Photo composition, caption writing and program building

Garfield County District High School senior Macy Fogle instructs her 5th grade partner in caption writing. High school media students buddied with elementary students to teach photo composition basics and caption writing.

Adviser Ellen Austin and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Garfield County District High School in Jordan, Montana as part of the JEA Partner Project in order to provide training to an eager group of student journalists and their two amazing, energetic advisers.

One of my favorite parts of the three-day workshop was an activity on photo composition (which could be applied to video as well) and caption writing that was so simple, yet so effective.

Adviser Ellen Austin gives Garfield County District High School media students instructions on how to play the ball toss team building game. Half of the group played the game while the other half applied the photography techniques just discussed.

We began with a very simple photo composition basics slideshow and guided notetaking sheet, followed by an application exercise that allowed half the group to practice the techniques while the other half played a team-building game. Then they switched and the other half had the chance to practice.

After about 15 minutes of practice for each half, we headed back to the classroom and used the back of the notes handout to write captions for their one best photo.

That afternoon, they submitted their photos and we collected their captions to give them feedback the next morning. Then — here’s the coolest part — we headed out to the elementary school, and they taught fourth, fifth and sixth graders photo composition technique and caption writing.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the little kids took excellent photos with the hands-on guidance of their high school buddies, and as an English teacher, it warmed my heart to see them working so hard to write their captions.

The hope is that the high school media kids can continue to connect with their buddies throughout the year, extending the lessons they teach and even including the work of the littles in their print or online publications. If successful, the partnership could increase the participation in the program and inspire a new generation of young journalists to work for their journalism and yearbook staffs in the future.

Michelle Balmeo

Michelle Balmeo, MJE, is the adviser of The Whirlwind newsmagazine and online news publication at West Albany High School in Albany, Ore. She's done some print stuff, some video stuff, and some web stuff over the past 16 years as a student media adviser.

Michelle Balmeo has 66 posts and counting. See all posts by Michelle Balmeo

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