Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Home

View: Visual Inquiry/Experience in Writing

Anthony F. Franco and Benjamin A. Gorman

Contents of Curriculum Unit 80.02.05:

To Guide Entry

The world often presents a confusing picture of itself, yet forces us constantly to make decisions and choices in order to survive. Sometimes what we do in the classroom is remote and irrelevant to the student’s encounters with his world. Modern society, while making us more sophisticated, confronts us with an abundance of conflicts and alternatives. As teachers we are concerned with students’ ability to understand our world and to be constructive contributors in our society. In education, our mission in guiding students to a happy and productive life includes giving them the opportunity to make choices on the basis of clear values. We want to help the students ponder what and how to think, believe and behave. By discussing cultural questions, the students may develop a framework in which to make better decisions. Providing an opportunity for students to question will increase knowledge and the search for values, past and present.

For example, the story of Thanksgiving can be taught on the level of facts, investigating when, where, what and how. On another level, concepts can be considered such as freedom of religion and emigration, with comparisons made to other historical or contemporary events. A discussion of values allows the students to become personally involved with the historical event. What might they feel strongly enough about that would make them, like the Pilgrims, leave their city or country? The consideration of objects can even bring the student closer to the event. If they were to leave their home and only take one suitcase, like the Pilgrims, what would they put in it? The choice of objects reveals values on the part of the students and can be compared to the Pilgrim’ objects as reflective of their culture. Since culture expresses our beliefs, attitudes and values, the objects of culture have a direct significance; the objects express our character and human spirit.

Often students will look at pictures in books or objects exhibited by teachers and not see beneath the surface. They accept that the object exists, came from someplace, illustrates something, but do not connect themselves to it. What is viewed remains separate from them, and in an isolated frame of time. We, as teachers, are partly to blame for these exercises in educational brevity since we jump to historical cataloging, dating and identification, without first observing carefully the object itself. In particular, the development of writing skills suffers in the curriculum when it is sandwiched within a multiplicity of skills and technical information in the English and history disciplines.

Last year we were fortunate to attend a lecture presented by Dr. Jules Prown of Yale University which suggested a method which can aid the learning process. Dr. Prown detailed a schema of study upon which he had spent considerable time concerning how to read an object. The process involved several sequential stages of coming to know an object. By the end of the lecture, it became apparent that by using Dr. Prown’s method, a simple object not only elicited the customary surface appraisal as we would expect of our students, but ranged far greater into an entire realm of experience not heretofore anticipated. Since that lecture we have pursued the theory that if Dr. Prown’s methodology created such a startling effect upon the viewer of an object and that viewer’s appreciation of the object, that this same method of looking at objects would be of benefit in the teaching and development of writing skills. This unit intends both to promote visual inquiry in order to increase observation skills and to present an opportunity whereby writing skills can be developed. An extended purpose of this unit is the introduction of a method of investigation of objects in order to study culture with more objectivity.

The critical viewing of objects can bring the realization that objects are a means of communication; that taken collectively, objects may serve as a reflection of culture, an expression of human values. Any object may be used to demonstrate the cultural reflections in the material. Some objects may reflect better a style, tradition or people’s values, such as chairs or clothing. Certain other objects, tools for example, are functional in purpose and analysis may be limited. However, the task is to help students to view critically. Much of our past exists in objects around us; they are stored in attics and trunks, as well as preserved in museums and historic houses. These non-verbal records are an expression of the society that produced them and used them. In viewing artifacts, we can connect ourselves across time and place with those people and their pattern of life. We want to help students express what they see and feel in exact descriptions. Once tooled, the students will begin to think and to question; the student will then be closer to the culture in searching for answers beyond the artifact.

The providing of observation skills creates a tool whereby writing can be guided, developed and nurtured through a structured process. Coupling sensory experience and critical analysis helps students to think and to express themselves through the written word . Students can easily relate to objects; they are real tangible things to be felt, placed or used. The questions of function and spatial positioning may seem easy to answer but objects can be considered in other ways. An artifact is a source of ideas raising questions concerning human values. How people feel about it or the value placed upon it are questions that students can consider and research while examining the importance of their own values. In studying old objects, the students will gain insight into past and sometimes changing values. Yet the object remains constant; with careful viewing and analysis, it may reveal a portion of our human history. For example, a whale’s tooth is fascinating to hold for students, and a discussion of scrimshaw can be worthwhile, but putting the object, the skilled hand and purpose of man together can bring the students to the past with a special understanding. The student can clarify his values and those values of the past. Thus, objects are readily a substance for the development of writing.

