Each year you spend about 1,080 hours with your kiddos- give or take. That’s A LOT of hours. Especially when you consider parents only get their kiddos for a few hours each night during the school year. Students grow and change throughout the course of our year with them which is why I think it is so important we document things we do with our students by taking pictures in the classroom.
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This isn’t really so much for our sake (although it can be!) but for the sake of our students and their parents.
Since we have kids in our possession for most of the day, I think it’s critical that we make pictures in the classroom a daily thing. All the activities our students are doing- both academic and for fun.
Once we have those pictures, it’s important to then share them with the parents of those kids. (I’ll share some ideas on how to do this in the next blog post.)
Why You Should be Taking Pictures in the Classroom
For now, though, let’s talk about some reasons why we should be taking photos of our students. I think it’s two-fold- for our kiddos but also for us!
For the Teacher
When I was in grad school I was expected to document, what felt like, every moment of the school day. A lot of the work I was doing in my grad classes was directly related to what I was doing in my classroom.
We were expected to take pictures of our activities, brain breaks, lessons, etc. to turn in with our grad school work as evidence of how we were implementing the things we were learning.
When I look back on that time, I am so grateful that I was required to take all those pictures for a couple of reasons. First, it gives me so many sweet memories of those kids I taught. Secondly, it helps me to see growth in how I developed as a teacher over the years. (And thirdly, it’s given me a ton of pictures to use on the blog- hah!)
For the Parents and Students
However, I think it is more critical that we take pictures in the classroom for our students and their parents. Like I mentioned above, we have these kids in our possession for a lot more of the waking hours than their parents.
Parents want to know what is going on with their kids each day. If you are a parent, I am sure you can relate to the excitement of seeing a classroom picture with your child in it. If it’s a picture with them engaged in an activity or actively working with a partner, all the better!
Kids love having their pictures taken (okay, most kids!). During my first year of teaching, I sent home weekly newsletters every Friday with pictures of what we did during the week. I got so many happy emails back from parents thanking me for sharing the inner workings of our classroom.
I also got a lot of happy students who would come into my room Monday morning gleaming that they were in last week’s newsletter.
If we are all about building relationships with parents (which we should be!), then this is a great way to establish that relationship with them.
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Classroom Photos with a Camera or a Phone?
Maybe now you are agreeing that pictures in the classroom is a worthwhile thing. But you are probably trying to decide if these need to be camera quality photos or if iPhone photos are okay.
My answer is both!
For the day to day pictures, I think your phone is fine. In the moment it’s quicker and easier.
But, if you have fun things going on at school (like a special Fall themed day with pumpkin fun all day long!) then bring in the fancy camera- if you have it!
I did this when we had our Pumpkin day and it made the day feel even more special. I was more intentional about the photos I was taking and the quality was so much better. It made the pictures I sent home to the parents so much more exciting to receive.
I don’t think the way you take the picture really matters, as long as you are being intentional in getting photos of each kid and doing your best to create photos that create meaning.
What do I mean by that? Your photos need to tell a story. When I look back at the pictures from my first year, I see I did not do this well. The photos are blurry at best and don’t really do a great job of conveying the feeling or emotion of what was going on at that moment.
Luckily, this isn’t a hard thing to learn.
How to Take Quality Photos in the Classroom
First, let’s talk about how to actually facilitate the taking of the photos because you have 1.453 million things on your plate. Why would you add taking photos to it?
Simple. Because it’s worth it!
If you teach young students or it is at the beginning of the new year, I recommend you taking the pictures. You likely have your phone on you throughout the day. Once you learn how to see photos through a different lens (pun intended!) you can easily see moments throughout the day to snap a photo or two.
To be honest, even one or two photos a day adds up to a lot of photos in a year!
Recently I took an online course called How to Master Your Vacation Photos by Courtney (who is a former teacher turned online photographer entrepreneur) and she harped on this point of telling a story with your photos. I really latched on to that and it’s completely changed the way I take photos- both with my phone and with my camera.
The classroom is no vacation, for sure. But some of the lessons in that course are still applicable- like how to get kids to cooperate and how to get more pictures than just the typical snapshot are two of the modules I would highly recommend to look at from a teaching angle.
Classroom Job- Photographer
You could also make it a classroom job. When I interviewed Thom Gibson for the podcast, he shared that he does this in his middle school classroom and I thought it was a genius idea. If you have a classroom iPad, this is a breeze!
It can be a job that rotates every few weeks or a job they keep all semester. Either way, I suggest educating the “Class Photographer” on what kind of photos you want and how to take quality photos (if you want to learn how to take quality photos both at school and of your loved ones- you can learn here!).
It is an initial time commitment, but once you teach one kid, that kid teaches the next kid and so on.
How to Organize Photos
Okay, here is the part I geek out on- how to organize photos!
As with everything I teach about when it comes to organization, the photos need a home (on your computer) and it needs to be as niched down as possible.
Here is what I mean by that. You need a folder on your computer for pictures. Within that folder, you need another folder for each class. Within that folder, you need folders for each day you upload, preferably with a brief description of what is going on in that group of pictures.
Again, this could be something you add to your plate OR a job a student does. 🙂
My friends Autumn and Bethany have a podcast episode where they talk about how to organize photos. AND, Bethany is a classroom teacher who takes lots of photos in her classroom and actually goes into detail about this very topic. I highly recommend giving it a listen.
(And by friends I mean I stalk them online and comment like we are bffs. We did record a podcast together, but they are basically my online organizing bffs!)
You can also check out the How to Master Lightroom Course by Courtney (mentioned above) as she shares her photo organization process.
Sharing the Photos
First, we need to acknowledge that not all parents want their kid’s photos taken and shared with the class. That’s okay, be sure to get permission from parents at the beginning of the year.
When they came in for Meet the Teacher Night I had them tell me if it was okay for the kids to be in class photos. I also asked them if it was okay that these photos be shared with the class. They answered both these through a google form.
For the parents who say yes to both, there are plenty of ways you can share the photos with them.
- Weekly or Monthly newsletters
- A Private Facebook Group
- A Class website
- An App like Seesaw, Class Dojo, or Bloomz
If you are feeling excited about taking pictures but unsure of the practical ways to do this- head here for all my thoughts on how to take photos, organize them, and share them with parents.
Until next time,
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