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Write a Short Story About a Historic Photo

Students will pick a historic photo, record their observations and analyze what they see. Then they will write a short story about the photo.

PROCESS:

  1. Inform students that photographs are a type of art. They make us feel. They make us think. And the same photo can communicate different messages based on the viewer's interpretation.
  2. Point out that in the article, curator Anne Wilkes Tucker said she initially selected images for this exhibition based on her gut reaction. Talk about what that means. Then discuss how she used artistic, technical and historic aspects of the photos-and the cameras used to take them-to make her final picks.
  3. Invite students to visit the Annenberg Space for Photography's site featuring the Not an Ostrich and Other Images from America's Library exhibition. Encourage them to examine the featured photos and those included in the brief video. Instruct students to select one photo.
  4. Give students time to observe and analyze their photo. Have them take notes about what they feel, think and see from artistic, technical and historic perspectives. Invite students to write a short story based on the photo and their interpretation of it.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their stories with the class. Challenge them to identify specific parts of the photo that led them to interpret it and write about it in a particular way.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
After viewing all of the photos on the exhibition site, have the class pick one image. Analyze the photo as a class. Then have students work with a partner to write a short story about the photo.
Grades 5-6:
After viewing all of the photos on the exhibition site, divide the class into pairs. Encourage partners to pick one photo. Instruct them to take notes describing what they felt, thought and saw when observing the photo. Then have them analyze their notes. Give partners time to write a short story about the photo.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Have partners view the exhibition site and select one photo. Instruct them make a detailed record of what they felt, thought and saw when observing the photo. Encourage them to also describe notable artistic, technical and historic details they see. Then have each partner analyze the notes and write a short story expressing his or her own interpretation of the photo.
Grades 9-10:
After viewing the exhibition site, instruct each student to pick a photo. Give students time to observe and analyze the photo from artistic, technical and historic perspectives. Instruct students to select one of those perspectives and feature it prominently as they write a short story about the photo.