fifth grade photography poems

This looking at art activity comes from one of my art21 peers, Don Ball. Who, by the way, is pretty darn amazing. Here he is talking about his own art work:

What I love about this activity is that it's a collective observation process. The fifth graders (who are doing photography this year) each started with a photograph and wrote 5 words to describe the art. Then they moved on to the next one, wrote another 5 words, and so on, until the entire class contributed observations for each photograph. After each line was written, a piece of paper was moved down over it, so the lines above were hidden. Then the unveiling! Students came back to their original photograph and read all of the observations, chose one word from each line of the five words listed, and used these words to create a short poem. In this way, each poem is a collective observation! 

This was a great way to validate the observations of everyone and the "quiet conversation" process helped to deepen their observation and understanding of the art. 

Sharon Lockhart
by Alexis

The box, the carton with color
Dark background
You see Dole
I see hoarder
Made of plastic
Patriotic strutting its red
The peach sticker wanted to stick
Healthy lunch

After the poems were composed, students read their poems aloud in small groups also taking care to listen for the word they had contributed. Here they could make small changes, check for understanding, and discuss their observations. Once the small groups had finished, we moved to the presentation side of the room where I projected their photographs on the big screen as they got to read their poems to everyone. 

This process took the entire hour and not one student complained about not having time to make art. In fact, I had a few students tell me how much fun they were having and everyone was completely absorbed in the process! I definitely plan on using this process again in other grades with different art. 

William Wegman
by Ginger

The fortune called
the newly born dog
into the dark.
Evil starts grabbing.
Mom comes saving
in her cool color dress
being as meaningful
as a mother could

Andreas Gursky
by Marcus

sugar filled market,
99 cents, sale, money, ads, cheap!
candy, rolo, bright colors,
people, people, people
sugar filled market

Ansel Adams
by Oliver

high as the
dark mystical
rays play on the
color shining
the angelic

Bernd & Hilla Becher
by Max W.

The rusty worn down towers
Gridded and bare seek out water
Tall standing construction

Dorthea Lange
by Elise

A single mother
With no home
Hiding, dirt everywhere
She wants to work
Waiting for hope
She is filled with sadness
Scared her homeless family
Will die
Great depression

Lewis Hine
by Emma

Child labor is wrong
Forcing innocent children to work
Trying to earn money for shoes, clothes, and food
Curious kids forced into slavery
Feeling empty

Oliver Herring
by Reza

Splattered man
Project man
Motionless man
Background man
Movement man
Meaning man
Azouris man
Dirty man
Teal man
Chaos man


ArtMuse said...

I'm very interested in this activity. You said that every student had a photo and that they each came up with 5 words for each photo. When they rotated back to their original photo they used the words to create a poem. I have two questions, How many students do you have in a class? I usually have between 20-24 and I'm thinking that each photo having over 100 words associated with it may be too overwhelming. Also, were there any requirements the kids had for creating the actual poem?


Shannah said...

I have 12 students so we had time for everyone to respond to each one while still being manageable, but you could make it work with 5-12 rounds for larger class sizes or shorter times!

The only requirement was that they use one of the 5 words in each line. I told them they could do rhyming, free verse, haiku, cinquain, or anything else they know how to do:)

Hope Hunter Knight said...

Such a great idea - I'm thinking that in my classes of 28 or so, each of my six tables could have their own little rotation instead of going around the room. I have a soft spot for art/poetry combos.

Ruth Lee said...

What an amazing lesson and a great way for students to really look at a picture long enough to feel something and respond to it. I love that you're incorporating writing into this as well!

Molly said...


This was an awesome lesson. Thanks for sharing! I tried it with my 5th graders and they enjoyed it (see post above). Love your blog. I'm in my first year of teaching elementary Digital Media arts in DC.