Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guest Post: Engaging Students Through Photos

I think it’s an incense bottle.   Could this be an old coin?
Teachers attending a workshop are asked to select a photograph of a digital artifact to examine and share with the group. Within seconds they are sharing what they see or wondering what the item is.   A group of teachers and media specialists in an online class shared photos and maps of their hometown. A Wisconsin teacher wrote these 37 miles of river have been part of my life for the past 50 years.  The Fox River runs through my hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin.  [The river] is massive and drew many settlers to this area due to its ability to support a variety of industries.  The river specifically attracted many paper mills to build on its banks.  My grandfather worked at Fox River Paper Mill as a pipe fitter. Ten years ago I lived in the old mill, which had been converted to apartments.  . . .I would often wonder if I was walking in the same spot my grandfather walked or looked upon the river out the same window he once had so many years before I was even born.    A Louisiana history teacher used photos and documents to introduce a topic the first day of school. She shared her excitement: I allowed my first period class today to start the {activity} I had assigned for homework.  They got so into it!   Between mocking Burnside’s facial hair, talking about the names, talking about the autographs – they really – without knowing it – started to get excited about primary documents!  Students and teachers in all three of these groups instinctively shifted into photo analysis, reflection, and discussion when they viewed the photos.  Photos, maps broadsides, posters, drawings and other visuals are powerful tools to stimulate our senses and thinking.  Photo analysis activities can be used to introduce a topic, as a discussion icebreaker, a writing prompt, or research catalyst.
The incense bottle is actually a watch fob; the coin is a button.  Both are part of Lincoln’s Pockets, a Library of Congress Teachers’ Page professional development activity.  Participants examine artifacts found in Lincoln’s pockets the night of his assassination and discuss how primary sources engage and motivate students.  The Teachers Page has a multitude of classroom-ready materials to help busy teachers and media specialists get started using photo analysis and primary sources in the classroom quickly.  Primary Source Sets, another Teachers Page feature are designed for busy teachers who want to use primary sources but are short on time for searching and selecting resources.  Over 30 sets provide  “ready to use” PDFs and MP3 files of primary sources on topics commonly taught in schools. Sets include Japanese Internment, the Dustbowl, the Harlem Renaissance, Baseball Across a Divided Society, Assimilation through Education (Indian Boarding Schools), Civil War Music, the Spanish American War, and Symbols of the United States. Teachers’ guides for each set provide background information, teaching ideas, links to related classroom materials, and other Library of Congress resources.  Reproducible primary source analysis tools are part of with each set.  The observe, reflect, question, and investigate further model is used in a generic analysis tool. Students can use it with a primary source in any format.  Teacher’s analysis guides for a diverse primary source formats (interviews, text, manuscripts, sheet music etc.) have question prompts and suggested teaching activities. A self-paced online professional development module “analyzing photos and prints” has a built-in analysis tool which can be completed online and printed out.
I keep discovering that too few people know about these wonderful tools and resources. The quickly approaching start of the school year is a wonderful time for media specialists to share these wonderful tools with teachers or use them during their own instruction!  It won’t take long before you see photo analysis and engaged discussion!
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Teachers quoted: Susan Buss, Appleton, Wisconsin; Robin Vogt, New Orleans, Louisiana
Library of Congress Teachers Page, Professional Development Plan Builder, “Lincoln’s Pockets” http://www.loc.gov/teachers/professionaldevelopment/tpsdirect/pdplanbuilder/
Library of Congress Teachers Page, Take Online Module http://www.loc.gov/teachers/professionaldevelopment/selfdirected/
Library of Congress Teachers Page Teachers Page Classroom Materials   http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/

Library of Congress Teachers Guides and analysis Tools
Guest Blogger Info
Mary Alice Anderson is a former school media specialist for the Winona, Minnesota, schools. She currently is as an online instructor for the University of Wisconsin-Stout where she teaches a course in using primary sources.  She also teaches for Minnesota State University-Mankato where she teaches courses for future media specialists. She was a member of a Library of Congress Professional Development Review committee, is the author of the local history chapter for Interacting with History, a book to be published by ALA later this year.  A column about classroom ready materials will be published in her ongoing “NEW Media Center” column in Internet @ Schools this fall.  Past columns are available through her Random Thoughts blog, Maryalicea.wordpress.com.  Her web page is:  http://www.uwstout.edu/faculty/andersonmary/index.cfm

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