The study of material culture allows us to deal with primary sources. We can come to know objects, made or modified by people, first hand. These objects may be fragments; but by close observation, they can become alive in meaning for us and express fundamental attitudes. Dr. Prown’s methodology allows for contact through objects with questions of culture. By applying his investigative techniques of description, deduction and speculation, the students may increase their critical thinking. At the same time, communication gained with objects can be translated into increasing the writing experience of students.

In order for students to comprehend artifacts as historical documents they must first develop the ability to “read” individual objects. The methodology that this unit presents is an analytical tool to help beginners to study objects. The learning activities in this unit offer an opportunity for the students to apply the methods of investigation and to reinforce writing skills. Using common objects, they can practice critical observation, develop a human connection with others and increase their appreciation of any culture. Either the entire learning packet or selected activities may be used, depending upon the achievement level of the students. The unit is intended for any middle or high school grade and to be of use by any of the disciplines.

By applying some of the ideas expressed in the narrative or using some of the activities suggested in the learning packet, the students’ observation of objects can be increased and extended to photographs, paintings, graphs, symbols, buildings, any such subject related materials. Once visual literacy is established, the teacher can develop the students’ communication with the object to help them reason and experience the values that the object can invoke. At the same time, vocabulary can be increased and written expression developed. Students begin to write about what they can readily know and build their self-expression through longer narratives. Through observation and investigation the student can research cultural values as reflected in objects. He will have an opportunity to make choices and move closer to the past.

The use of artifacts, folk arts, documents and structures can serve to broaden our understanding of our heritage. They attest to achievement, struggle, growth—a range of human accomplishment. A record of corn harvests can lead us to agricultural assessments, a study of a sampler can reveal decorative expression, the structure of a house can relate a family’s needs, a piece of pottery may characterize social status. Yet with a special look, our understanding can be deepened.

That “special look” first begins with careful observation of the object in order to gather information that the object itself can reveal. As a substance it has weight, dimension, physical form that occupies space. Careful measurement can be important. James Deetz notes, In Small Things Forgotten, that archaeologists can approximate dates of sites by measuring the bores of English clay pipestems. Diameters become smaller at a uniform rate over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Next identify what the object is made of; the type of material used may raise questions but they can be answered later. A good detective gathers the basic facts first. Then determine how the object was constructed or put together. The fact that a handle was fused or a dovetail joint was used are observations that help discipline the viewer. In this first encounter, the object speaks for itself.

The description continues with the observation of the object’s content. The obvious story illustrated by a painting or photograph, the design on a plate or piece of silver, is to be noted. There may be an inscription, the maker’s initials or the name of origin. Even the composition of the object may reveal a story; the form as it exists in space needs to be viewed as the maker saw it as it took shape.

As we communicate with words, written and spoken, and by motion and action, objects also communicate with a language of lines, colors and shapes. Thus, the last section of description should deal with the formal aspects of art. The elements of line, direction, shape, size, texture, color and value, together with contrast, rhythm and composition constitute the visual language of art which can also be noted in many artifacts. Formal analysis of an artifact requires training, time and a practiced eye. It is not the purpose of this unit to instruct critics of art nor to lose the students’ interest at this point with heavy analysis. However, certain elements of design may be easily recognized and understood since the basic language is timeless. A shape, an effect of light and dark, a texture or a vertical line may be used to touch our feelings and we are impressed by what the artist may tell us.

Students should become acquainted with the concepts of at least the following: line, color, shape and texture. Equipping them with a working vocabulary may best be done by allowing them to be come active in expressing the qualities of these elements. While listening to a selection of music or the traffic outside, they may illustrate the tempo with line drawings. They may be asked to draw by using lines that express such themes as war, peace, storms or harmony. They can feel the lines and see the movement, direction and quality. Lines have shape; they can be geometric or free-flowing. Students can cut various shapes from cloth or paper and arrange them to create a visual expression of their choice. The size and spacing of the shapes create a composition in which repetition or contrast, or both, serve to express the designer’s concept or feeling. The addition of color can make the pattern more interesting. The same activity may be repeated using different colors of paper or cloth. Their choice and the blends of colors may suggest moods; darker colors may be somber or depressing, and red may suggest danger or courage. Since it is natural to want to touch what we see, texture can add visual interest. With crayon or pencil and paper, students may make rubbings of a variety of textures. They can identify texture contrasts and the effects upon us. A collage using found materials may allow them to understand the variety of textures and the blending of forms, colors and lines. Analysis of student compositions may demonstrate that the artist may emphasize a single element, while using many, to create a single effect which speaks to the viewer.

