Join me at Teach Preschool!

Click here to see fingerplays and songs by Deborah! »

The Latest on Teach Preschool!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Using personal photos for birth to age five: effective and fun!

A guest post by Shara-Lawrence Weiss

When Deborah approached me about guest blogging, I was honored. I have gotten to know a little about Deborah through twitter and facebook and have found her to be kind, gentle and caring. She clearly loves children and enjoys working with preschoolers, making crafts, writing songs and more. The world needs more Deborahs, I say!

Any time someone asks me to guest post, I always try to think of something new to write (rather than reposting an already written article). I try to give them fresh and new content so that leaves me wondering what to write about...hmm...what can I share that's interesting and relevant?

For Deborah's blog I've decided to write about the use of personal photographs, in regard to early childhood teaching. Some of you may already be familiar with the effectiveness of photographs but some of you may not be!

Using personalized photos
I have always been a big photo buff - I do not scrapbook, however. I simply like the idea of using photos to teach concepts...because it works!  I love taking photos; both color and black/white. When it comes to early childhood, color photos have certainly shown a better response.

Personal photos as a customized learning tool
In my business (Personal Child Stories) I gather photos of a child (and perhaps of their family members, friends, pets, etc) and turn the photos into a customized learning tool. Some folks call this a "book" :-) A misunderstanding of what I do oftentimes comes in the form of people saying, "Oh, what cute scrapbooks!"

No. (smile)

I have a background in journalism, early childhood, nanny work, published freelance and special needs. While enrolled in school for my elementary ed degree I decided to start my PCS business (see my ABOUT page for full details on why I began PCS). When using photos with my own son, I quickly realized how effective they are. He would pick up concepts and grasp feelings and emotions very quickly when I used photos to teach him.

Photos invite young children to communicate
Clip art is okay and pieces of artwork can certainly evoke reactions from children. However, handing them a photo album full of photographs that include themselves, family, friends, classmates and so on – will very likely have them sitting for hours, if allowed: Studying the facial expressions, examining the eyes and mouths of each person, pointing out specifics and feeling drawn in by the emotions that are attached to the personal images.

When I ran workshops I saw the same result over and over again. Even looking over the images of OTHER children - the kids were fascinated. BUT...when they were given their OWN photos to work with, the result was tenfold. Lines of communication were opened easily and effectively. Even for the kiddos with special needs.

What can personal photos be used for?

Color Recognition
Take photos of your kids or students wearing different colors. Label the back of the photo that color (i.e. "Red" or "Green"). Teach color association with the photographs. Personally, I like to add the word to the back of the photo. That way, it can be used as a surprise element. When the child says the color you flip and card and say, “Yes!” When the word is written on the front of the photo, the surprise element is no longer there. The surprise element, in my experience, turns this into a game – which kids love.


Take photos of a child doing something in order. Such as:

  • Getting up
  • Making the bed
  • Getting dressed
  • Eating breakfast
  • Going off to school
Sequence the images and put them on a flip ring using a hole punch. Carry this in your purse to teach sequencing. This can be used at school, at home, during therapy sessions, in line at the post office, at the grocery store and so on. A great “busy game.”

Take photos of the family members, starting with the child. This will be labeled "1." Then take a photo of mom and dad together and label this "2." Then add another family member into a photo for "3." Then 4, 5, 6, etc (include pets if wanted). Teach numbers and counting with this collection.
Expand vocabulary
Take photos of the house, of objects, of pets, etc. Teach any and every concept you want, using the photographs.

Promote emotional intelligence
You could also take photos of children being kind, helpful, caring, sharing and so on. This would teach character building and association which in turn – raises a child’s emotional intelligence.

Costs to consider
The photos will render a much faster learning result than any generic item; I nearly guarantee it.

If you can laminate the photos, even better. My laminating machine cost about $130. You can buy them cheaper but be careful not to waste your money on a cheap model. Many schools also offer free laminating to the teachers. Oftentimes the lamination is a thin 1 MIL and will peel apart quickly. If you can use 3, 5 or 7 MIL, the photos will last for years to come (I use 5 MIL on all of my products...far more expensive but my books and flashcards last for years and years with little to no damage).

