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Sparking Conversations with PhotoSpark's picture

A repost from my original website:  

Sparking conversations is something that doesn’t come naturally for everyone. In fact, as I look at my four children, several of them love to visit with others and share their thoughts, beliefs, and values openly, while others like to keep it to themselves. At the dinner table we used to ask the normal question, “How was your day?" and we would get the normal response, “Good.” Since the adoption of the common core state standards, my husband and I (both teachers) changed our approach to encourage more speaking and listening opportunities so conversations are little more lively at the dinner table!  We now have each family member share what is great about his or her day and encourage other family members to ask questions relating to what was shared. We also share how we helped someone in need or an action we took that aligned with the virtue our family is studying (i.e., trustworthiness, compassion, gratitude, etc.). Now we have a new possibility for SPARKING conversations in our homes and classrooms--PhotoSpark!  Staff from ESSDACK, an educational service center in Central Kansas, recently created a resource called “PhotoSpark” that can be used to spark conversations in various learning environments.  Each deck includes 50 unique pictures and a card listing possible ways the photos could be used to support learning.  You know what is really cool?  They also support the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards. Below are ten easy ways to implement them in the classroom to spark conversations:photospark

  1. Divide students into groups of four. Have each student select a card and share how the photo relates to recent learning in any content area. All listeners respond with probing questions.
  2. Reflect on new learning: “As a result of your learning today, choose a photo that best represents what has become clear to you.”  Share reflections. 
  3. Discuss future aspirations: “Choose a photo that best represents a goal you have for your future.”  Discuss as a whole group, small group, or in partners.
  4. Give students a photo and have them write questions to go along with the photo. Next, group them in pairs and have them switch cards and questions. Last, they discuss possible answers with one another.
  5. Select a photo that best describes something about you.  This is an  icebreaker activity to learn about each other and strengthen collaborative relationships.  It is also a great way to emphasize talents and skill sets each person brings to the group and/or class.  Adapt this process by taking a picture of the student and photo and having another student write descriptive words next to it (online or on paper for display).
  6. Have each child choose a PhotoSpark card and write a narrative story.  Place the stories in a workstation and have the students match the student-written stories to the correct photo.  Lots of conversations happening! 
  7. Have students reflect on current understanding and set goals for learning.  Select two cards.  The first card should depict the current level of understanding related to a topic.  The second card should depict what the student hopes to learn by the end of the project/unit.
  8. Share one photo to all students.  Have one group determine why the photo is promoting a positive message and have another group share why the photo is promoting a negative message.  Encourage each group to ask questions to clarify thinking and challenge viewpoints.  Each group must summarize how the card can be viewed in a positive or negative manner. Make connections to current events and/or challenges students may be facing.
  9. In partners, select a photo that is most relevant to the topic they are learning.
  10. Give three photos to each group (group size may vary).  Have the group create a sequential story using the three photos.  Record the group acting out the story and publish it online.

To purchase the PhotoSpark decks, go to:  and begin sparking conversations now!

Make sure you drop back here to share ways YOU use the PhotoSpark cards to spark conversations in your classroom!

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