Lesson Plan



Showing (work x family) is a photography project about the push and pull of work and family in our sped-up world: how it impacts our kids, employers, spouses, elders, friends, and ourselves. A traveling exhibition with pictures by scores of acclaimed photographers, Showing captures the choreography of making a living and having a family, played out in intimate everyday routines and situations—commuting and car pools, calendars and keys, school-day mornings and weekend chores, night shifts and daycare, single-parent households and blended families, and hands-on grandparents.

Across class, race, gender, age, and geography, the competing demands of work and family increasingly shape our lives. Showing features evocative, eye-opening photographs that shed new light on familiar subjects. Photographers include professionals such as Gerald Cyrus, Lauren Greenfield, Wing Young Huie, Carlos Javier Ortiz, Melissa Ann Pinney, and Angela Strassheim, along with high school students from around the country who have participated in wrkxfmly, the corresponding high school photography assignment

wrkxfmly elevates student voices and brings their unique and important perspectives to Showing (work x family). Student photographs will be included in our wrkxfmly Archive and in our screen-based, traveling exhibition alongside professional work.

The assignment has run in more than 50 public and private schools and independent photo programs in Arizona; California; Colorado; Indiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Minnesota; New York; Tennessee; Texas; Washington, DC; Utah, and Virginia. We welcome returning teachers as well as new schools for the 2017–18 school year.



Assignment Goal

Each student creates one or more photos along with an accompanying statement or expanded caption that together address the overlap of work and family in their life, and especially for their parent(s)/guardian(s). 



Student + Teacher Opportunities

Student Opportunities

  • Each student will plan and carry out a multiweek photo assignment that balances aesthetics and story, and includes a written statement or caption that expands our understanding of their image(s).
  • Student and family voices will be honored and shared, contributing to the national dialogue about work and family life.
  • Student work may be selected for the wrkxfmly Archive, the wrkxfmly Award for Excellence, regional and online exhibitions, and print publications.
  • This project may contribute to a student’s overall portfolio for Advanced Placement, college entrance, and/or a career in photography.

Teacher Opportunities

  • Teachers will participate in a national project with real connections to the lives of their students.
  • The contributions of participating teachers will be recognized in subsequent exhibitions and publications.
  • Teachers have the option to shoot photos as well, and their work will also be considered for inclusion in our exhibition.


Big Ideas + Essential Questions

Big Ideas

  • In the United States, work and family life overlap in many ways, both obvious and nuanced.
  • Family structures and types of work are extraordinarily varied. Every family experience is different and valid. There are no right or wrong answers. There is no “normal.”
  • Photography and the written word can express and explain the various realities of work and family life and illuminate how they intersect.

Essential Questions

  • How do work and family overlap in your life, especially for your parent(s)/guardian(s)?
  • How can photographic images and text communicate the ways that family life and work life overlap?


Lesson Plan

Introduction (one class)

The assignment introduction involves one 50-minute period, but can also be expanded. The assignment itself runs 3 to 8 weeks. Each teacher determines how to best run the assignment in their classroom, how long to spend on the assignment, and which parts of our lesson plan and Toolkit to use with their students.

Hook & Engagement (15 min.)

The Photo Facilitator will visit your classroom to co-present the project. (We can also prepare you to present it yourself.)

After a brief introduction to the Showing project, students engage in the Lines of Communication activity to begin talking and thinking about work and family with one another. Conversation prompts include questions such as:

  • What do you consider family?
  • Who is in your family?
  • What do you consider work?
  • Who in your family works?
  • What are the times and places in your life where work and family overlap?

Next, students participate in a whole-class debrief and brainstorming conversation. It is important to emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers. Both families and work take many different forms. The teacher or presenter should take notes on the board during the discussion—a work/family Venn diagram format is most useful.

Introductory Presentation (25 min.)

