Arts and Humanities
Material Type:
Diagram/Illustration, Lesson, Lesson Plan
Lower Elementary
  • Art Lesson
  • Edward Curtis
  • Lesson Plan
  • Photography. Value.
  • photography
  • september22
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:

    Education Standards

    ART, TECHNOLOGY, & SOCIAL STUDIES: Edward Curtis Style Portraits

    ART, TECHNOLOGY, & SOCIAL STUDIES: Edward Curtis Style Portraits


    This is an art lesson incorporating the Art element of Value with black and white photography. 

    We are also incorporating Language arts & social studies standards as well. 

    Preview image: "iPad" by Sean MacEntee is marked with CC BY 2.0.


    2nd grade 

    This plan could incorporate three  30-40 minute lessons.  I would do the first presentation lesson and then the photography part 2 days later.  This would allow some time for "forgotten" supplies to be brought in.

    This would work as a face to face lesson best but could be adjusted for online as well.  In an online format, you wouldn't work in pairs and it would be self-portraits rather than taking portraits of others.

    This lesson reinforces several learning standards  that aren't taught in this lesson so be sure to look at the background information.

    Background for Teachers

    1.  Students should have a working understanding of main idea & key details.

    2. Students should have been taught some art element lessons, most importantly value.  We will be working with black and white photography so the art element of value will be reinforced with this lesson focusing on light & Shadow

    *  Video on Art Elements

    * Video on black & White photography including value

    3.  You should be aware of who Edward Curtis was as an artist so you can give some history to your students.  

    Video: Life & photography of Edward Curtis

    4. Students should be familiar with how to open the photo app on an iPad to take a photo.  

    5. You should have done some teaching on contributions and culture of Native American peoples.

    6. Supplies needed: 

    * iPads or parent volunteers who are willing to allow students to use their phones

    * flashlights

    * technology to view youtube videos, google slideshows

    * copies for students of portrait plan

    * a plan for printing photos either on paper or at a print shop. 


    Step 1 - Goals and Outcomes

    Step 1 Goals and Outcomes

    Standards incorporated into this lesson are: 


    Standard 2.V.CR.5:

    Discuss and reflect with peers about choices made in creating artwork.

    Standard 2.V.P.3:

    Analyze how art exhibited inside and outside of schools (such as in museums, galleries, virtual spaces, and other venues) contributes to communities.

    Strand: RESPOND (2.V.R.)

    Students will understand, evaluate, and articulate how works of art convey meaning for the observer as well as the creator (Standards 2.V.R.1–3).

    Standard 2.V.R.1:

    Perceive and describe aesthetic characteristics of one’s natural world and constructed environments, and categorize images based on expressive properties.

    Standard 2.V.R.2:

    Identify the mood suggested by a work of art and describe relevant subject matter and characteristics of form.

    Standard 2.V.CO.1:

    Create works of art about events in home, school, or community life.

    Standard 2.V.CO.2:

    Compare and contrast cultural uses of artwork from different times and places.


    Standard 1

    (Culture): Students will recognize and describe how people within their community, state, and nation are both similar and different.

    Objective 2

    Recognize and describe the contributions of different cultural groups in Utah and the nation.


    Reading: Informational Text Standard 2

    Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.


              Learning Intentions:

    • Students will be able to recognize how the details of a piece of art help us understand the main idea or theme that the artist wants us to understand. 

    • Students  will  be able to discuss the meaning it creates for them.

    • Students will discuss artwork of native american life by Edward Curtis and its importance/significance to our world today.

    • Success Criteria:

    • Students will create a plan for their own photograph based on the works of Edward Curtis.

    • They will use personal items that they bring from home that will convey to an audience a theme about their life.

    • Students will execute the plan and use their understandings of value to edit their photo to achieve their desired results

    Step 2 - Planning Instruction

    Step 2 Planning Instruction

    Student Background Knowledge

    1. I will activate prior knowledge of key details and Main idea along with our Native American Social studies lessons  with the first 6 slides of this google slides show;

    2.  I will review the art elements of value with them with this video if needed.

    3. Supplies needed:  ipads or parents volunteers who are willing to allow students to use their phones; flashlights; technology to view youtube videos, google slideshows; copies of portrait plan; plan for printing photos either on paper or at a print shop. 

