Captions: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Kelley Stephenson
Jefferson High School
Dayton, Ohio

Title: Captions: a picture is worth a thousand words.


Students will learn about what makes a great caption starting at the ground and working their way up. This lesson could be taught before/after/during teaching layout and design using pictures and other artwork as points of interest on a newspaper page. Suggested time allowance is 50-90 minutes (possibly two class periods).


Students will:

  • Examine a picture for details.
  • Write questions they need answered about the picture.
  • Create lead-ins appropriate for a picture.
  • Create captions appropriate for a picture.
  • Be able to choose another picture and create the lead-in and caption.
  • Know what information they need in order to create a caption.
  • Write more captions appropriate for other pictures.

Activities and Procedures

Activity 1

  • Hold up various front pages of local newspapers and ask students what they look at first. Most will say the pictures or artwork on the page.
  • Next, show them a picture on the overhead without a caption. Have them guess what the caption would tell them. What else would they like to know from looking at the picture?
  • Introduce another picture and have students write down 15 questions they would like to ask people in the picture.
  • Have one of your creative students act as if they are some of the people in the picture and answer the questions the students had from the picture. They should all take careful notes from the responses they get from the questions.

Activity 2

  • Using the same picture, have students brainstorm 10 lead-ins as a catchy link from the caption to the picture.
  • Students can share their lead-ins. Have them circle the best one they came up with.

Activity 3

  • Have everyone review the notes they took from the “person” in the picture from the first activity. They should take special mention of quotes to possibly use in a caption.
  • Now, students are to create a caption. Sentence one: summary in present tense, identify people, explain the photo without telling the obvious. Sentence two: descriptive in past tense, include other background info. Sentence three: good direct quote.


Create a caption with a lead-in from the info they gathered. Rubrics will be base on their use of creativity, structure and content.

Resources and Materials:

  • paper
  • pencils
  • overhead with transparency of picture
  • other pictures
  • professional and student newspapers with examples of pictures and captions
  • active participation of students