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Ways to Integrate Historical Photos in the Classroom
Using Photographs in Lesson Plans
More of this Feature
Part 1: A Critical Evaluation

Related Resources
Civil War Photographs
Social Studies Resources
Language Arts Resources

From Other Guides
Holocaust Photographs
History of Photography and the Camera
Timeline of Photography

Elsewhere on the Web
National Archives
A History of Photography

Historical photos are not only good for reinforcing critical thinking skills, but they can also be used as a jumping off point for other assignments. Here are some great examples:

  • Document-based essay writing. Students can be asked to write an essay about the burning of Atlanta by General Sherman using photos like the Civil War ones from this page along with other documents. The pictures can be cited critically with dates, etc. as evidence to prove their theses.

  • Letter writing. Students can pretend to be a person in the photograph, outside the range of the photo, or the photographer him or herself. They can write a letter to a friend, a wife, a commanding officer, or even make a diary entry about the event.

  • Poetry or songs could be written to describe the event.

  • Modern art representations could be made using any manner of media.

  • Personal reaction journals could be kept where students record their thoughts about the photos.

  • Fictional accounts could be written using the pictures as the basis for their stories.

  • Cause and effect diagrams could be created where students extrapolate what came before and after the photo.

Many more ideas will present themselves to you over time. Dealing with the real thing, the primary source, can be so powerful and provide true connections. You can always extend the lesson by asking students to investigate whether their families had anyone involved in the events depicted. If so, they could present a written or oral report for extra credit if you so choose. Finally, use historical photos if for no other reason than to give students a piece of the past that they might not know was even captured on film.

See over 200 Civil War photographs you can use in class ranging from major figures like Robert E. Lee to battlefields like Gettysburg.

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