    4. A place for parents / students to upload photos (shared google drive )

    5. Create a loom video to show them how to play with contrast, brightness, exposure, highlights, shadows; saturation, sharpness, definition, etc.  Depending on your technology, your photo tool may have a setting that allows them to take the photo in black and white.  That would be ideal.  Mine do not so my editing lesson will have to take care of that. 

    Your video will depend on your iPads or phones.  You will need to make a video dependant on the technology you have that will give students the tools they need to adjust their portrait into the art outcome they want.    Have them write notes on worksheet "Me- A master photographer!" (attached to section 5)

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    For struggling learners: I will partner with them for the photography. 


    Step 3 - Instruction

    Step 3 Instruction

    LESSON 1:  45 min. 

    This lesson will build student understanding of Edward Curtis and his photography and its importance to our understanding of the history of Native American peoples. 

    1. Grab interest and activate prior knowledge of main idea & key details as well as our past native American studies with the 1st six slides of this slideshow & discussion indicated on the slides:

    2.  SLIDE #7:  (choose which one you like best )    Introduce Edward Curtis as an artist:    5 min.

    A 2nd video of Edward Curtis.   It explains more about his art and delves into how the photo prints were made. 3 min.

    Today we are going to learn about an artist named Edward Curtis.   He is famous for his portraits of Native Americans and his photography of their way of life.  He felt like it was so important to capture images that would show people the special unique details about the way of life of the Native American people.  He was concerned that many of their traditions were disappearing as the Native Americans were changing. He devoted 30 years of his life to his photography of the Native American way of life. 

    3.  SLIDES #8- 20  Show some of Curtis' photos and discuss.   What do the details tell us?  

    4. Pass out photo planning worksheets:    Students will make a plan for their own portrait & decide what items they will include in the photographs to tell their story. Quiet thinking for 5-7 minutes.  Then they will pair up and disucss their plan with their partner and then make any adjustments to their plan.  5-7 min. 

    (Allow a day between this lesson and lesson #2 for bringing supplies and checking their plan. Instruct students to make any adjustments if necessary)

    Lesson #2: Taking the portraits  20 min;  This is a great day for parent volunteers

    1. Have students put on any clothing that they need to for their portraits and gather their props.   

    2. Pair students up from previous lesson.  Review with them how to open camera app on iPads and settings as needed.  Allow them to pose and take each others portraits.     Provide flashlights to play with light and shadow to create value in their photograph. 

    3. If using parent volunteer cameras, Make sure they have them upload their photo to a shared google drive.  If they don't always have access to the same iPad, it would also be a good idea to upload their photo to a shared google drive.

    4. Discuss internet safety about how important it is to keep their information private.  Explain that the google drive is part of the internet but it is protected and private and can only be accessed by people that are invited to be a part of it.  

    5. If you have not discussed a lesson like this one by common sense media- you may want to incorporate that now.  It can be from 15-30 min. depending on how in depth you teach the lesson.  

    Lesson #3:  Editing for value and final portrait

    1.  Access their photo from lesson #2

    2. Show a loom video created for compatibility with your technology showing students how to work with their photo in the editing app.   If they couldn't take their photo in black and white, show how to change to black & white first. Then, show them how to explore contrast, exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, saturation, warmth, tint, sharpness, & definition.  

    3. Pass out Portrait Editing worksheet & rubric (attached in part 6).  Discuss how to use both to ensure they have a great final project.  They need to play with at least 3 settings and record if they kept the chages and what they saw.

    4.  Upload their final portrait to  google drive for printing.


    Step 4 - Assessments

    Step 4 Assessments

    Students will be assessed on their plan for photo, their edits & final product as well as their participation with their partner in creating and editing their plan.  They will also be assessed on their participation in class discussions of Edward Curtis, Native American culture, internet privacy & art elements.  


    I have included a project examplar in this section.