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Social media + photography: Middle School


In this two-day lesson, students will be introduced to many issues surrounding social media, technology and photography, including copyright considerations and how to use photography effectively in different social media outlets.  Then, students will experiment with using a specific social media outlet (of the teacher’s choice) for journalistic purposes and will reconvene to share their experiences and debrief.  Students will also examine both professional news outlets and student media outlets that use social media effectively.


  • Students will learn about benefits and disadvantages of using different social media tools.
  • Students will examine the social media accounts of both professional and student media and participate in discussions about how to use photography effectively in social media.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.c. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.d. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


Two days (45 minutes each)


Slideshow: Social media + photography (middle school version)

Handout: Social media + photography slideshow notes

Key: Social media + photography slideshow notes key

Handout: Social media + photography analysis

Classroom social media account (pick whichever platform the teacher is comfortable using)

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Quickwrite— 5 minutes

Have the students answer the question on the second slide of the PowerPoint presentation: Why do you think social media is so popular today?

2. Slideshow— 30 min

Go through the slideshow “Social media + photography” with students, stopping frequently to discuss, share and debrief.  Students may want to take notes, particularly if they are unaware of some of the specific details of social media sites. There is an optional notetaking guide handout in the Resources section above.

After the presentation, ask students to share information with the class about any other social media tools they are familiar with; new social media tools are come up all of the time, so you may choose to substitute the slideshow information with new tools students are using now.  For each tool that they share, ask students to highlight the benefits and disadvantages that journalists might face when using it. You might choose to ask students to add these tools to the notes.

2. Instructions — 10 minutes

Hand out “Social media analysis” assignment and go through the activity with the students. They should choose the account they will focus on and start to investigate it for homework.

Day 2

1. Work time — 25 minutes

Students should have chosen their account before class. Go over the instructions again: Pick your favorite social media account to investigate using the questions. If you do not have a favorite account, use your school or school district’s social media. Analyze that account based on the following:

  • How often does the account post content? Is there a pattern? Why do you think they post when they do?
  • What kind of content do they post? (Pictures, videos, quotes, sayings, etc.) What effect does their content have on their account?
  • How many likes and comments (or similar audience interactive element, e.g. retweets) does their content get? Why do you think they get that many or that few?
  • Bots have become a big challenge in social media. According to Wikipedia, “A social bot is a particular type of chatbot that is employed in social media networks to automatically generate messages (e.g. tweets) or in general advocate certain ideas, support campaigns, and public relations either by acting as a “follower” or even as a fake account that gathers followers itself.” Go to Botometer and use it analyze the account you chose. If you are not using Twitter, try to find the Twitter version of your account. How many bots follow that account? Why?

2. Activity — 10 minutes

Have students -pick a popular news outlet (Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, a local paper, etc) and see if you can find that outlet’s social media accounts. Browse the outlet’s social media accounts and see what you can find out about how prevalent photos are, whether content is new or re-posted from elsewhere and how many similarities exist between social media networks.

*Note: For many large news outlets, you don’t have to be logged into a social media network to access their pages. Doing a Google search for “Wall Street Journal Instagram,” for instance, allows you to see their page without having an account.

3. Discussion — 10 minutes

Ask students to share what they found from looking at professional organizations’ pages.  How do you think that relates to student news outlets, such as high school newspapers and yearbooks?  Then, as a class or in pairs, access social media accounts of student publications and see how they utilize photography in their posts. Here are a few Twitter examples; you can find robust lists of scholastic media social networking accounts under the “Staffs Online” tab at JEA Digital Media.

  • The Talon, Argyle (Tex.) High School, @thetalonnews
  • FHNToday, Saint Charles, Mo., @FHNtoday
  • Ladue View, St. Louis, Mo., @ladueview
  • Mustang Morning News, Manhattan Beach, Calif., @miracostanews