Everyday Projects Curriculum Lesson 4

Everyday Projects Education Curriculum

Produced by Everyday Projects in partnership with PhotoWings

We’re excited to bring you a new curriculum created in partnership with The Everyday Projects!

The curriculum utilizes photography to encourage middle and high school students to learn about stereotypes, representation, journalism, and truth in storytelling.

Over the course of ten classroom sessions, students will gain a broader understanding of life around the world, and can then apply those lessons to their own lives and help control of the narrative of their own homes and communities. In the process, they will become more aware and discerning news consumers and global citizens while learning practical photography and journalism skills.

In doing this we help create new generations of storytellers and audiences that challenge stereotypes that distort our understanding of the world and recognize the need for multiple perspectives in portraying the cultures that define us.

Common Core Standards

  • CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCRA.W. 5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  • CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Teacher Preparation


Students will need access to their own photos to practice caption writing.

Online Media:

Lesson 4: Writing and understanding captions

Length: 40 min
Learning Objectives Students will gain an understanding of the importance of captioning as they begin to think about exhibiting their work, including being able to:

  • Define the elements of a strong caption and write captions to accompany photos

  • Identify terms and phrases that promote purpose, context, and relevancy


Have a few examples of student work ready to show the class – some very strong examples and a few that need work.

Depending on the size of your class, don’t feel that you need to show one photo per student. These reviews are a chance to give the class overall some encouragement and to show them what they can learn from each other’s work. If you have started an Instagram feed for your class project, another option is to choose one or more student photos and post them before the start of each class, and then explain your selections to your students.


The Importance of Captions – 30 minutes

Step 1: In teaching your students proper captioning technique, you will encourage visual thinking strategies. Your students will begin by analyzing and learning from the captions of photos from The Everyday Projects. This is in preparation for the next step, in which they will break into smaller groups to practice captioning their own images. A video on captioning is available if necessary, either for use in class or for students to consult on their own.



1. Begin by asking: “What is the value of captions in understanding the content of a photo?” This is a discussion-starter, and will give you a sense of what your students already understand about captions. Show your class the two Everyday Africa photos below (including their captions) to illustrate what goes into a good caption.


❖ Teacher Notes

❖ As you get responses from the students, keep track of how many of the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why) the students mention as important caption elements. You’ll zero-in on these points soon.
❖ You can also do this exercise by finding (or having the students find) examples in local or national news publications, or in other photos from The Everyday Projects.


A woman photographs children playing in the ocean in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, September 2, 2013. Just outside of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, Grand-Bassam is a popular weekend destination for thousands of Ivorians. Photo by Peter DiCampo.

A model in a dress by Eloi Sessou, a designer from Ivory Coast, at Fashion Week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, July 19 , 2014. Photo by Jana Ašenbrennerová.

2. Now show the two photos below, but don’t show the captions right away. First, have the students discuss the photos. What do they think is happening? Can they tell what is important about the moment in the photograph? Can they tell the context? The subject matter of these photos is intentionally vague, to help underscore the importance of a caption.

Click to reveal caption

Hauwa and Femi celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary in Lagos, Nigeria, January 13, 2013. Photo by Glenna Gordon.

Click to reveal caption

A model catches a break of light through trees in Lagos, Nigeria, where young fashion designers often take advantage of the outdoors to create promotional material, September 11, 2016. Photo by Yagazie Emezi.

3. Now reveal the captions of the two photos. You’ll use these two examples to walk the students through the most important pieces of information that are provided by a good caption: who, what, where, when, and why – the 5 Ws.

Who is in the photo?
What are they doing?
Where was the photo made?
When was the photo made?
Why did the photographer make the photo? Why is this situation important, newsworthy, or interesting?

Usually, the first sentence includes Who, What, Where, and When, and then a second sentence includes an optional “Why”. You can use the caption of the beach photo above as an example:

[A woman WHO] [photographs children playing in the ocean WHAT] [in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast WHERE], [September 2, 2013 WHEN]. [Just outside of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, Grand-Bassam is a popular weekend destination for thousands of Ivorians WHY it matters or is interesting].

This is commonly referred to as AP Style, referring to the Associated Press, the news agency that popularized and codified this format.