The Photo Facilitator will present the introductory slideshow, which includes pictures from the project by noted photographers, as well as by high school students. Throughout the presentation, reflective prompts address the Essential Questions that guide this project in order to draw out ideas and experiences that students have around the overlap of work and family.

Students should participate in the discussion and jot down thoughts and responses to prompts during the presentation.

The teacher is expected to be a part of the discussion and help actively engage students in dialogue.

Student Project Planning (10 min.)

Students work in small groups or individually on a work/family Venn diagram and begin to previsualize how they can show the overlap of work and family in a photograph. They then share out with the larger group. This activity also can be done separately in a second class.

Students receive an assignment handout and write a proposal or create a storyboard for their photo shoot. Some teachers assign this as homework.

Shooting (3–8 weeks)

Students receive a low-light photography handout to supplement skills and techniques that have already been taught by the teacher. (Also see Toolkit low-light activity.)

Each student submits a short written proposal for a topic around work and family life that she or he plans to explore. Proposal should include time of day, location, relevant family member(s), objects, other visual elements, and clues to the story.

Writing a statement or extended caption to accompany the pictures is a key part of the assignment. (See Toolkit writing activities.)

The Photo Facilitator visits your class midway through the project to provide feedback and encouragement. The facilitator and teacher will agree in advance on a format for the midpoint visit; We recommend 1:1 conversations between the facilitator and each student.

FINAL CRITIQUE (one to two classes)

At the end of the assignment, final photographs and statements from all students are displayed in the classroom and discussed. The Photo Facilitator comes to your class for this critique and, if time allows, gives feedback on every student’s work.

Presentations can take the form of slideshows, printed portfolios, gallery walks, sticky note feedback, etc.

The facilitator collects student photographs, statements and captions. All use agreements and releases are due at this time.

After the critique, please complete our teacher and student surveys.


  • Teachers should tailor the assignment to their classrooms.
  • The wrkxfmly Toolkit contains a range of optional resources and activities that you are welcome to use for this project. 
  • We recommend structuring the assignment so that the students can shoot more than once. Sharing work in process for revision and editing support is also extremely helpful.
  • It is important throughout this process to emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers, as both families and work take many different forms.
  • More opportunities to consider work-family and to pre-visualize before shooting lead to greater success with the assignment.
  • It is very important for students to shoot at the highest resolution possible. We recommend that students use JPEG-Large or an equivalent setting on their cameras. We also recommend that students not shoot in RAW unless they are advanced and know how to process this file format. If students are processing their images in PhotoShop, images should be saved at the original file size, with minimal or no compression.
  • It is very important for students to save their original, high-resolution files and/or negatives. We cannot include work in the project without high-res files or negatives.


Standards Alignment

Aligned with National Visual Arts Anchor Standards:

  • VA:Cr1.1.Ia: Use multiple approaches to begin creative endeavors.
  • VA:Cr1.2.Ia: Shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art or design.
  • VA:Cr3.1.Ia: Apply relevant criteria from traditional and contemporary cultural contexts to examine, reflect on, and plan revisions for works of art and design in progress.
  • VA:Cr3.1.IIa: Engage in constructive critique with peers, then reflect on, re-engage, revise, and refine works of art and design in response to personal artistic vision.
  • VA:Cr3.1.IIIa: Reflect on, re-engage, revise, and refine works of art or design considering relevant traditional and contemporary criteria as well as personal artistic vision.
  • VA:Pr6.1.Ia: Analyze and describe the impact that an exhibition or collection has on personal awareness of social, cultural, or political beliefs and understandings.
  • VA:Re.7.1.Ia: Hypothesize ways in which art influences perception and understanding of human experiences.
  • VA:Re.7.2.Ia: Analyze how one’s understanding of the world is affected by experiencing visual imagery.
  • VA:Re8.1.Ia: Interpret an artwork or collection of works, supported by relevant and sufficient evidence found in the work and its various contexts.
  • VA:Cn10.1.Ia: Document the process of developing ideas from early stages to fully elaborated ideas.