Teaching Materials - Exercise


Name of Artist Educator: Ellis Yip
Excercise Category: Visual storytelling

Overhearing let us learn more about this world, the world of others.

Have you ever noticed that in every fast food shop there is always a group of retired people in their 50s or 60s, sitting and chatting away the afternoon hours?

Concept / Inspiration:

Overhearing let us learn more about this world, the world of others.

Have you ever noticed that in every fast food shop there is always a group of retired people in their 50s or 60s, sitting and chatting away the afternoon hours? They may talk about the Chinese opera house they go to in mainland. Judging from their tone, they are not exactly close friends but they get together from time to time.

Overhearing others’ conversation can be an inspiration, especially when you are working on a script – it lends a sense of quotidian authenticity to your story. It also let us learn more about this world, the world of others. To take a photo, one must master the skill of “storytelling”, and this comes from listening and observing. Through the exercise, students will pay more attention to their surroundings, and not only focus on things related to them.


Through eavesdropping on other people’s stories, students become more aware of the world they are in and the things that exist outside of their own world. Guide them to be curious about the world, stimulate their creativity, further their understanding on subject matters that will make them think and relate to their past, and turn these into the theme or direction of their shooting.

Materials / Equipment:

  • Camera or mobile phone


Classroom, different corners at school, and outside school

Workshop Description:

Part One l How to shoot with a hidden camera

  1. Instructor may suggest some free spy phone apps to students. It is one of the easiest and quickest ways to eavesdrop on others and sneak a picture of the people involved.
  2. Students eavesdrop on others in different locations. They should take note of the time, place, their targets – their tone and gesture – during process. Students should focus on stories of people who are of age, class or identity different from them.
  3. Take a picture of the background and pair it with music.
  4. If students shoot with a camera, they can keep it on the palm and lift it and point the fingers forward when the timing has come. Start shooting after pointing the fingers to a certain direction.
  5. If students are shooting with a phone, they can appear to be a severely short-sighted person; when they look very closely at the screen, the passer-by will not realise that they are taking photo.
  6. Ask students to complete the work after class and report their finding next lesson.


Part Two l Reporting in class (around 1 hour)

  1. Invite students to share their shooting and the stories they overheard one by one, other students will ask detailed questions about the story, such as when, who, where, from which they will infer the identity, occupation and other background information of the “protagonist”. Instructor may even reproduce the scenario with students and encourage them to imitate the protagonist’s facial expression, tone and gesture as good as they can.
  2. Based on their own sharing, students can observe how detail-minded they are, or if they have been too judgmental or biased in the observation All these will help them to think and explore the theme and angle of their shooting.


Note 1: Instructor can discuss with students what they should be aware of during the eavesdropping exercise. The emphasis of the exercise is listening, it should train their observation skills to have better eyes for the surrounding environment and people. This should not be a self-amusing act that takes advantage of information gathered from a secretive and uninformed operation.

Expected Outcome:

When students are connected with people from different background (age, class, identity), the unfamiliar stories they heard not only widen their understanding of life, and their observations of the outer world are actually an indirect self-reflection.

Actual Outcome:

Most students finished their work alone, only two of them formed a group. In general, students were not very observant, while some students simply eavesdropped on their classmates right before they handed in the homework, for the content shared a lot of similarities with the life of an average student.


During class:

The student told the class that he overheard three university students badmouth their classmate when he was purchasing concert ticket, but he did not take any photos. Instructor and students asked some follow-up questions, for example, the subject the trio study, the relationship between the girl they discussed and her boyfriend.

The second student shared with the class that he spotted their classmate in McDonald’s writing love letter and listening to music. Students quickly stepped in and ask all sorts of questions: the colour of the letter, how he confirmed it is a love letter and not just other kinds of correspondence.

The third student retold a conversation between a mother and a son during a bus ride. The son asked her what is a graveyard, but she refused to answer. Student thought the mother was being over-protective.
Instructor commented that student had this conclusion because he was thinking from the son’s perspective.

The fourth and fifth students said they had witnessed the travel plan of five teachers, but students could not prove their identity – they only said so because of the outfit.
Instructor noticed that their judgement is too subjective and arbitrary.

The sixth student recounted his experience in mainland China: two women discussed marriage. One thought that true love is about marrying a rich guy, the other disagreed.