When wrapping a gift, we are careful to cut only the amount of wrapping paper needed for the size of the gift. Anything additional is a waste. This is a good approach to consider when using photography. Think of the size of your photograph as the wrapping paper. Now consider your subject. Are you using all the wrapping paper, or have you allowed some to go to waste?

If a student decided to communicate something about a tree in his photograph, he might fall into the all too common trap of backing up so as to perfectly center the entire tree. When viewing his photo, we find the whole top half to be a beautiful blue sky. The bottom half is wonderful green grass. And there, directly in the middle of the image, is the tree. Let’s now reconsider the original intent of his communication…something relevant to the tree. Place a transparency with a black tic-tac-toe style grid on top of the image. You should now see the photo evenly divided into nine equal squares. Each square represents a form of nonverbal, non-written communication. Let’s compare this image to the written from of communication…a nine word sentence. While reviewing the nine squares, we find the center square to be the only portion of the image that pertains to the tree. The remaining eight squares contain irrelevant information. We must now go back to our nine-word sentence and erase those eight words that were not used. By eliminating eight of nine words from a sentence, we’re left with an incomplete thought that has no communication. Therefore, based on this comparison, the photo does not communicate its intended language. We ask the student to evaluate what (s)he has learned and create a new photograph. This time, all nine squares represent a portion of the communication. It is concise, needing no interpretation.

I recommend taking the communication one step further by having the student turn the camera on an angle, or simply do something unique. This approach still supports a full frame of communication, however now the communication or language becomes unique to that child. This is important as it stresses there can be no right or wrong. The language is every bit as unique as the student her/himself. I appreciate the round table effect this has in a classroom. Because there can be no mistakes (or miss-takes), all of your students are unique, not gifted nor delayed, rather…unique.

- Timothy Gangwer

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