Pictures, photographs and visual images

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Pictures, photographs and visual images: Pictures, photographs and visual images may be used in a number of different ways in SPHE. Children need to develop skills of discernment and critical analysis to deal with much of the conflicting information and misinformation that they receive from various sources. Picture and photographs are a powerful means of provoking a reaction or arousing interest in a particular topic or subject. Examining visual images enables the children to:

  • explore bias
  • question the content of an image
  • explore different points of view
  • compare their own experience with reality
  • explore attitudes and understanding of certain concepts
  • examine stereotyping and the similarities and differences between people

Pictures are a helpful means of presenting sensitive or controversial information to children, for example in the older classes the teacher could use appropriate pictures to help children understand the growth of the foetus in the womb.

Pictures or photographs used in the class can be taken from a magazine or newspaper or from a professionally produced picture pack. In exploring visual images children will also become familiar with some of the techniques used by the media and so become critical media users


The approaches and methodologies for SPHE, outlined in the SPHE teacher guidelines on pp 54-99 are an excellent reference for teachers to support them in the implementation of active learning methodologies in SPHE lessons

The following exemplars illustrate how various aspects of the SPHE content can be explored using a variety of pictures, photographs and visual images and explore techniques including: reading a photograph, using a picture as a stimulus for discussion, ranking pictures, exploring perspectives and bias, using captions, creating speech/thought bubbles, classifying and setting and exploring a television advertisement

  • Reading a photograph: outlined on p70 for fourth to sixth classes, where photographs are used to help children to learn how to ask different types of questions
  • Picture as a stimulus for discussion: outlined on p71 for third to sixth classes illustrating that pictures and photographs are an effective way of provoking a discussion in class
  • Ranking pictures: outlined on p72 for fifth and sixth classes illustrating the arrangement of a ‘diamond nine’, where children arrange pictures in an order that is agreed by the whole group
  • Exploring bias: outlined on p73 for third to sixth classes illustrating that children begin to understand bias as they become discerning and critical about the information presented in various illustrations
  • Pictures as a starting point: outlined on p74 for junior and senior infants, providing children with a starting point to ascertain the current thinking in the class
  • Captions: outlined on p75 for third to sixth classes illustrating how exploring captions can help children to become more discerning about what is presented to them in all sorts of illustrations.
  • Speech/though bubbles: outlined on p76 for all classes enabling children to realise the significance of non verbal behaviour and the different ways of interpreting body language.
  • Classifying and setting: outlined on p77 for junior and senior infants, an approach
  • Exploring a television advertisement: outlined on p78 for third to sixth classes enabling children to look at television extracts and to analyse the context and the techniques being used.


Please find attached further resources to support you in using photographs, pictures and visual images