Tutorial for Educators
Transforming Students into Global Photo-Detectives



Brainstorm. Enjoy the experience!  (Uganda)

 Start by having students write about the image. Without giving any background information, just tell them to write what they think the image is about. No prompts. No questions. No guided analysis.  Just brainstorm.This is a good way to measure outcomes. At the end of the tutorial, compare this ‘essay’ with the final one.


The Five Essential Questions
(See more examples in the slideshow.) This is where students become photo-detectives. This is where they start to hunt for clues. Ask them to describe the clothing, background, objects, action (gesture), expression. Use description i.e. adverbs and adjectives.  Discuss the information conveyed in these elements (having some background information is always helpful).


More Questions
Although the Five Essential Questions are the most effective for finding cross-cultural clues, there are about 20 visual elements all told, i.e. 20 questions. Depending on the image, direct your students’ attention to elements such as the  light, the colours, the composition. What/who is the subject? Take note of  the camera angle (if relevant) – and the information it conveys.  A low angle often denote weakness, helplessness; a high angle does the opposite. Stress the language: ‘looking up to (someone), looking down (on someone). The light can denote time of day – or the mood (or both). Which leads to the next series of questions.


finsbury park, London

Look at the light. The angle. What feeling does this image (taken in London) convey?

Emotions and Feelings
Ask about the mood. How does the subject feel? Why?  Now we’re really getting into the nitty-gritty of the ‘story’: not just the facts, but the story behind the story.  This leads into the next question – how does the image makes your students feel. And why. Happy/upbeat? Melancholic (this is a good way to introduce new vocabulary)  Or both? I really like the way this can tap into a kind of collective cultural memory. which ties into….

Ask your students  if they have shared the same experiences as the child in the image. Have they ever done the same thing? In the same way – or differently? Have they felt the same way? Been in the same situation? Tapping into shared experiences is a phenomenal way  of personalising something/someone/someplace that might appear different and foreign. It creates empathy.



Brian is an AIDs orphan (his father died).
His mother is very serious about homework. (Uganda)

Connections – Similarities and Differences
Encourage students to explore the links between their own life,experience and situation, and those of the children featured in each photograph. These  questions will encourage students to mine  the content for cultural/geographical similarities and differences.


Global Photo-Detectives is a visual literacy method created specifically for the intercultural KATW photographs – but  applicable to all visual arts. Students are transformed into eagle-eyed photo-detectives who search images for visual clues which effortlessly draw them into different cultures, countries and curriculum topics. Teachers act as facilitators who guide students as they explore the world – and gain the ability to see the world from different perspectives – an invaluable skill in today’s interconnected world. The activities below are meant to be initiated after analysis of the KATW photographs/stories. Don’t forget, there are more lesson plan ideas and classroom activities, plus background information and Photojournalist’s Notes, in all our KATW educational programs. Visit our Shop to learn more.
Classroom Activity – I am You
After analysing the photographs, have your students write from the viewpoint of the child featured. For example, if you are using Lanau’s Rainforest Journey, have your students write individually, or in small groups, about their life as Lanau, an Iban boy from Borneo. Students should research background information about the country, and become familiar with the global issues affecting Lanau (or the featured child). You could focus on areas relevant to your curriculum.
Classroom Activity – My World
Push the envelope even further! Ask your students to introduce themselves to a child from another culture/country, incorporating all the themes recently presented, i.e. describe their family, how they get to school, what do they study, what they like to do, worst chores, favorite food, climate, geography, housing, where they sleep – the story can include as many elements as you want – or are relevant to your curriculum. Exploring differences and commonalitites helps student to compare – and connect – their own life with the life of another child from another culture/country.
Classroom Activity – My Community, Your Community
 Instead of asking students to write in the first person, ask them to form groups, and write about their community, using the photographs/stories you have presented as a guide and comparison. For instance, Lanau (from Borneo) lives in a longhouse with 70 other people. His grandfather watches his baby brother while the parents work in the rice paddies. Children go to school in a ‘schoolboat’. How does this compare with your students’ own community? Incorporate subjects such as housing, local economies, social studies, geography – and connecting the global with the local.