Photo Essay: Performance Task Teacher Guide

The Photo Essay Performance Task Guide is designed to guide students through the process of creating a photo essay that delivers a message on a topic of significance.

The photo essay is an engaging tool for teaching students important elements of narrative writing, media literacy, argumentation, and presentation. The strategic use of visual media to communicate, persuade, and inform is an important skill set that will prepare students for a variety of professional pathways. Photo essays are commonly used in business meetings to model new products or make sales pitches. They are used at conferences and exhibits to sway an audience or inform on a topic. Photo essays are also used virtually, with applications that span from sports broadcasting to social and political advocacy.


Opportunities for Student Choice 

Student choice can be encouraged in a number of ways: students can choose the topic, message, or position. They can choose the photos and text to include, and the audience and purpose of their essay. They will also choose the layout and order of the photos to tell their story and make their position clear.


Authentic Task 

Photojournalism and specifically photo essays are used in many professions. Organizations that disseminate news often use photos and photo essays to tell stories to a broad audience; social organizations use photo essays to make the public aware of various aspects of their cause; educators use photo essays to make their subjects come alive. Even in business photos are strung together to model new products, as sales pitches, and for advertising purposes. Within many fields, photo essays are used in meetings, at conferences, to sway public opinion, and to call communities, constituents, and stakeholders to action on various issues. Both historically and currently, the art of photojournalism is an essential skill and today that skill is enhanced through the use of multimedia technology.


Opportunities for Exhibition to an Audience 

There are many possible audiences for photo essays. If students are working on a school issue they can produce a photo essay to be presented or displayed at a school assembly or to be posted on the school’s website. If it’s a community issue they might post their photo essay on the web or present it at a town council meeting. Students can create a guest blog post for their presentation. They can create their own class web link and put their essays together in one place. They might also submit proposals to present at a conference, or look for a site that supports youth voices. In addition, there are many websites dedicated to the presentation of photo essays on various subjects.


Grade Level Exemplars/Models