The lesson focuses primarily on gaining insight into French Canadian immigrants and their contributions by juxtaposing information from American Life Histories with that of the Nineteenth Century Periodicals, looking for areas of commonality and contradiction.
Students work in pairs at the computers. Because some of the documents are long, limit the topics assigned to research to ten and make each group responsible for only two or three of them. This allows students to skim through lengthy passages.
Half of the class searches through the American Life Histories; the other half looks for information on the same topics in the Nineteenth Century Periodicals.
Students post their findings on a bulletin board in the classroom to facilitate group discussion.
The bulletin board becomes a whole class graphics organizer for this lesson.
Brainstorming: Elicit students' prior knowledge of French Canadian immigrants. Initially the source of this knowledge can come from discussing the last names of students in the class. Are there any students with French last names? Do you know anyone with a French last name? Are there any places in the area with French last names (street names, buildings, towns, rivers, etc.)?
Share the American Memory Search Help with students
Students should come up with their own search terms and should note what worked and what did not as well as noting what they find.
- Discuss how to determine key words for searching;
- Look at options for searching the American Memory collections;
- Review note-taking using key words or phrases.
Assign each pair of students two or three topics on which to concentrate their searches. The topics page linked above is designed to serve as a sample to provide suggestions for topics to be researched in the two different collections.
Allow for brainstorming within pairs to insure that all students have a good idea about how to find information relevant to their topics.
Introduce the American Life Histories collection.
Model studying one interview, such as Henri Lemay, to isolate items pertaining to the topics assigned. This interview was chosen because it is short and because it illustrates that some of the life histories may not provide information on all the topics. This activity can be done online or hard copies of the interview can be provided so that students can write on them. Groups can use this activity to begin taking notes for their assignment.
Students are encouraged to investigate many interviews and periodicals during the search process. Students begin their American Memory collections search.
For manuscript researchers:
- Go to the home page of American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940.
- Click on Select a state. On the WPA Life Histories map page, click on the state of your choice.
- Click on Search. It is in this search box that you will begin using key words for searching about information on your topics.
- Record your findings.
- Take time to go back to the WPA Life Histories map page and click on other New England states to search for information on your topics. Don't forget to record these findings as well!
For journal researchers:
- Go to the home page of The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals.
- Click on Search by keyword. This will bring you to the Search Descriptive Information or Full Text screen.
- Scroll down to the Search Full Text search box. It is in this search box that you will begin using keywords for searching about information on your topics.
- Record your findings.
- Be sure to look at a variety of articles. Don't forget to record your findings for each separate article.
Notes are posted on a large bulletin board in the classroom or online.
Groups read the notes they posted to class; class takes notes; discussion ensues. Complete class discussion.
Discuss as a class:
- In the portrait of French Canadians which emerges from the American Life Histories (self-portrayals) and the Nineteenth Century Periodicals (journalists' reports), do areas of commonality emerge?
- Do contradictions come to light?
- Do patterns emerge (is there anything that you see over and over again)?
- Are there any conclusions to be drawn from these commonalities, contradictions, and/or patterns?
Analyze depression era photographs.
- Model analyzing one photograph, recording thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before beginning, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
- Student partners will select and print one photograph from the Resources, analyze it and find elements characteristic of the French Canadian immigrant experience.
Teachers of French who wish to include use of language skills in their objectives can make the following adjustments to our procedure:
- All groups can be required to keep a list of French words and expressions that appear in nearly all of the American Life Histories. During the discussion stage of the lesson, students can be asked to use this vocabulary to make statements relevant to the assignment. As an alternative, students can be asked to use the vocabulary in a similar assignment in written form.
- After the search process is completed, the class can brainstorm to compile a list of vocabulary words and expressions that will facilitate discussions of French Canadian immigrants' experience in French.
- The photo analysis can be done in French. The questions can be modified to reflect the level of the class. French translation of a photo study guide.
- The evaluations for the unit can be done in French.