Standard Lesson

Picture This: Using Instagram to Report

4 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 50-minute sessions
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On a field trip, students encounter new places and concepts that the teacher wants the students to remember once the class returns to the school building. Using Instagram to document these experiences will make students easily recall the events of their field trip. These photos will inspire students as they create a newspaper about their trip using the interactive Printing Press.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

In 2009, the International Reading Association (IRA) took the position that for students “to become fully literate in today’s world, students must become proficient in the new literacies of 21st-century technologies.” Furthermore IRA believes that literacy teachers’ duties now include educating students about how to effectively use these new technologies to prepare students for the technology-rich world outside the classroom. These new technologies include numerous applications for tablets and smartphones, such as Instagram. Hutchison, Beschorner and Schmidt-Crawford indicate the possibility of using such devices has made learning possible anytime, anywhere. Additionally, they point out that students in their study were extremely motivated when using iPads. Using such mobile devices can lend itself to teaching visual literacy as well. As Baker points out, visual literacy at one time had been previously taught exclusively in art classes; however because of the prevalence of photography in today’s world, all students need to be visually literate. They need to be aware of a photo’s composition to recognize the message a photo is communicating. This engaging lesson encourages students to learn a new mobile application as well as practice writing and visual literacy skills.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computer connected to a LCD projector
  • Tablet with adaptor to connect to LCD projector
  • Wireless connection
  • Computers with Internet access for students to use
  • Printer if newspapers will be printed
  • Tablets with Instagram app, ideally one device for every two students
  • Optional: document camera



Questions about basics of how to use Instagram, including how to set an account to private, are explained here.

This resource from The Washington Post identifies and defines all the parts of the front page of the newspaper.


  1. Install Instagram on the devices that students will be using for the field trip. During the field trip, students will use the devices to take photos, but they will upload them to Instagram when they return to school, so it is not necessary for the tablets to have a cellular connection.
  2. Make one copy for every two students of the printout Practice Photo Checklist, Field Trip Checklist, Photo Analysis, and Newspaper Rubric.
  3. Create a class account for Instagram and familiarize yourself with the app. You can make an account private so it will be easier to find just your students’ photos.
  4. Test the Printing Press on your computers to familiarize yourself with the interactive and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page. If possible have the student interactive bookmarked on the computers.  If that is not feasible, you can sign up for a wiki at Wikispaces or a class Web site where you can create a class page for the link or you can simply tell the students the address of the printing press.
  5. Arrange for students to have computer time for one session after the field trip.
  6. For session one, students will examine the newspapers in groups of three to four, so secure newspapers for this activity.
  7. For session two, find a newspaper article to project that illustrates the Inverted Pyramid Format.
  8. Familiarize yourself with the parts of the front page of a newspaper using The Front Page Poster. Link this Web site to your wiki or Web site. If this is not possible, tell the address of this Web site.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • understand how the composition of a photo communicates meaning.
  • create their own photos of their experiences on the field trip to communicate meaning.
  • understand the basic format of a newspaper article.
  • apply the knowledge of the basic format as they create newspaper articles that explain events of the field trip.

Session One: Introduction (Day before the field trip)

  1. Hold up a photo from the front page of a traditional newspaper, or if possible project this image through a document camera. Hide the headlines and caption while displaying the image. Ask students the following questions.
    • What is the camera angle for the image—straight on, tilted up, tilted down? Discuss how the camera angle affects the viewer’s focus of the image.
    • What objects are in the image? What objects might have been left out from the framing of the photo? Again discuss how the viewer’s attention is focused through framing.
    • What type of lighting is used in the image? Does a part of the photo appear darker or lighter than the rest of the image? Discuss how this affects the viewing of the image.
    • What is happening in the image? What causes you to think that is what is occurring?
    • What questions does this photo raise in your mind?
  2. Explain to the class that the photo is from a traditional newspaper. Hold up the entire front page of the newspaper. Share with the class the headline and caption for the photo. Discuss if the photo entices the audience to read the related article. Talk about messages the photo communicates without even reading the article.
  3. Divide the class into small groups of three or four. Provide each group with a hard copy of the front page of a newspaper. Invite students to examine the newspaper together, paying attention to format. Tell students they will share what they have discovered when the class comes back together to discuss. While students work in groups, move throughout the classroom, prompting groups who are having difficulty and making sure students are on task.
  4. When the class comes back together, have students share their findings. Project the Web site The Front Page Poster and further discuss the parts of the front page of a newspaper. In particular, check that the following components are mentioned and defined:
    • Headline
    • Date
    • Cost
    • Photos
    • Subtitles
    • Bylines
    • City of publication
    • Captions
    • Factual articles
    • Index
  5. Explain to the class when they return to the classroom after their field trip, they will write a newspaper to report on the trip. As these actual newspapers illustrate, explain that the students will need photos to illustrate their stories and towards this goal students will use the mobile app Instagram.
  6. Model for students how to take photos using the devices that will be available on the field trip to the students.
  7. Divide students into pairs that will also work together during the field trip and hand out the Practice Photo Checklist. Have students practice using the devices and practice creating photos that focus the audience on the intended subject by taking photos of different composition types listed on the Practice Photo Checklist.
  8. As students work, circulate around the room, checking that they are keeping on task and successfully taking the various types of photos. Question students how the focus of the image shifts with the various types of photos. Discuss how combining the different types of photos affect the images. For example, ask how a tilted up camera angle with full light might change the focal point of the image. Assist students who are having trouble completing the task.
  9. Once all have completed the task, explain to the students that when they return to the classroom after the field trip, they will upload their field trip photos to Instagram. Hand out the Field Trip Checklist and explain to the students that the purpose of this printout is to guarantee that each person will take photos during the field trip. Stress that it is extremely important that each person has the opportunity to use the devices during the field trip. Monitor this action during the field trip and explain to chaperones on the trip the importance of having all students share the devices.