These initiatory activities will provide the skills necessary for the inquiry about objects and generate enthusiasm upon which to build. When the student is introduced to an object, he gains his first experience in writing description by putting observations into clear and vivid written expression. Lucidity can only be accomplished if the student chooses his words carefully. Vivid nouns and adjectives are a primary tenet of this mode of writing and will be of utmost importance throughout the student’s writing experience. The students must learn to call objects and parts of objects by their names rather than to use generalities, e.g. “that thing”, “it”. In addition to the incorporation of specific nouns within description, vivid adjectives must also be employed so as to recreate aptly the image of the object in words. Once words, the building blocks of any writing experience, are mastered, the student will then learn to organize his writing so as to maintain the clarity of his description. With knowledge gained by better observation, the student’s information and writing should improve.

We come to know things first by using our senses, especially sight. Often this sense is used in looking but not in viewing critically. Images pass by quickly in our society; reflections are often distorted and our glances are all too quick; thus, our power of sight is often not used to full capacity. Careful observation is necessary and carefully expressed descriptions are the detective’s path to deduction.

The next step involves our communication with the object; it is the applying of our senses, intellect, and emotions in order to make reasonable deductions. In the viewing of any object, we should be able to use our common human traits to bridge cultural gaps and experience a human connection. Careful viewing, knowing objects with sight, can only be enhanced by the other senses, especially that of touch, which makes us reach out to feel and make the object one’s own.

All the senses may come into use in developing a dialogue with the object. Thus, there exists a real need to teach students to use them in viewing objects. By demonstration, a lighted candle can he used to obtain sensory responses from the students. Its color, the sound of burning, the texture of the wax, the heat generated or the coolness of its base, the colors of the flame; all can be understood by students on a sensory level. The students can write these responses, often expressed in single words, into complete sentences that express reasonable conclusions. By applying their senses, the students can develop a human sensory connection with any object and develop their descriptive writing as they communicate with the object.

Once the descriptive writing process has been honed through the use of the senses, the student should make full use of his intellect in order to continue his dialogue with the object being viewed. One such way of achieving this is through spatial organization. It will enable the student to provide his audience with an exact blueprint of what he is observing in a clear, organized fashion. Spatial organization, as it is used here, is describing an object from top to bottom or left to right or near to far or the reverse of each of these. Students will receive training in organization techniques of experiencing these six ways of spatially observing what is before them. A specialized vocabulary comprised mainly of prepositions and past participles of verbs may be introduced to the class. Such words denoting direction and place in space give a student a clearer handle for harnessing his observation into a lucid pattern of expository writing.

Expository writing enables the student to enhance his own deductive understanding of an object since it deals with the dialogue created between the student’s intellect and the object. A student may be able to offer through written expression an actual recreation of a burning candle which not only details the object,s functional appearance but also the energies used in its creation. Such an explanation of a candle not only describes the candle, but becomes a blueprint for tracing its existence through its production to its functional worth upon completion.

An effort into narrative writing must be prefaced by a general guideline—logic. If the student is to make assumptions based on what he perceives is the natural intent or purpose of the object, he must proceed in a logical manner. Certain facts or givens concerning the object should be the threshold of any narrative expression, and these should be agreed upon not only by the student in his own mind but by others viewing the same object. Based upon this logical framework, the student is then free to create a dialogue between his emotions and the object being viewed in a narrative writing process. If a student is viewing a lighted candle, assumptions that it was used to light dark places or simply existed as a decoration are logical, and others viewing that same lighted candle would tend to agree with any of these. However, should the student regard the lighted candle as a kiln or portable hearth because it generates heat, he would be hard-pressed to find agreement and would not be effectively utilizing his senses and intellect in a logical manner.

Once logic is introduced and its importance stressed, creative narrative writing may start to flourish. A student, upon viewing an object from another historical period, might write an effective paragraph or two detailing the work the object might do and how that student feels about these considerations. A burning candle might invoke emotional responses by the student concerning a past birthday, a visit to a restaurant, or a place of worship. The student can now look into the flame of the candle and recall such memories. The harnessing of such feelings remains deeply personal for each student attempting such a dialogue but, at the same time, each student has built upon a consistent framework of Logic to reach his emotional response.

