“Ms. Laing we LOVED that lesson! Can you do more like those?” Hearing those words from high school students who have earned their reputation as an apathetic bunch, was like the proverbial music to my ears. I’ve been teaching my 11th graders how important it is to study primary sources, and how much of a role art plays in history. With the help of a worksheet from the National Archives, I’ve incorporated photograph analysis into our study of the Civil War.
With a high number of ELL students, I have to differentiate lessons in a manner that will help them to understand complex ideas. The Valley of the Shadow website was the repository for the photographs that I used in this lesson. Students who arrived in the United States less than six months ago were able to participate when given the opportunity to express what they have observed.
Students use word clouds to create a visual representation of their analysis of African Americans in the Civil War photographs. During the whole class discussion their Wordles are projected on the SmartBoard and they compare the similarities noticed in the visual patterns. I ask students what similarities they predict they will see in their classmates Wordles, and what themes can be identified. I’m also curious about how students see the word clouds fitting in with the historical context of the photographs.
Visuals are a powerful medium that transcend time and language. I encourage you to incorporate them in your classroom! Click on the link below to download a copy of my lesson plan.