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Brady's photo outfit in front of Petersburg, Va

[Detail] Brady's photo outfit in front of Petersburg, Va

Overview | Preparation | Procedure | Evaluation

Lesson Procedure

This project is meant to be incorporated into a broad unit on the Civil War. The project will work best if it is started in the latter part of the unit. That way, students will have some background knowledge about the events of the war.

Teachers should make themselves familiar with the Civil War collection, including all background information links found on the main page.

Have the requisite materials ready before each activity:

Activity One - Overview (1 day or less -- Classroom)

Introduce students to the project using the Student Project Outline. Review objectives, guidelines, and project timelines.


Activity Two - Photographic analysis (1 day -- Classroom)

Before class, photocopy Primary Source Analysis Tool form, one for each student. Print out four photographs from Civil War. Also try to use different types of scenes. For example you may choose the following photographs (click on thumbnail image for larger image):

  1. Distribute a Primary Source Analysis Tool form to each student.
  2. Discuss the form, perhaps using a present day photo as an example.
  3. Give each student a copy of one of the four photographs chosen and copied.
  4. Students analyze the photograph, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  5. Have students get into four groups, based on their photographs.
  6. Students should share their observations and questions, comparing them to other group members who analyzed the same photograph.

Activity Three - Civil War photograph selection and analysis of specific photo (2 days -- Internet Research Lab)

Before class, bookmark Civil War or link to your home page, and photocopy the Primary Source Analysis Tool form for students.

Day One

  1. Introduce the Library of Congress online collections to students, focusing on Civil War.
  2. Demonstrate the three methods of searching Civil War Photographs collection, with immediate hands-on follow-up by students.
    1. Search by Keyword
    2. Browse by Subject
    3. Browse by Year (using timeline)

Day Two

  1. Students search the collection for a photograph, using search strategies of their choosing. This photograph will be the focus the news article, so encourage students to explore the collection carefully. Have each student print or save a copy of the selected photograph.
  2. Hand out a blank copy of the Primary Source Analysis Tool form to each student.
  3. For homework, have students analyze their selected photographs using the same steps used in class.
  4. Remind students to take care in brainstorming questions they have about their photographs. These questions will form the basis for their research investigations.


Activity Four - Research (2 or 3 days -- Internet Research Lab/Library)

Photocopy the Research Guide for each student. Students should bring their photograph and their completed photographic analysis form with them to the library.

  1. Have students take out their photographs and completed Photographic Analysis forms.
  2. Draw students' attention to the questions they brainstormed at the bottom of the form and instruct them to start their research based on these questions.
  3. Conduct mini-lessons, as needed, on Media Center resources and Internet search strategies.
  4. Pass out copies of the Research Guide. Students should take notes based on their research investigation on this form. Remind the students that they will need to create a "Works Cited" list as part of their project.

Activity Five - Writing (2 days – completed in the English Classroom or in the Social Studies Classroom if teaming arrangement is not available)

This activity should take place after research is completed and does not take place on concurrent days. Students will need their photograph, completed primary source analysis tool, and completed research guide.

Before class, review How to Write a News Article. Photocopy for students, if desired, for use on Day One. Review, and copy if desired, the Peer Editing Guide for students, for use on Day Two. Review Student Products if desired.

Day One

  1. Pass out copies of How to Write a News Article.
  2. Review the assignment with the students, including guidelines, objectives and drafting timeline. Review Student Products if desired.
  3. If time permits, students can begin drafting.

Day Two

  1. Have students take out the rough drafts of their news articles.
  2. Pair up students and have them switch papers.
  3. Pass out a copy of the Peer Editing Guide to each student.
  4. Have students read and edit each other's articles following the guidelines on the Peer Editing Guide.
  5. Students should then revise their news articles.

Activity Six - Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation (1 day -- Internet Research Lab)

Prior to the lesson, print or direct students to the Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation.

  1. Pass out the Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation.
  2. Have students view their project and complete the self assessment portion of the form.
  3. Have students view the projects completed by their classmates and complete the peer evaluation part of the form.


Students will build on the skills developed during this project by using the photographic analysis techniques applied to other online primary sources throughout the year. For example, students may analyze photographs from other online collections, such as Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives or Detroit Publishing Company.

Teachers may choose to have more advanced students apply their primary souce analysis skills to text sources such as George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799 or American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940.

For a complete listing of the collections, be sure to use the Browse by Topic or List all collections page.