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Monday Morning Ready11.28.2017
Jumpstart Your Week!

Rick Prelinger’s city-centric documentaries diverge from the traditional narrative format. Rather than presenting historical footage and scholarly commentary, the film archivist uses a mixture of ephemeral clips and audience participation, allowing him to relay an intimate portrait of urban life.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

Why do you think Rick Prelinger made his films without sound? Do you think this was a good choice?

Grade 5-6

What do you think Rick Prelinger means when he says, "The show is us and we are the show?"

Grade 7-8

According to the article, Rick Prelinger has created documentaries on big cities including San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York. Do you think his approach would work if they featured a rural setting? Why or why not?

Grade 9-10

In the article, Rick Prelinger says that his films are not revisitations of the past, but undertaken to encourage and sustain discussion about possible urban futures. Do you think his films will encourage people to talk about the future? What ideas or messages do you think the films might convey?

LESSON PLAN
Investigate History Through Photos

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.
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
This Is What 18th-Century Paris Sounded Like
Read this Smithsonian article to learn how a bygone age comes back to life in a painstaking reconstruction of the sounds of 1739.

A Ticket to Philly—in 1769: Thinking About Cities, Then and Now
This lesson from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access asks students to “visit” eighteenth century Philadelphia and to think about communities as “organisms.” The lesson includes a map and a “step-by-step” guide of the sights of old Philadelphia.

Then, Now and Tomorrow
This activity from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum invites high school students to use photographs to research the history of New York’s Lower East Side. Students will use the photographs to predict the future of the neighborhood.

Telling Your Story
In this activity from the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, students tell a story from the point of view of someone who lived in a time depicted in a museum exhibit.

A Green City: Past, Present and Future
In this teacher-created lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students look at the history of city development and city planning as they consider ideas for the future of urban transportation.

Every Picture Has a Story
This lesson from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access focuses on important steps in the development of photography in the nineteenth century. Students make observations and inferences about historical photographs. Then they use deductive skills to place photographs in a historical context.
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