After he has delved into the aforementioned developmental activities of observation and deduction, the student as viewer may then move into the realm of speculation. This culminating stage will link together writing skills and an awareness of objects as extensions of people’s attitudes, needs, and values. Students are encouraged here to expand upon the information that they have gained from their experience with the object. Through reflection upon experience and the generation of theory, the student may form an hypothesis which can be discussed and researched. The discovery of an object’s meaning might well relate to the understanding of the society from whence it came. Objects that were used by a group of people or at a particular place can help us and our students to understand that society’s structure or forces and the function of the object within it.

Student research of an object may be focused primarily upon the craft responsible for the object or even the craftsmen whose efforts brought the object into being. In viewing a candle, for instance, the student may wish to trace the use of candles in colonial times and the people who made them. Such questions as the primary use of the candle, the changes in colonial lighting, the types of candles, the time of the year and quantity made can lead the student upon an interesting journey in research. As a by-product, the research would necessarily educate the student in terms of another culture quite different from his own. Such research should remain unbridled and each curious question when answered should provide other questions too tempting to neglect.

For instance, if the candle were researched as an object for colonial lighting, the student should seek to resolve in his mind if all colonial families used the same method of illumination. How difficult is it to read by candlelight? Did people read that often at night? Were candles inexpensive and simple enough to make or did colonists use them sparingly? Was the candle made in the home and, if so, how often during the year were they made? Did the entire family become involved in the craft? The possibilities of inroads to research remain endless, and the student should be encouraged to explore as many avenues of thought in his narrative expression as he deems necessary.

In addition to whetting the student’s appetite through the mode of research to satisfy the student’s curiosity, speculation can also allow the student to express his narrative thought in order to satisfy his imagination through creative writing. Just as in research, where there seemingly is no end to the questions which can be answered by chronicled facts, so too there are no bounds prohibiting the student’s imagination in speculatively viewing an object. The student, through his imagination, can readily assimilate himself into the culture from which an object came. He can at once experience anything associated with the object from the energy and vitality inherent in its road to existence to the emotion felt upon viewing.

Speculation can not only satisfy intellectual curiosity through research associated with the existence of a lock from a colonial door, but can also invite the student to theorize about who may be on the outside of that door and whether or not he should be allowed to enter. Whereas a photograph of a person can be researched through biographical sketches of both the subject and the photographer, imagination can lead the student to detail narratively the lives of both the day the photograph was taken complete with the emotions of each during the sitting. What might the subject and photographer have said to each other? In early America, a weary traveller observes the faint flickering of a lighted candle through the outline of a darkened shape. What does he immediately sense? What emotions flow through his mind as he approaches the flame which is now a beacon guiding him toward others? What new experiences—whether good or evil—await him as he approaches that door and knocks? . . .

The flag in your classroom is an at-hand object to demonstrate visual inquiry and develop a written expression. Its analysis is offered as a sample for the student’s introduction to VIEW and the learning packet.

Observe. A rectangular shape of light weight soft cotton attached to a pole. White bars evenly spaced, contrasting with red surroundings or vice versa. An area of blue tucked in an upper corner upon which are found systematically placed stars. Colorful and thoughtfully designed. Have a student measure the flag and its parts. As a class activity, describe what they see, listing the words on the board. Attempt to have them be exact with their terms, e.g. cotton for cloth, and try to extend their vocabulary, e.g. bars and canton.

Look again. The material and shape allow the catching of a breeze whereby displaying its fullest glory. It is symbolic in nature. What might the number of strips tell us? How many stars? Do we have to seek the answers outside of the object? Do the colors have a special meaning? What emotions do we have viewing it? Is there a meaning to be found that reveals our past and may direct our future? Beyond the object exists a story of people, of a nation symbolized by its flag. Allow the students to write sentences that express their sensory reactions to the flag. What sounds and smells might be associated with it? Also have them describe their feelings towards it and their emotions when seeing it displayed. Then let the students express their thoughts regarding its meaning and where the flag might be used. The sentences can be ordered into a paragraph reflecting clear ideas. Having the class share these responses, although personal and varied, will probably show the existence of many common reactions. This illustrates the human bond between ourselves and many others who have viewed it over the years.

