Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Communicating a Concept With Instagram

The culture at New Milford High School empowers teachers to develop creative pathways for students to demonstrate conceptual mastery.  Joanna Westbrook, one of my first year English teachers, never shies away from this.  Earlier this year she experimented with using Twitter to foster creative thought.  Well earlier this week Mrs. Westbrook was at it again.  On Monday she enthusiastically entered my office to share a new project she was working on that was going to integrate Instagram.  As she explained the project to me I immediately asked her if she could email it to me so I could not only share it, but also gather some feedback for her from my Personal Learning Network (PLN).  Below is the assignment, which she has begun to implement in class.  Please note, however, that it is still a work in progress.  

The aim of the Instagram Project is to challenge you to communicate a concept from A Raisin in the Sun through the use of visual images.  You will choose a theme/concept statement from the statements we generate or address in our Socratic Seminar at the end of the play. Once you have chosen that statement, you will produce a series of photos that you will post to Instagram in the form of a photo essay. The requirements are as follows:

  1. IDENTIFY THE CONCEPT IN THE PLAY. The first two photos will portray the concept as it is expressed in at least two specific lines from the play. In your comment for both photos, you will quote the lines accurately and include the parenthetical documentation for the act, scene, and page number.  The group members will be the “characters” in the photos and the tableau you create must be true to both the stage directions and visual “SPECTACLE” of Hansberry’s play.   
  2. CONNECT THE CONCEPT FROM THE PLAY TO YOUR WORLD/LIFE. The next three photos will portray the concept as it is demonstrated in the world around you.  In your comment for these photos, you must articulate how the concept is connected to the play AND to contemporary society.  Note you can EITHER agree OR disagree with the statement.
  3. PORTRAY HANSBERRY’S SPECTACLE. On the day we take the photos, you must have assembled and planned the props you will use to convey both the details of the play and the ideas you want to communicate.  YOU MUST BE PREPARED FOR THE PHOTOS.
  4. DIVIDE RESPONSIBILITIES. You will work in a group of three.  Each group must have at least one student with a smart phone.  Each group member must be responsible for the planning/staging/arrangement/comment of at least 1 photo in the collection you submit. Divide tasks and be fair. DO YOUR BIT!

Theme /Concept Statements 

  1. If you work hard enough, you can achieve your dreams. 
  2. Discrimination is a reality in our world.
  3. Men and women have equal opportunities.
  4. Success is having a lot of money.
  5. It is honorable to sacrifice for the sake of someone else. 
  6. Sometimes we have to make a morally questionable choice to do what is right. 
  7. A family not having extra money is more difficult on a man than on a woman. 
  8. Poverty level has little impact on quality of life. 
  9. Meeting family obligations is more important than individual desires.
  10. A person should be willing to do a job he/she hates to provide for their family.


*Note each theme statement can also be negated.  For example, “Hard work is not enough for us to reach our dreams….”

A rubric as well as the Common Core Standards that are to be assessed can be found HERE.  So what do you think of this project?  Do you have any constructive feedback that I can share with Mrs. Westbrook?


  1. Great project! It's nice to see an assessment that taps into a medium that requires reflection and critical thinking while also being of practical use. As I read the assignment I one thought/suggestion (I hope I read it correctly): is this purely a visual assessment? Meaning, will students get a chance to reflect about their own message or the messages of peers? It seems to me, that this is a great opportunity to think about the affordances and constraints of different mediums when expressing an idea.

    Would love to hear how it goes!

  2. Is there any thought to group feedback, comments, presentation, etc.? Once the groups have prepared the photo essay, how will they share it with each other? Will they be encouraged to comment on favorite pieces or critique?

    Great project!

  3. What a great idea!
    It reminds me very much of Presentation Zen I've been reading about. I tried it myself and was amazed to fid the power of photos, Presentation Zen is all about visual representation rather than through text. As GARR REYNOLDS says; visual simplicity is often used as a means to greater clarity.
    His presentation on TED might be something to share with students.