Thursday, October 23, 2014

Using historic photographs to complement the study of literature

I've talked to several teachers who've had success integrating historic photographs in their students' study of historical fiction.

Jason's Gold (the story of a journey to the Klondike gold rush) is based in part on the authors' research in the Hegg Photograph Collection. So it's no surprise that Hegg's photos make perfect illustration for the novel. A teacher (I'd give credit, but I'm drawing a blank on the name) told me that she had her students visit the Hegg photo database after they'd finished the novel to choose a picture (or three) to illustrate different chapters. She asked them to choose a quote to demonstrate what passage they were illustrating and to write a paragraph about the historical image.

Jill Van Alstyne of Helena High had her sophomore honors students visit the Montana Historical Society Research Center as part of their study of Fools Crow. They had several tasks (see here), but one of them was to find a historic photograph that illustrated a way that non-Indian immigration to Montana changed the world that Montana Indians knew. The actual assignment, called "My Home Montana" is copied below:

My Home Montana
Different people throughout time have called Montana “home.” For example, the Pikuni band of Blackfeet in the 1800s made their home in northern Montana, and their lives in connection to the land are described by James Welch in his historical novel Fools Crow.
How did white immigration into Montana change the world that natives knew? Find one photograph that illustrates an aspect of this transformation. Answer the following:
  • Who took the photo (if known)?
  • When and where was it taken (if known)?
  • For what purpose do you think this photo was taken? (advertising, family history, documentation, etc.)
  • How does the photo illustrate this transformation? (Write one paragraph)
  • Staple your paragraph to the photocopy of the photo you chose and turn it in for 35 points.
Have you had success using historic photographs to enrich your study of literature? Let me know what's worked in your classroom, and I'll share out.

For more ideas for teaching with photographs, see here.

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