with Journey North Photos, Video Clips, the
to Inspire Close Observation
you come across photos and videos on the Journey North Web site, try
using some of the following questioning strategies. It's best to ask
these types of questions before students (or you) have read photo
descriptions or explanations from experts. You can have the class
observe entire photo sequences (e.g., nest building) or focus on just
one image at a time.
(Also see our Gallery
of Student Observation Handouts.)
The more time and opportunities students have to carefully observe
photos, the more detailed their observations will be. Here are some
questions and instructions to engage them:
What do you see? (Record one thing you notice and one question
you have about the photo.)
Keep looking for another minute (or more). Now what do you see?
to your list one new thing you notice and another question you
a “tube” with your thumb and fingers so you can look
at just one small area or look at the photo from a different angle.
What new things do you notice when you change perspective?
What do you wonder about what you see? How could you find answers
(e.g., observe more closely, conduct research)?
What You See
students distinguish between observations
(which are made by the senses and can be verified by other people)
and inferences (interpretations of observations,
which can vary greatly among people).
do you think just happened? What do you think might happen next?
do you know from looking at this photo?
What do you assume/infer from looking at it?*
would you explain _______________?
caption would you write for this photo?
do you think would happen if _______?
How has what you’ve already experienced or learned influenced
might someone else see or interpret this same photo? (As students
share ideas with classmates, ask, Have your ideas changed
after hearing from your classmates? Explain how.)
students have mined all they can from a photo, consider adding a
new bit of information (or show the next photo in the sequence)
to spark new thoughts and interpretations. For instance, consider
this photo from the Mexican
Monarch Sanctuary. If your young observers didn't wonder about
the batch of monarchs perched at the top of a branch, ask these
questions one at a time, as necessary:
Do you notice anything surprising or unusual? Describe what you
would you explain it?
What if I told you it was a cold day? (Give students time to come
up with explanations.)
What if I said if it’s too cold, monarchs can crawl but
Journaling and Discussion Questions
new questions did your observations spark? How might you uncover the
- If you
were teaching younger students to be good observers, what advice would
you give them?
- Do you
look at photos differently since we’ve explored them up close?
Explain what has changed.