Discover The Power of A Picture

If you’re like me, nothing tells a story better than a picture.  Photographs can inform, entertain, invoke emotion, take you to another place, and more.    As a child I loved the thrill of capturing just the right image with the camera, waiting to finish the roll so that I could get it developed, discovering the joy (or heartbreak depending on how the photo came out) again when viewing the photo for the first time, and then sharing it with others.  As I grew older, I also developed an appreciation for the “storytellers” behind the images.  Parents and teachers alike are storytellers, documenting the milestones in life: first step, first lost tooth, first day of school, learning how to share with others, completing a puzzle, reading a book independently.  There are multiple ways that people document momentous occasions in life – through writing, in a memory, on a Facebook Timeline, in a video, etc.  Through it all photography can be a wonderful tool to help document all of these wonderful accomplishments.

Last fall, Shelly Meredith, our Infant/Toddler Specialist presented a workshop about Making Learning Visible – Using Photographs to Showcase the Learning Process in Your Classroom.  To further explore the topic of photo documentation in the classroom setting, here is a synopsis of her presentation.  Enjoy!

Have a Great Week!




What is Documentation?

“Documentation is the process of gathering evidence and artifacts of what happen in the classroom. Documentation is not only the process of gathering evidence and artifacts, but also a physical collection of evidence and artifacts, the reflection of that collection or part of it, in a way that makes children’s learning visible to the children, to the teachers, and to the other adults, including families and visitors.”

-Carla Rinaldi (1994)



For Children, photos help them:

  • Recall and reflect upon learning experiences by seeing photos on display
  • Revisit their experiences  with others and tell the story of their learning
  • See and connect with the work of their peers

For Families photos can:

  • Open the door to a classroom for families
  • Mean better appreciation for what is happening in the classroom
  • Initiate meaningful conversations between parents and children

For Teachers photos:

  • Are used as a tool to review and reflect on activities during planning
  • Give a strong visual support for anecdotes (“Attach Portfolio Item”)
  • Are a resource for other teachers



What can be documented with Photos?

  • Process
  • Progress
  • Skills
  • Interactions
  • Influences
  • Remember – Every activity provides multiple possibilities!


Ideas for Using Photos in the Classroom

  • Displayed alongside children’s work- Inside/outside of the classroom
  • On display with only photos and captions
  • Emails to parents
  • Classroom newsletter
  • Photo albums/ handmade books for class reading area
  • To support anecdotal notes
  • Room area labels and daily schedule


Captions Are Important!

Don’t forget to use Strong Photo Captions. If you spend the time writing a caption, make it say more than the photo already does!

  • Recreate the moment with words
  • Include quotes from the child
  • Be specific
  • Use descriptive terminology- “Power Verbs”



Strategies for Taking Quality Photos

1. Establish a focal point

2. Move in close (proximity or with zoom function)

3. Vary the angle

4. Keep your “subjects” busy



Shelly Meredith is our Infant/Toddler Specialist and has been with ECA since 2012. She earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Ball State University. Shelly loves the way children view their world and the hilarious things they say.



I loved this suggestion From Make Learning Visible:


Take Pictures!

Photograph your child playing at home, helping you cook, during a trip, or doing anything! After the pictures are printed, discuss the photos with your child. Ask questions like, “Tell me about this.” “How did you feel about doing this?” and “Why did you choose to do this?” Document what s/he says during the reflection time.


Resource Links

The Power of Documentation in the Early Childhood Classroom from NAEYC

Picture This!  Using Photography in the Early Childhood Classroom from Earlychildhood News