The Rule of Thirds

                                                                                                                        cc Colemama

About 3 weeks ago I started a a photography project with my third grade classes.  It is based on the paper mache animals we had just completed in class.  My idea was to take the paper mache animals into the park that is next to the school and photograph them in the “wild”.

I started the project by showing a video on the history of photography.  We went over it together with me pausing it frequently to explain different aspects of the video.  Next, we went over the different parts of a camera and its operations.  I had them practice holding, shooting and deleting photos. Then we watched another video on how to take good pictures.  We had a quick discussion about it and then went outside for more practice with the camera.

When the students came back to Art the next time, they watched another video.  This time it was on a principle called the “Rule of Thirds”.  The rule of thirds is a concept that goes back many hundreds of years and is used in setting up the composition of a work of art.  It is often used when taking good photographs.

The image above was used to help explain the how the rule of thirds works.  This photograph is a great example of it as it naturally includes the fence as part of the grid lines that make up the rule of thirds.  After showing many examples, talking about it and then practising again with the digital cameras; the students gained an good understanding of how to use it in the composition of a photo.

The next art lesson focused on setting up the students paper mache animals in the “wild” of the Nogawa Koen and taking photos of them.  Before going I quickly went over the basics of the rule of thirds again and the parameters for being in the park.  Once in the park, the students quickly got to work setting up their animals and shooting them in a variety of setting and poses.  It was fun to see just how engaged the students were in their task and how much thought they gave to the process.  Below are some examples of the photos they took.

When planning units like this using visuals has become so much easier to do.  It has been amazing to see the change in how I use of images in teaching art since my career began.  When I first started there was not much for visuals.  You either had to create your own, find images in books or magazines or buy costly posters.  It was very labor intensive and if you had hard copies you had storage issues.  I think the worst thing about it was it took years to compile an image library that was effective and would cover your curriculum.

Things have sure changed for the better.  Great images and videos are only a few clicks away.  There is a huge variety available to use and the connections you can make by using them only enhances your projects and can lead you to new ones as well.  Teaching art has become easier and better because of it.

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8 responses to “The Rule of Thirds

  1. Great post. I learned even more by clicking on your embedded resources. Now I know why I like some compositions better than others. The slide show of the paper maché animals is a nice touch and shows that the students were putting into practice some of the things that they learned. The availability of so many visuals and videos does make teaching easier. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love your idea to have your students photograph their ‘animal’ in the wild! This topic of visual literacy has many forms and knowing what distinguishes a good photo from a great photo is a great skill, especially when communicating an idea through images. I also enjoyed reading your links which I am sure your grade 3 class gleaned a lot from. I wonder did the students name their photos? Maybe other students could guess the name before it’s revealed? It would certainly be interesting to see if they all ‘got’ the message the photographer was trying to convey. I love this idea and hope to use it in the future! Thank you for a wonderful post and great practical ideas!!

  3. I really enjoyed your post. Your links are really helpful and I hope that I can use them with my second graders sometime soon as I’ve been trying to have them take more of the photos we’re using on the class blog. I love how you had the students set up the photo shoots of their projects. I have been trying to have my students set up video shots for a movie trailer, from the project I worked on at the weekend class. I think it would have been wiser to start simple with setting up photo shoots and not video shoots. Well, it is a learning process and we are all learning.

  4. Fantastic post. I’m useless at photography and not a little envious that your third graders are already producing work that’s way better than anything I could do (both photos and paper mache!). What a great way of teaching the students so many different skills in one go. Five years ago making the paper mache would probably have been the end of the unit. Now you’ve developed it into a much wider educational tool. Great post and great teaching practice.

  5. Hey, nice work.

    I agree with Adam’s comment about the combination of a number of elements. There is so much that digital media and access to the internet opens up to us as creators these days. It will be interesting to see just how much more ceative people on the whole will become given these new tools.

    Not that we have to but it strikes me that you may have even touched upon copyright by having students upload photos to Flickr and attribute them a level of selected protection. The sideshow of your students’ final products was an excellent touch.

    Thanks for sharing,

  6. I like your slides!!! Wonderful students’ characters and their photos!
    Great to hear that your students learn the rule of thirds such an young age (Well….., I have not taken any photo class. I did not know this elements before…. I wish to know this, when I was in grade school…).

    Going Nogawa/outside, take some pictures sounds fun. I am sure your students will remember your art lessons!!

  7. Love this lesson! You’ve been able to combine two forms of art into one exciting adventure in the “real world”! The pictures came out great, and your students are so lucky to have such a deep understanding of photography at such a young age. I’m wondering if you can continue this experience into a digital storytelling project where students combine their paper mache creations and their photographs into a story? Just a thought 🙂

  8. I love that you teach photography to Grade 4, I never thought of that. I might try it in my ICT class! Everyone should know how to take a good photo and have the opportunity to use their artist flair and this is a great way to go about it. Thanks!

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