Now look again. Why are flags used and for what purposes? What was the struggle that created the flag? Is there room for further growth and what may be the pattern? Can we feel Francis Scott Key’s emotion as he penned the poem? What are our feelings towards allegiance? Questions or ideas that students may have raised earlier may be investigated. They may do some research into the history of our flag, into heraldry or symbols. They may find literary expressions concerning flags in poems, stories or quotations. Some students may design a flag for themselves; others can use expository writing to express their thoughts and feelings. Knowledge gained from the object and their reactions to it will help students focus on a narrative expression of their own while awakening a cultural conscience. The flag of the United States conceived in the past remains a thread of common heritage. As an object, it is a symbol of that heritage and can provide substance for directed students. What a story our flag may tell!

An ordinary object such as a quill pen which recorded the harvest or the needle which fashioned the sampler were held by a hand in the past. If we view the simplest objects with an eye to the holder, the owner, the maker, we can almost touch that hand and deepen our understanding of them and of ourselves.

Teacher notes for VIEW learning activities.

The learning packet which follows can be used independently by the students or according to the suggested schedule. Some of the activities can be assigned as homework end all students should be encouraged to complete at least one of the Quest Activities for extra credit, due at a later date. It would be helpful to make a chart of the activities, options, and self-tests to serve as a checklist for student progress and grading.

Survey dealing with the art of the 17th and early 18th centuries.

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VIEW: Visual Inquiry/Experience in Writing


History is all around us: it exists in objects—that old fan in the attic, that monument atop East Rock, that abandoned building— unlimited resources. The use of these materials can stimulate greater interest and serve as a focal point in developing the ability to observe, reason soundly, and test ideas, as well as providing substance for a writing experience.

Major Concept:

With a critical understanding of artifacts, the past can move out of books and connect us directly to people and their lives. Since objects are a form of communication, we can learn to “read” them; we can apply our ideas and senses to objects in order to improve our communication skills.

Terminal Objective:

Upon completion of the series of sub-concepts, you will be able to view physical evidence as a springboard into the past, gain a clear understanding of meaning through objects, and increase your writing skills.

Sub-concept I. Learning to “read” an artifact and to apply careful descriptions is the first step in viewing the past around us.
Sub-concept II. Since objects can connect us with another culture, we can bridge the gap of time by applying our senses, intellect and emotions to experience a human commonality and express our connection in a narrative form.
Sub-concept III. Artifacts are reflective of the cultural values that produced them. By using our imagination, raising questions, and doing research, we may gain insight into the world of the past and enlarge our own world with a discerning eye.


Each of the following three sections includes: a sub-concept, performance objectives, learning activities and an opportunity to test yourself. Read each sub-concept and performance objective carefully. Then complete the learning activities and the options. Some of the work is to be done individually and some will be completed in a group.

Complete the self-test before you go on to the next subconcept. If you have any questions or problems, stop and consult the teacher. Self-tests will be checked and a record of your progress will be kept by the teacher.

When the three sections are finished, go on to the Post-Assessment and complete all the questions. From the Quest Activities choose one or more for completion on a date set by the teacher.


Day 1: Description of packet, reading of rationale, major concept, terminal objective and sub-concepts. Preview entire packet and read student instructions. Form groups and choose a leader in each. Begin Subconcept I: activity 1.

Day 2: Activities 2 and 3. Activity 4 completed for homework.

Day 3: Activity 5 (handout I) may be completed for homework. Activity 6 for homework.

Day 4: Activities 7, 8 (handout II) and 9. Choose an optional activity due later. For homework, complete self-test I.

Day 5: Begin Sub-concept II: activity 1 (handout III) all parts. Activity 2 for homework.

Day 6: Activities 3 and 4: activity 5 for homework.

Day 7: Activities 6 and 7: activity 8 for homework.

Day 8: Choose an optional activity due later and complete self -test II.

Day 9: Begin Sub-concept III: activity 1.

Day 10: Activity 2: begin activity 3 for homework.

Day 11: Presentation of optional activities from sub-concepts I and II.

Day 12: Activity 3 due. Self-test III to be completed.

Day 13: Post-Assessment and Quest Activity chosen.

Sub-concept I

Learning to “read” an artifact and to apply careful descriptions is the first step in viewing the past around us.

