Designed for Learning - LaGuardia Center for Teaching and Learning
Two Photos:
An Exercise in Historical Detection

Developed by Bill Friedheim

Objectives: Developing skills in the construction of narrative and the interrogation of textual, visual and oral evidence. Promoting student-centered collaborative inquiry. Using search engines to build hypertext trails of knowledge.


Activity (55 minutes total):
You will work individually and with a partner, and then share and discuss what you did with a larger group.

Step One (Ten Minutes). Working as an individual, briefly review the directions for this activity. Then, examine the two photos. Write a few paragraphs explaining what you see. Your writing can take the form of a story, poem or historical comment. Be prepared to share your writing with your partner.

click picture

click picture

Step Two (Ten Minutes). Share your writing with your partner. Then collaborate to list what you observed in the two photos and what hypotheses you might draw from those observations and whatever prior knowledge you bring to the task. Create a brainstorming list about what else you need to find out in order to explain and put the photos in some meaningful context.

Step Three (Five Minutes). Working with your partner, go to the Archives of the West/ Episode Seven website to quickly locate and identify the images:

Step Four (Twenty Minutes). Create a division of labor with your partner for the following task. Split up and use the tools listed below to gather primary and secondary sources (in text, images and audio) that help you situate and understand the two photos. As you explore, gather documents (text documents, images and/or oral histories) to share with your partner. You can use one of these as start points:

Step Five (Ten Minutes). Meet with your partner to share your findings. Together, try to pick three documents — at least one text, and one image (and if you choose, one audio) — that you think will best add context and meaning to your initial reaction to the photographs. Think about how you chose the three documents and how each of you might re-write your initial story, poem or historical analysis to add meaning to the photos. Be prepared to briefly share your documents and your thoughts with others.

Small Group Discussion (Forty Minutes)

Gather with others who did this activity. Take turns briefly sharing your presentations. Then reflect on and discuss this activity with your small
group, using the following sets of questions as prompts. At the end of this time, prepare one member of the group to share some of your thoughts with the larger group.

1. What could students learn from this activity about Native American history in the late 19th century? What other kinds of writing or presentation outcomes could this activity support?

2. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the activity? Is it a good vehicle for developing student skills in inquiry, the exploration of primary sources, and the construction of historical meaning?

3. How would you describe the pedagogy that informs this activity? What aspects of the activity help to make it effective? What skills and modes of thinking does this activity support? Do the electronic materials being engaged suit the assignment's pedagogy and methodological goals? What can we learn from this activity about the kinds of inquiry assignments that work best when using new media resources?

4. How does the inquiry approach used in this activity compare with inquiry approaches you have used in your classes? Would you assign an activity like this one -- or some variation of it -- in one of your classes? What is similar? Different? In your experience, what are the advantages and disadvantages of inquiry leaning? Where does it fit in the repertoire of teaching in your field?

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