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Elaine Heyden
English teacher
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Lesson Plans

News “Framing” through Photographs and Videotapes

News “Framing” through Photographs and Videotapes

Elaine Heyden of Glasgow High School in Newark, Del.

Elaine Heyden
Glasgow High School
Newark, Del.

Title: News "framing" through photographs and videotapes

Description of School and Students
This curriculum is designed for 11th grade journalism students. The class is composed of 28 students of average ability from middle class families with little or no background in journalism.

Generative Topic
News "Framing" through Photographs and Videotapes

Generative Object
Photographs from The Family of Man

Understanding Goals

  1. Essential or Guiding Question
    • "A picture is worth a thousand words," but do the media exploit the power of photographs and videotapes to influence public opinion?
  2. Critical Engagement Questions
    1. Your age group has been referred to as the "MTV Generation," which carries a negative connotation of teen-agers that have little to no interest in anything, and even if you did, your attention span is grossly limited. Is this true?
    2. Where do you get your news?
    3. If a news article is accompanied by a photograph, do you read the article or rely totally on the visual?
    4. Is it impossible for a "complicated message to be relayed in a 10-second sound bite?" So the news media focus to get the message across. Is this possible? What are the advantages of using photographs? What are the disadvantages?
    5. How do visuals impact your understanding of issues? Can photographs or videotapes prejudice us?


  1. Students are shown a photograph from The Family of Man, a collection of powerful black and white images. Each student is directed to view the photograph, reflect for a minute, and respond with one written sentence. No discussion is permitted. The teacher will repeat this activity with additional photos as time allows.
    1. Following the viewing, photo No. 1 is presented again, and students are encouraged to read their reactions to photo No. 1. Responses may include: "This is a girl who is sad because she is poor." "This is a girl who has lost her father, and she just wants to be alone." Repeat with other photographs.
    2. The teacher is accepting all responses and explains the power of photographs (and videos — Rodney King) to influence how we feel about issues.
    3. Well known news photographs, including those depicting Kent State, the Holocaust, napalm victims, or President Clinton, will be displayed. Students once again will be asked to respond in writing to the images.
    4. Students will be given the opportunity to choose from three groups that are frequently presented in the media:
      1. women
      2. minorities
      3. teen-agers.
  2. Consideration will be given to other suggestions as well.

  3. A homework assignment covering one school week directs each student to collect five visuals pertaining to his/her subject area. Visuals from the print media should include the printed story, and visuals from TV should include the oral story.
  4. Throughout the week, students will be reflecting and responding to the images they have collected. Direct the students to view the visuals in a similar manner to our viewing of the photos from The Family of Man.
  5. Direct students to complete Power of Visuals questionnaires for each visual.
  6. Daily, students will be working individually on their visuals in the classroom.


  1. Students’ daily classroom effort will be evaluated.
  2. Each student will submit two of their favorite visuals and the accompanying news stories along with a one-page paper explaining if/how the photos or videos prejudiced him/her.
  3. Each student will submit a Power of Visuals questionnaire for both visuals.
  4. All students will Select their most powerful images and present them to the class for discussion and comment.


  1. Appropriate photographs
  2. Video clips
  3. Questionnaire
Elaine Heyden’s lesson plan, "News ‘Framing’ Through Photographs and Videotapes" was published in The Media and Democracy Curriculum Compendium 1998, Barrett and Greyser editors, published by Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., p. 24.

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