Student Photographs and Suburbia
Teacher:  Gerri Hajduk

Overview: Photographs play an important part in the overall memory of families, communities and of a particular time in history. This activity enables students to study the past and present condition of the communities where they live and encourages them to become knowledgeable and involved citizens. Students usually enjoy taking photographs and this activity is an exciting way to help students learn about history and their community using a different lens.

Materials: cameras, poster boards for mounting or displaying photographs, photographs of the community (double set), set of historically significant photographs.

Time: 2-3 hours

Instructional Sequence:

  1. The teacher prepares students by discussing the importance of photography in United States history from the time of the Civil War to the present. Several photos from different historic periods are studied and discussed.

  2. To help students learn the process of "reading a photograph," the teacher leads the students through two activities using selected photographs:

    1. The teacher will prepare a set of photographs (two of each subject) taken of the community. Each student will write a reaction to the photograph. This would be a good time to ask the students to look for what is not in the picture that would be of importance. Photo partners will come together to discuss how each reacted to the photograph. Reactions should then be shared with the entire class.

    2. The teacher provides each student with a historically significant photograph. First, the student is asked to write down his overall impression of the photograph. The student is then asked to divide the picture into quadrants and look more closely at each section and list three things that might be inferred from the photograph. This should raise some questions and teach the student to do a much closer reading of the photograph.

  3. In class, discuss some of the tensions, changes, historic sites or icons that exist in the community---the depth of the discussion will depend on the particular class and how much information the teacher actually wants to give the students.

  4. The students are then instructed to take pictures of several sites or topics that depict change, tension, historic sites or community icons.

  5. After careful consideration, the student then chooses one photograph that best exemplifies their topic. The student mounts the photograph, creates an appropriate caption, and writes a brief explanation of what the photograph portrays and why he chose that particular picture.

  6. Each student then shares with the class the photograph and observations.

Evaluation: Students are evaluated on the completeness of their project and the relevance of the their photograph and explanation.



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