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Lesson Plan The American West: Images of Its People

Different peoples have contributed to the history of the western United States. To gain an understanding and appreciation of this history, students investigate the region's cultures and identify the contributions that each make to the whole. This unit leads students to recognize cultural elements through the analysis of photographs from the Library of Congress digital collections. Using thematic galleries of photographs, students develop questions about the photos for further research into the region's history and culture. Collaboration with language arts teachers is recommended.

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • identify cultural components or photographs;
  • analyze photographs;
  • develop questions about the photos based on these observations; and
  • show their interpretation of the photos by writing first-person narratives about the photos.

Time Required

Four classes

Lesson Preparation

Resources

  • Gallery 1 (guided)
    The three photos in this gallery were placed together to show that the western U.S. lands shaped the character of the people who lived there. Conduct a search for other photos in digital collections as assigned.
  • Gallery 2 (partially guided)
    The three photos in this gallery were placed together to show that people who have lived in the western United States survived despite the hard work and difficulties that they endured. Conduct a search for other photos in digital collections as assigned.
  • Gallery 3
    The three photos in this gallery were placed together to show that man's spiritual nature has enabled him to adapt to the rugged lands of the western United States. Conduct a search for other photos in digital collections as assigned.
  • Gallery 4
    The three photos in this gallery were placed together to show that life and death in the western United States were separated by a very thin line called struggle. Conduct a search for other photos in digital collections as assigned.

Lesson Procedure

Activity 1: Introduction to photographic analysis (1 class period)

Model photographic analysis and guide students through a group analysis of photographs in Gallery One. Students analyze the photograph, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.

Activity 2: Group practice (1 class period)

  1. In groups of 3-4, students select a photograph from Gallery Two, Gallery Three, or Gallery Four.
  2. Students analyze the photograph, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.

Activity 3: Application (2 class periods)

Students write/revise first person narratives.

Day One:

  1. Discuss the guidelines for writing a first-person narrative with students.
  2. Allow students time to search the Library of Congress online collections for a photograph of interest and choose a photograph. Remind them to choose a photograph that includes people.
  3. Students should complete a photographic analysis of the photograph and use the information from the photographic analysis as a basis for the narrative. Suggest that they imagine being one of the people in the photograph. In the narrative, students should explain who they are, where they are, what they are doing, and when, why, and how they are doing what they are doing.

Day Two: (This will not be a consecutive day.)

  1. On first draft due date, students share their narratives with other students.
  2. Each student should peer edit at least two of their classmates' narratives.
  3. Students revise their narratives.
  4. Final drafts should be mounted to the photograph.

Extension

  1. Students can examine personal narratives from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 and identify cultural components and contributions.
  2. Students can interview and photograph local people (at least two generations older) in order to create a presentation entitled, "Images of Our People."

Lesson Evaluation

  1. Teacher observation of student participation.
  2. First person narratives.

Credits

Steve Olguin and Margaret Jane Tobias

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