Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tools for Teaching with Historic Photographs

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about using primary sources in the classroom in which I asked readers how (and why) they used primary sources in the classroom (and what some of the difficulties were).

Fourth grade Frenchtown teacher Kathy Gaul responded: “I think for those of us that teach lower than middle school grades, it is quite a challenge.  Many primary source documents are too wordy and complicated for our kids.  I have found photos to be the most engaging primary source for my 4th graders.  Even when I am super excited about something, telling them ‘This is the actual whatever!!’, they aren’t that impressed. I don’t think they have lived long enough to have much of a perspective on history.”

I’m always glad to hear what resonates with students. So in honor of Kathy’s email, I’d like to share with you two new tools I’ve discovered for teaching with historic photographs.

  • Crop It. Crop It is a four-step hands-on learning routine where teachers pose questions and students use paper cropping tools to deeply explore a visual primary source.
  • Primary Source Thinking Triangle Activity. According to the creator, “This activity requires students to use higher level thinking skills as they interact with a primary source image. The thinking triangle also gives students practice in the visual equivalent of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) reading anchor standard 2.” I was incredibly taken by this simple tool for pushing students to look deeply at images and the Thinking Triangle is a new contender for my favorite primary source analysis tool. (If one of you would volunteer to try it with your class and let me know how it goes, I’d be VERY appreciative.)
Want to incorporate more historical photographs into your lesson plans? You may also find these earlier posts of use:
Library of Congress also offers an online training module on analyzing historic prints and photographs. You can earn 1 OPI renewal unit on completion of the module. Find the link on our Online Professional Development page. 

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