Al Clarke, Montezuma Creek Elementary School, Montezuma, Utah
Subject: Language Arts/Photography
"Looking for and thinking aloud about what would constitute
a good photograph for a particular situation created new perspectives
that enhanced student language use and the photographic product."
Purpose and Description of Project
Bruce Hucko and Al Clarke devised a language arts/photography
project that gave their Navajo students an opportunity to examine
their community from a journalistic perspective. Students photographed
and interviewed parents and community members and produced photo-story
posters to be displayed in the school. Hucko and Clarke were concerned
with developing communication skills and with defining teaching
techniques to help students transfer Navajo thoughts into English
writing. Their goal was not so much to create writer/photographers
as it was to develop in the students respect for their community
and pride in their work.
Project activities followed this outline:
- Preparation: Students as a class brainstormed a list of possible
jobs in the community to explore. Working in teams of two (writer
and photographer), students chose their interview assignments-e.g.,
preacher, principal, basketball coach, postmaster, etc. In each
case, students conducted a first interview with their parents
to make them comfortable with the process and to help them learn
more clearly what work their parents were involved in. Interview
appointments were scheduled and deadlines for copy and photos
- Skill Sessions: Hucko, a professional photographer, instructed
students in using a light meter and flash and in
pictures. Interviewing skills-writing letters of introduction,
meeting people confidently and getting to know them, and developing
a questioning strategy-were discussed. Clarke emphasized inquiry
and organization techniques as students planned their assignments.
- Getting the Information: Before each interview appointment,
the class brainstormed questions. Writers prepared transcripts
of the tape-recorded interviews and began their first story drafts
while photographers began making photo selections.
- Follow-Through: After Clarke corrected the first drafts of
the stories, students entered them in the school's personal computer.
Student teams met with Hucko to select and print the final photos.
Finally, the printed articles and photos were mounted on 14"
x 22" mount boards and displayed in the school hallway.
Materials, Resources, and Expenses
The most indispensable human resources were the community members
who were willing to be interviewed and photographed. The students
used 35 mm
cameras and black-and-white
The cameras and darkroom were provided through the school's established photography program
so the only cost was for film, chemicals, and photographic paper.
Outcomes and Adaptability
Foremost among the outcomes was the fact that the students saw
the job through. The class response to the project was dynamic.
When comparing student prewrites with final stories, the latter
were far superior in terms of clarity, continuity, and detail.
"Indeed, the act of photographing focused the student's attention
on the subject matter which led to more detailed writing!"
Language usage improved noticeably and their photography showed
style and imagination as well as technical skill.
Scheduling difficulties were avoided because of the flexibility
of the all class schedule; "when an activity did not get
finished one day, we merely tackled it the next." Having
two teachers involved in the project made it feasible for pairs
of students to conduct interviews and develop photos during school
time under the supervision of one teacher while the other worked
with the remaining students in the classroom.
Hucko and Clarke believe such a community search project is valid
for all communities and can be adapted to any situation. However,
they suggest it would be more replicable in an Anglo/English community
because of the lack of a language barrier between teacher, student,