This weekend I have been thinking a lot about how we as educators are teaching the history of protest in the United States, from the Boston Tea Party to the Women’s March yesterday.
Teaching in elementary schools for so long has taught me the value of visuals. Written primary sources are great, but they are not always accessible to younger grades.
Reading a photograph is like reading a book. In a photo you are looking for characters, setting, and plot just like you do with a written source. You are also using reading strategies like inferring, questioning, and predicting.
The last few days will surely lead to many questions from our students. Primary sources allow us to address their questions and stay neutral.
I did a quick search on a few sites and quickly found a photographic timeline of protest. There are plenty of others that could be included too, the March on Washington, the Bed-In for Peace, Standing Rock, the Flint Sit-In. The possibilities are endless because thankfully we live in a country where citizens have the right to free speech.
I chose some of the photos below because they show children protesting and I think it is important for children to see they can be part of the democratic process.
“Academy of Sacred Heart High School” peacefully protest to ask for catagory 5 Levee’s be built to save property and lives. 1/12/2006
Protest signs left outside a Washington, D.C. Metro station on January 21, 2017
I have a few favorite photo analysis tools. Most focus on observation and description and move to higher level skills like inference and reflection. Nearly all of them facilitate discussions of research by including questions about where to go for more information on the photos.
- LOC Teacher’s Guide to Analyzing Photographs and Prints
- J.Paul Getty Museum Exploring Photographs Lesson and Guide
- ArtsEdge Analyzing Photographs
- National Archives Photo Analysis Worksheet
- Smithsonian Engaging Students with Primary Sources Guide
To extend lessons like this you can share oral histories, objects related to protest, protest songs, artwork, and writing. Students can research the causal factors that lead to these protests and their effectiveness.
There are also complimentary lessons available at:
- TeachingTolerance.org: A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center
- Teaching for Change
- Peaceful Protest Lesson at PBS.org