One Story Lesson Plan: Narrowing the Field

January 20, 2015 at 5:07 pm


Narrowing the Field


In this lesson, students will explore the photography used by the Colorado Springs Gazette in the “Other Than Honorable” project. Students will pretend they are the journalist in charge of the story and select photos to include in a photo essay, then explain their decision and their reasoning to a small group of students.


  • Students will analyze a large collection of photos and make value judgments about how to narrow them down and group them effectively.
  • Students will explain their decision-making process to their peers.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.


45 minutes

Materials / resources

Lesson step-by-step

  1. Introduction — 5 minutes

If this is your first time using the Other Than Honorable story, give students a short explanation for the news coverage:

The Colorado Springs Gazette did some in-depth reporting on the amount of soldiers being released from the Army with no benefits. The Gazette’s coverage was extensive and includes stories, photos, and several different spreads over a period of time. David Phillips from the Gazette won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for his work on the project.

Explain to students that today, they will be analyzing the photography from this project — a collection of more than 70 photos — and determining which 5-7 stories they think would go together to create a good photo essay.

  1. Discussion — 10 minutes

What should a photo essay include? In order for a collection of photos to tell a story adequately, what should those photos have? Sample responses include:

    1. Photos should be tied together through unifying ideas or themes.
    2. Photos should represent a wide range of angles and techniques (close-up, wide shots, and so forth).
    3. Photos should be placed in an order or layout that helps each viewer make sense of the story.
    4. Photos should force the viewer to stop and think.

Ask students to work by themselves or with partners, based on availability of images. For this lesson, it is probably easiest (and cheapest) to allow students to access the images electronically through a device on a shared network. That way students can view and discuss using their own “set” of images. Then, students can share their responses with small groups using prints of the images.

  1. Independent work time — 15 minutes

Give students time to work individually or with a partner to choose which 5-7 images they would include in their photo essay. As students work, have them complete the Photo Essay Decision Guide that asks them to analyze their own decisions.

  1. Group sharing — 10 minutes

After students have adequate time to work, rearrange into larger groups and have each person/partnership share their decisions and reasoning with a larger group. Members of the larger group can offer feedback by responding and/or asking questions to clarify why the individual/partnership made certain decisions.

  1. Class discussion — 10 minutes

Reconnect so each group can share as part of a whole class discussion. Ask students to nominate other individuals/partnerships in their larger groups who made exceptional decisions and had good reasoning, then ask those individuals/partnerships to share with the whole class.

Assessment/extension: Distribute the “Narrowing the Field” exit slip and ask students to complete this assignment for the next class.


  • For advanced students or students who finish early: Ask what photo is missing from the collection that they feel should be included. Students can “plan” how they would go about shooting that particular photo as if they were a journalist in that situation.
  • For students who are struggling or at a lower level: Ask them to identify which of the photos seem to tug at their emotions more. Can they identify why those photos are more emotionally powerful?