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Charley Williams and Granddaughter, Age 94

[Detail] Charley Williams and Granddaughter, Age 94

Preparation | Procedure | Evaluation | Students

Lesson Procedure

Lesson One: What can be learned from a photograph?

  1. This lesson may be done online or offline, depending on the available equipment. If time or equipment constraints exist, do this exercise as a class, using a projector.
  2. Direct the students to the student lesson What can be learned from a photograph? for the exercise on primary source photographs. The lesson uses the Dorothea Lange photographs of the migrant woman with her children.
  3. Using the Teacher's Guide to Analyzing Prints and Photographs and the Primary Source Analysis Tool, ask the students: "What do you see?"
  4. Ask the students: "What do you see?" and direct them to record their answers on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Select questions from the Teacher's Guide to Analyzing Prints and Photographs to guide further observation and discussion.
  5. Point out to the students that they each observe different things and have different perceptions of the same thing. Intense disagreements may occur when the students look at the various photographs.
  6. As a conclusion to this lesson, the class as a whole should discuss what this series of six photographs by Dorothea Lange reveals about family life during the Great Depression.

Lesson Two: What can be learned from a document?

  1. This lesson uses the same document, "Women and the Changing Times," a transcript of an oral interview, that was used in the interview unit. If you have completed Unit 2 with your students, direct them to locate the document and their notes from the earlier lesson, both of which should have been placed in the project folder.
  2. Direct the students to the student lesson What can be learned from a document?.
  3. In this lesson, students learn about the Great Depression from a primary source document. It is best if students record the details that they learn from the interview on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Books and Other Printed Texts to focus the group work, and select additional questions to focus and prompt a whole class discussion of their analysis.
  4. The printed document may also be used to teach annotation.
  5. A class discussion on what this document reveals about family life in the Great Depression is very valuable

Lesson Three: Gees Bend

The students' challenge is to use their new skills of observation and deduction to learn about family life in the community of Gees Bend, Alabama, during the time of the Great Depression. The lesson also challenges the students to expand their research skills.

As students ask questions and seek answers, the teacher and the librarian provide helpful instruction on how to look for information. This lesson involves information access, search strategies, and use of information that is located.

  1. Direct students to the student lesson Gees Bend.
  2. The students start with a selected group of Twenty Photographs of Gees Bend, Alabama. Explain that the photographs were taken during the Depression by Marion Post Wolcott and Arthur Rothstein, two photographers who were part of a project sponsored by the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives of the New Deal.
  3. Students search online and print resources for information about Dorothea Lange and her photography of Depression farm communities.
  4. Students use maps from reference sources, print and online, to locate Gees Bend.
  5. Students use research sources, print and online, to learn the reason why the town is named "Gees Bend."
  6. Students research the history of this community in its plantation period.
  7. The students compile their research and create oral presentations. These ten to fifteen minute presentations may be recorded or performed live.

Lesson Four: What can be learned from a sound recording?

This lesson uses the song "Sunny California."

  1. Direct the students to the student lesson What can be learned from a sound recording?.
  2. The students listen to the recording several times in order to understand all of the words. Students analyze the sound recording, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Sound Recordings to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  3. The teacher may need to acquaint the students with the "ballad" form so that they are better able to understand this song. If students are acquainted with other ballads such as Barbara Allen, they may be more receptive to this song and the lesson.
  4. The teacher explains that this woman's song is a type of ballad in which she tells the sad story of her move to California.
  5. The teacher may find that providing a transcript of the song is useful. To accomplish this, a student or group of students can be assigned to listen to the song and create a transcript. The teacher should check and edit the transcript before copying and distributing it to the class.
  6. After completing the lesson, the class should discuss what the words of the song reveal about family life during the Great Depression.

Lesson Five: Focused Research Essay

  1. Using all the information gathered about family life in the Great Depression from documents, photographs, and sound recordings, assign the students to write an essay about family life in the Great Depression.
  2. Students form a thesis about family life in the Great Depression and support this thesis by drawing upon specific details learned from the study of the primary source materials. The thesis should be a main question about family life in the Great Depression. Discuss with students that in writing the paper, they are creating a secondary source by using the results of their focused research.
  3. Teachers usually ask students to write a thesis statement and think of a thesis as a declarative sentence not as an interrogatory one. In this project, the approach is different. Students are asked to begin with a main question, an interrogatory sentence. The interrogatory sentence becomes transformed into the thesis. This approach is purposefully taken in this lesson and throughout the project because learning how to ask good questions leads to better student research and writing. The use of questions as guiding tools continues in Unit Four: Conducting and Presenting Research.

Lesson Six: Secondary Sources

As a conclusion to this unit, direct the students to read a secondary source essay or article about the Great Depression from a reference or textbook. The secondary source reading may be duplicated and distributed to the class or read directly from the source.

Students should take notes and/or annotate the article. The notes should focus on life, particularly family life, in the Depression. Students should focus on the following questions:

  • What and who were the sources for information in the article?
  • What differences do you notice between the information in the primary sources (the photographs by Dorthea Lange, the interview with Mrs. Blount, the photographs of the Gees Bend community, and the sound recording of "Sunny California") and the article?

Conduct a class discussion on the differences between the information learned about the Great Depression from the primary sources and that from the article/entry (secondary source). Creating a board or overhead chart may add clarity both to this discussion and to student understanding.

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