When developing the photo essay assignment for my course, I came across an excellent resource for teachers and students. The New York Times has started a blog entitled Lens: Photography, Video, and Visual Journalism. The topics covered in the blog posts touch on several critical issues such as immigration, race, and class. The photos captured in each of the photo essays serve as a great entry point into rich discussion. When using the Lens Blog in my classroom I find myself drawing on skills I developed during workshops many years ago.
When I was a public school teacher, I participated in a fascinating series of professional development workshops called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). By analyzing carefully selected images, students were able to develop critical literacy skills as well as visual literacy skills. Teachers were facilitators in this process and asked three open-ended questions:
1. What’s going on in this picture?
2. What do you see that makes you say that?
3. What more can we find?
I found myself using the VTS approach when presenting students the photo essays from the Lens blog. Students in my class really engaged with the photos and rich discussion took place as a result. I will definitely be using this blog for years to come in the classroom.
Below are some powerful images from photo essays on the Lens Blog.
Link to VTS site: http://www.vtshome.org/
Link to NYT Lens: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/