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Literacy Through Photography®
Lesson 10 : Self Portrait Shot List
music, money, air, life death, consciousness, tap, love, flash, light, dark, limo, model, nerd, color, tone, art, depth, 3-D, frequency
Chris Templonuevo, 6th grader, Deady Middle School

The goal of this lesson is to motivate students to reflect on who they are and to think of ways to capture that in a photograph.

Lesson Outcomes
Students will:
- receive a detailed explanation of the Self-portrait Photo Assignment.
- identify in writing the personal qualities that define their sense of their selves.
- create a detailed shot list for ten self-portrait experiments.

Key terms & Concepts
shot list

- Change the portrait photos on display.
- LTP journals and writing instruments

Lesson Length
40 minutes

I. Journal Writing and Brain Drain

  • Write a ten minute Brain Drain to answer the questions "What do I look like? What would I like to look like? How have I changed over the years?"
  • Student readings of Brain Drains

II. Introduction: Self-portrait Photo Assignment
The first roll of film will be used to take self-portraits. Before clicking the shutter, it is important to think about who you are and how you will show yourself. Each self-portrait must tell the viewer something about you as an individual. How can you describe yourself to a viewer? You are the director of your picture. What do you want to express?

NOTE TO TEACHERS: Discuss the following questions and suggest examples. Write student answers on board.

  • Where do you want to be photographed?
  • Consider the significance of a light place, a dark place, being inside or being outside.
  • What do you want to wear?
  • What attitude do you want to show?
  • What mood do you want to show?
  • What would you emphasize to show this mood?
  • How would you show this mood through the position of your body?
  • What or whom do you want in the picture with you? A pet, a picture, a toy, a trophy--- you can include anything that tells us about you.
  • Think about the person deep inside of you that nobody has seen. Try to make a picture of that person.
  • Make a portrait of the person you think everyone sees most of the time.
  • Make a portrait of the person you might to be.
  • Make a portrait of the person you don't want to be.

III. Brainstorm: Approaches to Self-portrait
Two methods are described. Choose the method that best fits the level of autonomy of your class. The objective of both methods is to create a LIST of SUBJECTS and BACKGROUNDS in a mix and match juxtaposition that offers the photographer possibilities to express his ideas.

Method 1
Have students list one word responses in their journals to the following prompts. If you give them these questions on paper to keep, it will help them create their shot lists.

  • How will you capture yourself in a photograph?
  • Do you see yourself mainly in the present, in the future or in the past?
  • How many different jobs do you have? Daughter, sister, uncle, brother, teacher, student, citizen, church member, etc.?
  • If you were a plant, what kind would you be? An animal? A color?
  • If you were music, what style would you be?
  • What would you like the world to know about you that you have never expressed?
  • Do you have a hidden talent or ability that you would like to reveal?
Method 2
Prompt the students to define themselves in writing by asking them to help you define yourself. Have them list their definitions of themselves in their LTP journals.
church choir member
tennis player

Teacher Talk

Many students were uncomfortable taking pictures of themselves. This was an opportunity to talk about why they were uncomfortable. The group gets very difficult to work with when they are uncomfortable with the activity or discussion. A good exercise for this segment is the interviewer/interviewee role play. Students are put into pairs and asked to do an in-depth interview and then to either write an article or report back to the group verbally. Another slant on the same exercise is to do a talk show format. Excellent for improving group cohesion and listening skills.
Terry Weir, School intervention Counselor
Galena Park I.S.D.

IV. Create a Shot List for 10 Self-portraits
You are many people rolled into one, so you will need to develop a list of roles and important things to include in each one of your self-portraits.

NOTE TO TEACHERS: If you used method 2, ask the students to suggest poses to show who you are from your list. For example: teacher and her children, teacher at her computer, teacher playing piano, etc. They can then extrapolate from their own lists. Make sure to include specific references to the defining elements of a portrait in each shot. You may wish to refer to the Shot Checklist in the Appendix.

  • What will you wear?
  • Where will you pose?
  • What emotion will you convey by your facial expression?
  • Who or what else is in the picture?
  • What will be in the background? Will there be any props?
  • Do you want a head-and-shoulders shot or a full body photo?
  • Will there be bright light or shadows? Where will the light come from?
  • What do you want the viewer to think of you?

Ask for volunteers to share details of the shot that expresses their ideal self-portrait.

Teacher Talk

My 1st period class is usually slow starting, so I chose to prompt them on the Pre-Writing exercise. I used chalk talk and wrote one-word descriptions of myself on the board. I asked them for suggestions for portrait photos that would show all my different identities. Then I set them to the task of developing their own personal shot list. The results were exciting. They had many unique approaches to showing who they are and created shot lists that were useful and provocative.

I took a different approach with my 2nd period class. They are usually self-starters so, instead of the prompt with myself as the model, I launched into a generic "What might a typical student do to show himself?" They came up with possible photos of the student with his friends, with a pizza, in an athletic uniform, with favorite tennis shoes, etc. The students, for the most part, copied the typical student shot list from the board and adopted it as their own. Every time I teach this curriculum I get a better idea of what to do the next time around.
Signa Segrest, Language Arts teacher
Deady Middle School

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