Session Two: Day after the Field Trip

  1. Connect one of the devices used during the field trip to the LCD projector. Model for the students how to upload and tag their photos to the class’s Instagram account and how to use hashtags so they can find their classmates’ photos easily. Allow time for students to upload photos from other devices used. Help those students who have trouble using the app.
  2. Reconnect the computer to the LCD projector. Log into the Instagram Web site. Project the photos of the field trip and allow time for the students to discuss what they learned and experienced.
  3. Discuss with the students the following about the photos:
    • the camera angle
    • the framing
    • the shot type
    • the lighting
    • how each of these affects the message of the photo
  4. Divide the class into partners and hand out the Photo Analysis printout. Explain to the partners that they now will decide what they want to write about from their field trip by selecting one of the photos. Explain to the students that they can choose any photo to use, not just the ones they took. Allow time for students to look through the photos on Instagram using the mobile devices. Once students have decided on a photo, instruct the pairs work on completing the Photo Analysis printout. Circulate through the classroom, helping those who are having trouble deciding on a photo and noting time on task, as that is part of the rubric.
  5. Once all pairs have selected their photos, have the class come back together. Transition the students to writing about their photos by projecting the Inverted Pyramid Format for newspapers printout. Discuss the five questions of who, what, where, when, and why (the five W’s in the Newspaper Rubric) that newspaper articles answer in relationship to what they experienced. Also, talk about the pyramid format of a newspaper article.
  6. Project the sample newspaper article you prepared. Read through the article together and then ask students to identify the who, what, where, when, and why elements of the article. Discuss the details presented in the pyramid format.
  7. Have the students return to working with their partners. Instruct students to begin writing their article together after they have chosen their photo. Remind them that their photographs will complement their articles.
  8. While students work, circulate throughout the classroom. Check that students are staying on task and question students about what photo they will use and what message it communicates. Discuss the order of their details in their article and ask them to identify the five W’s in their articles. Assist those who are having problems determining the order of details or selecting a photo.

Session Three: Assembling the Newspaper (computers)

  1. Project the interactive Printing Press and model for the students how to use this. For this project, explain they will choose "newspaper" and use any of the templates that include an image. Model for the students how to fill in text in the template. Remind students of the parts of the front page they discussed in session one that will need to be included in the textboxes, such as price, headlines, and dates. Tell the students to refer to The Front Page Poster Web site if they need to be reminded of the parts of a newspaper. Also, mention that their article may require more than one textbox.
  2. Log into the Instagram Web site. Demonstrate how to capture the image on the screen and then move it to Paint (or similar image-editing software) to crop and save. Then show students how to insert the image into the newspaper. Remind students they will write captions for their photos.
  3. Allow time for students to complete the template, adding their articles. Circulate around the classroom as students work. Check that the students’ photos complement the articles. Help with grammar and spelling problems.
  4. As the pairs finish, allow students to peer edit each other’s newspaper using the Newspaper Rubric. Allow time for students to revise their newspapers.
  5. At the end of the session, model for students how and where to save their projects and how to e-mail their newspapers to you.
  6. Tell students they will share their newspaper tomorrow in class.

Session Four: Sharing

  1. Check that all pairs have completed their newspapers. Allow additional time for those who have not completed the assignment.
  2. Project each pair’s newspaper. Have the students read their articles aloud.
  3. Ask students to reflect on this lesson by completing one or more of the prompts in the assessment section.


  • Use Instagram for other lessons. For example, take the class on a walk and photograph objects to research or write poems about. Use the app to photograph science experiments and then have the students write up their results, adding the pictures.
  • Have students print their finished newspapers and post them outside the classroom in the school building for other classes to enjoy.
  • Try other lessons that use the Printing Press such as Creating a Classroom Newspaper.
  • Try other lessons that utilize engaging mobile apps and tablets, for example, Poppin’ Fun with Physical and Chemical Changes.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Evaluate each pair’s newspaper using the Newspaper Rubric.
  • Check each pair’s completed Practice Photo Checklist printout and Field Trip Checklist.
  • Evaluate the pair’s photos on the devices to see if they accomplished taking the various types of images.
  • After all newspapers have been presented, ask students to reflect on the learning experience by completing one or more of the following prompts.
  • Because of this project, I learned ____________.
    What I found difficult about this project was _____________________.
    What I enjoyed about this project was __________________.
    To improve this project, I would _____________________.

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