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Investigate History Through Photos

Students will conduct research to find photographs that reveal how a city and its people have changed over time. They compile their photos on a poster in a way that visually reveals something important about the city.

PROCESS:

  1. As a class, brainstorm a list of things people could learn by studying photos from the past. If necessary, point out that the subject, or focus of a photograph, is only part of its content. Buildings, landscape, clothing and even minor objects in the frame are important clues, too. 
  2. As a class, select one or more cities that students would like to learn more about. Then have them conduct research to find photographs taken in that place. Encourage students to find photos that represent different parts of the city, different time eras and different ideas about what it was like to live in that city.
  3. Provide students with poster board. Instruct them to compile their photos in a way that reveals something important about the city. Tell students that the photos must speak for themselves. No words are allowed on the posters.   
  4. Arrange the posters to create a photographic gallery in the classroom. 

ASSESSMENT: 

Encourage students to walk around, observe the posters and talk about what they see. Challenge them to explain how the city and its people have evolved over time.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON: 

Grades 3-4:
Select one city for students to study. Then divide the class into small groups. Have groups conduct research to find interesting photos of the city. Challenge them to pick photos that show how the city and its people have changed over time. Give each group a piece of poster board. Encourage them to create a poster with at least six photos.
Grades 5-6:
Invite students to identify cities they would like to learn more about. Then vote to select one city. Have students brainstorm a list of themes that would help people learn more about life in this city. (i.e., buildings, famous people, the working class, children, sports, education, etc.) Divide the class into small groups. Assign each group one theme. Instruct groups to conduct research to find photos taken in the city that align with their theme and reveal how the city and its people have changed over time. Give each group a piece of poster board. Encourage each group to create a poster with at least eight photos.
Grades 7-8: 
Invite students to identify cities they would like to learn more about. Vote to select two cities. Divide the class in half. Assign one city to each group. Challenge groups to identify several themes that would help people learn more about life in their city. (i.e., buildings, famous people, the working class, children, sports, education, etc.) Then have group members conduct research in pairs to find photographs related to each theme that show how the city and its people have changed over time. Give each pair a piece of poster board. Encourage them to create a poster with at least 10 photos. Create a photo gallery for each city. After the class views both displays, have students compare what they learned about the two cities.
Grades 9-10:
Invite students to identify cities they would like to learn more about. Vote to select three cities. Divide the class into three groups. Assign one city to each group. Challenge groups to identify several themes that would help people learn more about life in their city. (i.e., buildings, famous people, the working class, children, sports, education, etc.) Then have group members conduct research in pairs to find photographs related to each theme that show how the city and its people have changed over time. Give each pair a piece of poster board. Encourage them to create a poster with at least 10 photos. After the class views the displays, have students compare what they learned about the three cities. Challenge students to identify one overall theme that captures the history and character of each city.