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  • How can you use images to help students imagine history? What caveats should one consider when using them? Images are already present in our lives, both in and out of the classroom. By paying more attention to the images in our history texts, using new resources to introduce additional significant images, and bringing a critical eye to these media, we can build on our students' interests, strengthen their engagement in history, and help them to become more critically aware both about the world of the past and the world in which they live today. Studying history is more than memorizing names and dates. Although it’s important for citizens to know about great people and events, the enjoyment of history is often found in a “story well told.” This class gave me some suggestions to make the study of history through imagine history more enjoyable. Most history textbooks and many academic histories use images to illustrate the history that they tell. As a child I always used to look at the pictures in my history textbooks and in my job I am always paying attention to visual images for better teaching.   This class encouraged me to more extensive use of still images in the classroom, to help students see the significant ways in which images are represented. The learners who arrive in our classrooms today are not only immersed in technology, but also in visual ways of learning. They appreciate the immediacy of the image, which often conveys information more quickly than a primary document written in unfamiliar, or even a foreign, language. This immediacy also works well in discussion sections, where the shared experience of viewing a picture can provide a focus for lively group discussion.  In class, I typically only introduce one or two images. The images that I use most often are illustrations from influential periodicals, including drawings, photographs, and maps. "Look carefully at the image," I tell my students. "The more you look, the more you will see." As they explore the image, their ideas often change.   During our class I liked the way our teacher showed us the strategy about analyzing images. Some of the questions we consider about the composition of the image include: How is lightness, darkness and color used in the image? How is the image structured? What is represented at the highest point in the image and the lowest? How are the figures posed and represented? A close reading of the image might also address issues of symbolism and authorial intention.  In the process of interpreting the artistic style and political messages of these images, students also gain a better feeling for the power and passion of the movement's supporters.

    Olga P.

  •     Most of my students think that all the information that is "important" is in the text. I read somewhere that up to 65% of the information assessed with standardized tests comes from the supporting charts, graphs, pictures and not just the text provided. ASD supports a program called Middle Link ( www.asdk12.org/middlelink ) and the first step is called "read around the text" in which students are to look at the text and what jumps out of it, before beginning to read it. I try and challenge the students to tell me why a photo or panting was picked by the author, what is in it that the author wants us to see? On page 25 of the Creating America text their is a painting of an explorer being greeted by a Native American. I ask students why did the painter put a priest behind the explorer? Was the painter making some kind of judgment by painting the explorer with such lavish clothing and the Native American as almost naked? How often do you see people dressed for such different climate or temperatures standing next to each other?

    The 8th grade curriculum has students investigate the terms bias and perspective. I find that the use of photos and pictures helps the students engage with these terms much better than text alone. This class has helped me by providing a more focused approach to using images. It has also shown me tools like the National Archives Photo Analysis Worksheet and the L.O.C. ARS template to use in my class. I will be using images much more next year and engaging them like I have text in the past. Questioning what is being shown and what is being left out of the image? Does the author/photographer have a bias or purpose to what they are taking the time to record? What can the image tell us about the time or place that it was created outside to the topic of the image, from looking at is form, style, and conventions. 

    Many of my students are visual learners, I know that I am. I had never seen the picture of the monk setting himself on fire that was used in this class and I will most likely never forget it. I would have to think long and hard about using it in an 8th grade class. As it was pointed out in this class images should not just be used for gratuitous shock value. Taking this into consideration I believe that one of the key things that I am taking away from this class is that I should be more consistent and purposeful with my use of images in class. 

    Lastly one thing that I will use in class next year is photos of the presidents at the start and the end of their term in office. I always tell the the students about how hard a job being presidents is and many just don't get it. They think it comes with power, money and people to do things for you. But just look at the pictures of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at the start of their term compared to the end and you can see the wear and tear clearly on their faces.


  • Video, paintings, and photographs all make for excellent material because of the amount of visual learners I tend to have in my classes. However with every work of art the bias and perspective of the artist needs to be analyzed. This requires the teacher to fill in the picture "outside the frame." Starting with the historical perspective presented by the instructor, students can begin to image the event in their own minds. Once a basic perspective is given, and an imagine is given to allow the students to visualize an event, then the skills of analysis and synthesis can occur. The scaffolding provided by these images give the instructor a tremendously powerful tool to engage students.
    I am excited to see the direction in which primary source documents go. How soon will texts, tweets, and blog posts enter the mainstream school establishment? Will video games ever find true enfranchisement in the school place? Will game developers bring primary source material alive in an interactive setting? How cool would it be to meet a virtual Madame X or get a portrait done by a virtual Copley? Fun stuff!
  • I don't think that my students try to imagine history when they are only provided with text.  They have been taught to find information within text, but they don't engage their imaginations and try to envision what it might have looked like, sounded like, smelled like, etc.  Regardless of whether a photo or image is primary or secondary, or has multiple inaccuracies, I think it is still very helpful for engaging student imagination.

    I think you always have to talk with students about how nothing they look at is going to show the them whole truth. (Regardless of whether it is a painting, photo, etc.)  There are always going to be problems of artistic liberties taken, personal biases (perhaps purposefully or not), information omitted, etc.  Students need to remember that one image can never tell an entire story.  It must be incorporated into the bigger picture of the event/time period in order to complete the puzzle as they try to understand history.

  • By making history concrete, images anchor students' imagination in the real as well as fire it up. At the same time, images also reflect the points of view of their creators. Uncovering these viewpoints takes knowledge and thoughtful work guided by the teacher.

  • Images can show students what history actually looked like - give them visuals to connect with stories and ideas. Caveats to consider would be possible tampering - there is a Library of Congress unit on truth in Civil War photography - or simply seeing what one wants to see in the image.
  • The famous saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words," is very true.  Students are able to remember things better if they hear and see history.  A caveat to consider is the age and maturity of the students.  What is it that you are trying to convey to your students?

  • Photographs work as primary sources for events that occurred in history. This primary source gives students a window to look through and see the past as it was. A problem associated with photographs is the context they are taken and the interpretation that is used to decipher the photograph. We are naturally biased and will look at a photograph seeing what we want to see.

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