.

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Close to 40 men and women sit around a table and share a meal inside the kitchen of the shelter.

Runaway migrant workers shared a meal inside the kitchen of the shelter. Image by Xyza Bacani. Singapore, 2016. Add this image to a lesson

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Young boys help stack bricks inside the kiln. As many as 60,000 children work in brick kilns across Nepal. Image by Ann Hermes. Nepal, 2016.

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Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2017.

Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2017.

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A Syrian refugee in Greece, Ilham Alarabi thought moving from a tent to a hotel would help her family. But with five sons all under the age of seven, it has proved to be chaotic. Image by Lynsey Addario. Greece, 2016.

A Syrian refugee in Greece, Ilham Alarabi thought moving from a tent to a hotel would help her family. But with five sons all under the age of seven, it has proved to be chaotic. Image by Lynsey Addario. Greece, 2016.

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Outdoor Exams. This morning the girls were doing their end of year exams together outside at Bibi Ayisha High School for Girls in Worsaj. It was a wonderful sight with them all hunched over their exam papers. Occasionally a girl would try and copy her friend and would be reprimanded by the teachers. It reminded me very much of exam rooms in England. Image by George Butler. Afghanistan, 2014.

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Image by Natalie Keyssar. Venezuela, 2016.

Image by Natalie Keyssar. Venezuela, 2016.

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Women throw candy, clothes and furs to elders during the traditional blanket toss at the annual whaling feast in Point Hope, Alaska. Image by Katie Orlinsky. United States, 2015.

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Residents involved with the community group Organisation pour le Developpement de Canaan (OPCD) raise the first of three light poles they have constructed by hand in the Canaan I section of Canaan. “The government has no interest here because there is nothing in it for them,” says Cherestal Dulia, a secretary general of the group. The group pools money to buy materials and meets on Sundays to cast three bags of cement and four pieces of 3/8” rebar into a single pole. In the past six months they have raised 15 of the 51 they estimate they need to reach the main road. “Next, high tension wires,” says Dulia. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2018.

Residents involved with the community group Organisation pour le Developpement de Canaan (OPCD) raise the first of three light poles they have constructed by hand in the Canaan I section of Canaan. “The government has no interest here because there is nothing in it for them,” says Cherestal Dulia, a secretary general of the group. The group pools money to buy materials and meets on Sundays to cast three bags of cement and four pieces of 3/8” rebar into a single pole. In the past six months they have raised 15 of the 51 they estimate they need to reach the main road. “Next, high tension wires,” says Dulia. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2018.

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Sweet Love (left), a transgender woman, poses for a portrait in the Children of the Sun safe house with her partner of two years, Kenneth. Image by Jake Naughton. Uganda, 2017.

Sweet Love (left), a transgender woman, poses for a portrait in the Children of the Sun safe house with her partner of two years, Kenneth. Image by Jake Naughton. Uganda, 2017.

Activity Prep for Educators:

This dynamic activity is a perfect warm-up for any lesson on visual literacy! Before class, print out the "Photos for Puzzle Activity" PDF below (we suggest using cardstock) and cut the photos into puzzle piece shapes (just like this). Every student should start out with one puzzle piece, and the remaining pieces that make up their photo should be distributed among other students/around the room. Additionally, print out the "Captions for Photo Puzzles" PDF, or plan to project it during class.

Activity Instructions for Students:

1. On your own, examine the puzzle piece in front of you. Take three minutes to write down:

  • What do you see on your puzzle piece?
  • What story do you think this photo is telling?
  • What would you predict the rest of this photograph might look like?

Share your observations and predictions with the class.

2. You are holding one piece of a photograph from a news story. The other pieces that make up that photo are in your classmates' hands, or scattered around the room! Take two minutes to work with your classmates to put your photo puzzle together.

3. Now that you see the full picture, discuss in your small group:

  • What story do you think this photo is telling now?
  • How well do your predictions match up with reality?
  • What would you predict the news story this photo is from might be about?

4. Find the headline and caption that match your photo. Discuss as a class:

  • What new information did you learn by reading?
  • Why is it important to seek out the whole story instead of settling for partial information?
  • How can we seek out the full story/get more information about things we see in the news, on social media, and in our everyday lives?
Educator Notes: 

This lesson was developed in partnership with Carolyn Kouri, visual arts educator at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC.

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