Note that the “why” is optional, and that if it is included, it does not always have to be in a new sentence. Refer back to the examples above.
All of the other four elements are necessary.


❖ Teacher Notes

❖ The students will likely pick up on this quickly after you run through a couple of examples.
❖ Take the time to ask the students the 5 Ws for each example photo, in an effort to establish as firmly as possible what is required.
❖ This is a good spot, prior to Step 2, to show the video on Captioning Your Photos – a good “how to” review before they start writing their own.

Step 2: Now the students will begin to put what they’ve learned into practice, first by continuing to study and critique the captions of images from The Everyday Projects.

Show the following photos. Have students volunteer to read the captions aloud and attempt to point out each of the 5 Ws. As they critique the examples, see if they can point out differences from one caption to the next, including identifying any missing elements.


❖ Teacher Notes

❖ In addition to successfully utilizing the 5 Ws, you’re also looking to have the students identify language that promotes purpose, context, and relevancy.
❖ All of this is done in the hope that the students will understand that good captions not only fully describe a photograph, but also provide much needed context for images.

Zoe kicks back on Andy on a Sunday afternoon outside of Solomon, Kansas. A couple years ago her grandparents surprised her with the horse, fueling the pre-teen desire for anything equestrian. This year, Andy is spending the summer with Zoe. Along with riding lessons, they are attending a couple weeks of horse camp together.⁣ Photo by Brian Kratzer / Everyday Rural America.

Two young men exercise and skateboard in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Photo by Nguyen Thanh Duong / Everyday Vietnam.

Marina Jaber, a local artist, painting on the banks of the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen / Everyday Iraq + Everyday Middle East.

Step 3. Now it’s time for students to try writing captions for their own photos and present their work to the class for critique.

Have students try writing captions for two of their own images. You can use the Lesson 4 Activity Document for this – it is set up for them to write captions for three of their photos. Then, select a few students to show their photos to the class and read the captions aloud, allowing classmates to critique each caption. If time is short, have students break into pairs and present their captions to one another, leaving room for critique. Move around the classroom to listen in and offer assistance as the students work.


★ Check-In

Check the captions that students wrote. Did they include the 5 Ws? Did they write a first sentence that clearly states what is happening in the photograph, with a Who, What, Where, and When? Did they write a second sentence that describes Why the photograph is important? You can use the Lesson 4 Activity Checklist to evaluate each student's captions.




Here’s a real challenge for your students – have them make one project-related photo per day for at least five straight days. This sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult.

Most of the photographs they make can be in the course of their regular day; maybe they photograph a family member, a friend, something that happens on the way to school or at school, etc. The idea is to get them thinking about what documenting the “Everyday” is, to continue building their class project, and to encourage them to think creatively (and make creative photographs) even in situations that they consider mundane.

Remember, that doesn’t mean they should only push the button on their camera once and then feel that they are finished. Making one strong photo per day may mean making a lot of photographs each day, and then choosing the best one.

Remind them to keep checking back to the Photography as Storytelling presentation and Elements of Photography handout from Lesson 2, so they can keep thinking about what elements of photography they should be experimenting with.

For at least one of the days that they photograph, add an extra challenge:

  • If your class is building your Everyday project by having each student photograph their own personal project, make sure at least one of their photos adds on to that project.

  • If your class is building your Everyday project by having each student photograph a variety of things, challenge them to make at least one photograph of everyday life in their community that is outside of their own life/family and outside of school.

Make sure your students send you their best photos ahead of time, using whatever method you have established.


In this additional video from our partners PhotoWings, students can continue to get to know photojournalist Edward Echwalu, whom they met in a video in the previous lesson.

In “A Photographer’s Motivation,” Echwalu discusses his background, how he came into photography, and what impact he hopes to make. He also talks about the importance of reaching his own community with his photography, providing more inspiration for your students as they continue their work!


Edward Echwalu is a freelance photojournalist based in Kampala, Uganda, with an extended reach across East Africa. A member of Everyday Africa, he is a graduate of journalism and communication at Makerere University, and his work over the years has been published in distinguished media outlets globally. While he focuses on social developmental issues, he continues to cover a wide range of breaking news stories.

This curriculum is produced by Everyday Projects, and presented in partnership with PhotoWings.