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For Educators
Intro Lesson Plan 1 Lesson Plan 2 Lesson Plan 3
  by Christopher W. Czajka
  • Overview
  • Procedures for Teachers

    While creating the PBS series AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES, teams of historians, librarians, and researchers examined thousands of photographs, diaries, legal documents, and letters. The evidence of the past -- left behind by those who lived it -- can be an extremely valuable tool for understanding the lives, legacies, and stories of our ancestors and the worlds in which they lived.

    In this lesson, students will develop strategies for investigating history through the examination of artifacts and primary source documents. After completing hands-on introductory activities, students will utilize an online interactivity to test their skills at "reading" primary source photographs and documents. Following the interactivity, students will view segments of African American Lives to discover additional information about the items examined online. As a culminating activity, students will "curate" a photograph, document, or artifact relevant to their personal history or the history of their family.

    This lesson can be used as a pre- or post-viewing activity for the PBS series AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES, or as an independent lesson for the social studies/history classroom. A basic knowledge of African American history is required for successful completion of the lesson.

    Grade Level: 6-8

    Time Allotment: Three 45-minute class periods (excluding homework time for Culminating Activity)

    Subject Matter: History/Social Studies


    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Students will be able to:

  • Define "primary source," as well as how it applies to photographs, documents, and other artifacts;

  • Utilize visual and textual cues to develop understanding of primary source documents and photographs;

  • Synthesize information from a primary source document into a written account;

  • Discuss the role of photographs, documents, and artifacts in preserving history;

  • Develop an understanding of how photographs, documents, and artifacts can be preserved for future generations;

  • Make critical decisions on items to leave behind to preserve personal or family history.


    STANDARDS

    From the National Standards for History for grades 5-12, available online at

    http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/nchs/standards

    Standard 2. The student thinks chronologically. Therefore, the student is able to appreciate historical perspectives describing the past on its own terms, through the eyes and experiences of those who were there, as revealed through their literature, diaries, letters, debates, arts, artifacts, and the like.

    Standard 3. The student engages in historical analysis and interpretation. Therefore, the student is able to consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past by demonstrating their differing motives, beliefs, interests, hopes, and fears.

    Standard 4. The student conducts historical research. Therefore, the student is able to obtain historical data from a variety of sources, including: library and museum collections, historic sites, historical photos, journals, diaries, eyewitness accounts, newspapers, and the like; documentary films, oral testimony from living witnesses, censuses, tax records, city directories, statistical compilations, and economic indicators.


    MEDIA COMPONENTS

    Video:

    AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES, Episode 1, "Listening to Our Past"

    Click here to purchase a copy of AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES at PBS Shop for Teachers.


    MATERIALS

    For the class:

  • TV/VCR

  • Chalkboard/Whiteboard

  • A non-fiction book about a historic event (pick a book that describes an event that your students will be familiar with, such as Walter Lord's A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, about the sinking of the Titanic)

  • 3-5 "primary sources" relevant to your school and your students' lives. These primary sources could include school newspaper clippings, photographs, yearbooks, student projects, trophies, letters, report cards, etc.

    Per group of five students:

  • A family photograph or portrait. You should provide a different photograph for each group of students. These photographs can either be of your family, someone else's family, or can be historical family photographs pulled from the Library of Congress' American Memory Web site. See details on finding family photographs on American Memory in the Online Resources section of this lesson. The photographs used in the lesson should NOT depict your students or their families.

    For each pair of students:

  • Computer with Internet access

    For each student:

  • Pencil and paper

  • "Analyze This!" handout (download here)

  • "Analyze That!" handout (download here)


    PREP FOR TEACHERS

    Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload all links to an online bookmarking utility such as http://www.portaportal.com. Preview all of the Web sites (listed at the end of the lesson) and video clips used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students. CUE the tape of AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES, Episode 1, "Listening to Our Past," to the point where you see black-and-white footage of the Civil Rights movement, and you hear music. The segment begins immediately before the narrator states, "Change did not come easily."

    Procure a non-fiction book about a historic event to have on hand for the Introductory Activity. Gather 3-5 "primary sources" relevant to your school and your students' lives. These primary sources could include school newspaper clippings, photographs, yearbooks, student projects, trophies, letters, report cards, etc. Place your collection of primary sources relevant to your school or your students' lives on a table at the front of your classroom.

    Gather a series of family photographs or portraits. You should have enough family photographs so that you can give an individual photograph to each group of five students in your class. These photographs can either be of your family, someone else's family, or can be historical family photographs. You should know who is depicted in these photographs, where the photograph was taken, and approximately when the photograph was taken. Do not ask students to bring in photographs of their own families.

    When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.


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