You can also go to an office supply shop, however, be warned that they often charge $3-$5 per page to laminate. The cost ads up very quickly. Many of them also charge $1 per cut so if you have them cut the sides of the photos, it will run $4 per photo PLUS the lamination fees and tax. If you have several photos done, that will be a spendy activity for sure.

Invest in a laminator
If you plan to use photos often, I'd highly suggest buying your own laminating machine and some laminating sheets to go along. Check ebay before buying them elsewhere. You may have to spend a bit to buy in bulk but you'll get far more for your money that way. Contact paper also works but again – it won’t last long.

Photos as gifts
You could even make some photos for the students in your class to send home as gifts or as a memory keepsake. Take a class photo, print and before laminating label the back: "Friends from _______ School, 2010." Send one home with each child at the end of the year.

Photos can be used for just about anything and to teach nearly any concept. From colors and numbers and sequencing to emotions, facial expressions and family & self recognition. Give it a try. I’m sure you’ll be quite pleased with the results!

About Shara Lawrence-Weiss
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Personal Child Stories and Mommy Perks. She has a background in early childhood, special needs, nanny work, journalism, published freelance and marketing. She resides in Arizona with her husband and three children. She plans to complete her elementary ed degree in the future.

Thank you Shara for sharing your insight with us. It has been a pleasure getting to know you through this online forum and an even greater pleasure to share your passion for early childhood education.



SharaPCS said...

Thank you for posting the article and for your kind words, Deborah. I appreciate you! :-)

The Activity Mom said...

Great article! It makes me want to grab my camera and start on some projects! Thanks!

The Activity Mom said...

I'm going to do a short post and link up to this article today!

Eternal Lizdom said...

My mom once read an idea that I think is fabulous but that I've yet to implement... take pictures of sections of the bedroom or playroom... pictures of the shelf or drawer... showing how it is supposed to look when cleaned up. Post the pic on the shelf or wall and when it is clean up time, your child has a reference of how to make it look. Kind of like a real life puzzle.

When Teagan started preschool, she was very worried about missing her brother. She loved carrying her own mini photo album full of pictures of him!

Karen Nemeth said...

Oh - I loved this article!! Such great ideas that are explained so well - and the comments are great too. I wish for every reader to realize how important ALL of this is if they work with any child who comes from a different language background! I strongly recommend using real life items and photos for dual language learners (also called English language learners) because this helps to reduce problems caused by language differences. Since we can't always communicate with these children by talking - photos help us share information, comfort them, teach them new concepts, connect with their prior knowledge, and build relationships with their parents. Recipe for success!

Valerie @ Inner Child Fun said...

Love this post! There are some great ideas here, thanks!

SharaPCS said...

Thanks to everyone who made a comment. What great input and insights! I love that idea about putting photos up to demonstrate how a clean room should look - brilliant. Activity Mom - thanks for the link back! Karen - wonderful insights. Thank you!

April said...

Just wanted to let you know that I linked to this post in my blog:

Teacher Tom said...

I've never been a photo person. I've even failed at taking pics of my own child growing up -- it if wasn't for grandparents we wouldn't have any pictures!

This post has made me think. You make so many good points. I've always felt like I was keeping life at a distance when I view it through a camera. It distracted me, I guess. Maybe I need to learn to overcome that.


The girl who painted trees said...

I made our own alphabet and counting book by taking pictures of food in our house. My Lo was involved in choosing the food items for the counting part. You can see the post about it here I put the photos in a photo album, the kind that are 1 dollar. She flips through this all the time. And it saved me the cost of laminating.

SharaPCS said...

Thank you so much, April!! I will repost your article, too :-) Teacher Tom - I'm glad you are considering photo use now. I love that it freezes a moment in time...and we can always look back on that, remember, laugh, evoke those emotions, etc. It's priceless! The girl who painted trees: I have lots of those Dollar Store books, too, with photos in them. They work great as long as my kids don't pull them out and tear the pics in 1/2 (which they do! LOL). Otherwise, it's wonderful, yes!!

Ms. Katie said...

Yes, yes, yes! I take pictures of kids at centers (reading, writing, math, etc.) and then contact paper them to the wall in that center to give other kids a reference point when they forget what each center's purpose is. My school is also huge on digital documentation. I take hundreds of pictures each day, label them, and then use them in conferences to document learning in all areas. Gotta love the pictures!

Katie at

Related Posts with Thumbnails