Jump to Content or Main Navigation

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Visual Messages: Creating a Photomontage

Water in Africa

Africa, Ghana
Grades 3-5, Grades K-2
Arts & Music, Language Arts & Literature
One to two class periods

How do we best communicate a rich and complex visual world when it is captured on a two-dimensional surface? In this lesson, students will manipulate photographs by cutting, reassembling, and adding two-dimensional materials, such as text, maps, charts, documents, notes, and drawings.


Using essays and photos provided by Peace Corps Volunteers, students will create a photomontage that is calculated to focus attention or alter viewers’ attitudes regarding environmental issues in the United States and Africa. While creating the photomontage, students will be challenged not to ask the question “What is this photograph of?,” but to ask, “What is the photograph about?”

Students will

  • Compare how water is used in their lives with how it is used in the lives of Africans, using photographs as evidence.
  • Create a photomontage showing the importance of water in our daily lives.
  • Discuss feelings elicited by art and photographs.
  • Artist: A person who creates art.
  • Africa: one of the largest continents on Earth. It has 53 countries and is known for many things including large deserts and many animals.


  • Country photos provided on the Water in Africa Theme Page
  • Magazines and books that contain photos relating to the topic
  • Newspapers or other materials that contain printed text
  • Access to the Internet
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 12”x18” cardboard or heavy weight paper


  1. Introduce the lesson with these points:
    1. We are trained from an early age that when we look at a photograph we must see something — a best friend, a new car, a summer vacation.
    2. Since birth we have looked at thousands of photographs from magazines, family photo albums, newspapers, or CD covers, and as we look we constantly ask ourselves, "What do I see?"
    3. Do you ever stop and ask yourself while you're looking at a photograph, "What do I feel?" or "What is this image about?"
    4. Just as music can create a feeling in someone, a photograph can do the same thing.
  2. Write the phrase "What do I feel?" on the board. Show the students a photo of a natural scene and have them answer the question. Write some of these answers on the board.
  3. Introduce students to the definition of a photomontage: the manipulation of photographs by cutting and reassembling them and adding two-dimensional materials—text, maps, charts, documents, notes, and drawings—as a way of enhancing or altering reality.
  4. Show students three examples of photomontages. Provide these as handouts or project them on a Smart Board.
  5. As each photomontage is shown, walk the students through the process of looking at the photomontage and how they should be answering the questions for this lesson. Ask them what images they see; what they notice about photos, drawings, text, and color; and what they think the artist was feeling as they created the photomontage.
  6. Select a country from the Water in Africa Theme Page and show the students the photos provided on the website. This is also a good time to read one of the essays from a Peace Corps Volunteers.
  7. Have the students look through magazines and newspapers, and collect photos that show how water is used in different activities both in Africa and the United States . The photomontage could highlight differences or show similarities.
  8. Have the students glue their photos and text to heavy-weight paper or cardboard

Frameworks & Standards

Essential Questions
  • What emotions does a photo make you feel?
  • What do you think the photographer or artist felt?

Language Arts Standards

  • Standard 1: Reading for Perspective
  • Standard 2: Understanding the Human Experience
  • Standard 4: Communication Skills
  • Standard 9: Multi-cultural Understanding

Visual Arts Standards

  • Standard 1: Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
  • Standard 2: Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
  • Standard 3: Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
  • Standard 4: Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures


Hang the photomontages in a prominent place in the school. Establish a way for viewers to write comments about the works of art that will go to the artist.

Browse More Lesson Plans