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I started by concentrating on the elements first of what makes a good photo. This might not have been the best approach as it was pretty technical. Behind the scenes in our literacy programme we were working on firstly writing a haiku to match a selected photo downloaded from www.freenature.com. This developed the relationship between image and its meaning to get use to iMovie and coordinate voice, and to see how photos can tell a story.

From there the next step I took was to help students see that photos can tell stories. We did a Bus Stop activity based on "My Place". Everyone chose a photo and brainstormed what the photo might be about and to frame a question on what the photographer might be thinking. The discussion that was happening around that activity was a real turning point.

Then we brought in the human element - a photography student at University. Zoe (community artist) came and showed all her photos and talked about how and why she took them. She told us it's the story behind the photo that's most important. Consider the technical elements and composition when you reflect and review your photos. At this point I share the learning rubric with the children and also got the parents involved. They were fantastic with their support.

The kids had 2 weeks to just take photos. Every child downloaded between 100 - 250 photos. It was a crazy time on the computers! I had to hand out school cameras for students to take home which is a risk but everyone respected them.

The next stage was the hard part. Children were only allowed to choose 7 - 10 photos. It was really an emotional experience for them and we had quite a few in tears as they remembered say a grandparent who had died. The kids worked in pairs to select the best photos and discuss their artistic and aesthetic value.

For some of my kids who struggle with literacy this let them achieve well - they put in an amazing effort because of the photos. So the literacy we got out of this project was amazing. The best the children have produced. They were able to focus on personal meaning and the photos supported this in a meaningful way. It wouldn't have worked to the same degree without the visual arts learning that was the basis of the unit. The literacy came out of that, not the other way around.

Poetry was just a supporting thing. We all realized that the real story is in the photo.

I know so much more about my kids now...and them about each other. I got very emotional reading and seeing the students' work so I can imagine there might be some tears from parents on the night of the exhibition.

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