Performance Objectives:

1. You will practice using your sight to sharpen your observation skills.
2. You will develop a list of vivid and descriptive word s.
3. You will write simple descriptive sentences.
4. You will demonstrate and define terms to be used with formal analysis of objects.

Activities: (do all activities)

1. Using a picture from a textbook chosen by the teacher, look at it carefully. Close the book and list on paper all the things that you observe.
________Using the same picture and now, while looking at it, make a list of what you see. Compare your lists. Think, why is one longer?
2. A common listing of the class’s observations will be placed on the chalkboard. In your group, choose 10 words that best describe the picture and list them in order of what is most noticeable. Share your list and discuss differences among the groups.
3. Using the 10 words decided upon in your group, write a vivid or accurate word for each.
4. Write two sentences describing what you saw in the picture using your vivid or accurate words.
5. Complete handout I. Discuss the elements that wont into the pictures. Discuss the types of lines, identify the shapes, in what ways did the choice of colors add to the picture and name the kinds of textures that can be seen.
6. Using a dictionary, copy the definitions of the following:
line shape color
value texture contrast
7. Number 1 to 12, then choose the more vivid word from each pair below and copy it.
1. black ebony 7. Iouvred slotted
2. rounded cylindrical 8. tasty delectable
3. vivid clear 9. pungent smelly
4. calm serene 10. hidden covert
5. vile bad 11. tranquil still
6. taut tight 12. fluttering waving
8. Copy handout II. Complete it using your sailboat picture as the object to be described.
9. Write a detailed view of the front of the classroom, from your vantage Point, from left to right. Would you describe a person the same way? How would you? Would you describe a baseball field the same way? How would you?

Optional Activities for sub-concept I: (choose one)

1. From your library, choose a book that deals with an introduction to art and read the sections that deal with the elements of art.
2. List 15 vivid words that describe your favorite sport or TV program.
3. Choose an object in your house that you consider to be old. Write a careful description of it using 3 to 4 sentences.
4. Facing your home describe the front facade using optional description from bottom to top.

Self-test for sub-concept I:

1. Describe exactly something that you own which you value.
2. Number 1 to 8, then choose the more vivid word from each pair below and copy it.
1. cold frigid 5. torn shredded
2. coarse uneven 6. dry parched
3. gigantic big 7. darting running
4. brilliant smart 8. all around   surrounded
3. Draw with your pencil a bowl of fruit using lines and shapes, add color and texture by shading with your pencil.

Sub-concept II

Since objects can connect us with another culture, we can bridge the gap of time by applying our senses, intellect and emotions to experience a human commonality and express our connection in a narrative form.

Performance Objectives:
1. You will become aware that we identify things with our senses.

2. You will list human emotions and write a paragraph explaining the emotions that others might feel.

3. You will make some reasonable deductions describing them in a paragraph.

4. You will be able to define culture and explain how objects reflect values.

Activities: (do all activities)

1. Complete handout III.
2. Using a dictionary, copy the definitions of the following:
deduction inference value culture
reason intellect emotion artifact
3. List all the emotions that you have felt or might feel in your life. This may be a timed activity. Circle all the emotions on your list that you might have when viewing a lighted candle. Now underline the emotions that someone your age 200 years ago might have felt viewing the same candle. Are there any differences: why?
4. In your group, make a list of all the feelings that Columbus and his men may have experienced upon reaching the New World. Can we still feel those emotions today?
5. Remember a favorite candle: think how you felt at the time you saw it. Writs your feelings about the circumstances in a paragraph.
6. Your group has found a book, a coin and a china plate. What can you tell about the group of people who possessed these objects? Share your deduction with the class.
7. Pretend you are an archaeologist in the year 2180. You have found an object from the 1980’s; describe this object and detail its function in a paragraph without using its name.
8. Choose one of the following to complete.
____Look at your baby book or a picture of yourself as a baby. Explain in a paragraph why it is important to be kept and what it shows.
____Explain in a paragraph why we have museums and people visit them. If you have been to one, what do you remember?
____Select something that is old around your house and explain why it has value to you or someone in your family. State what it is and the explanation in a paragraph.

Optional Activities for sub-concept II: (choose one)

1. Using your sailboat picture, write a description of how the other senses besides sight would know it and its setting.
2. Do a personal inventory of your Pockets, wallet or Purse. Make a list of the objects. Circle what is most important to you. If someone else found the same objects, what might they say about you; write a short paragraph about the person who owns the objects.
3. Using pictures cut from magazines and/or newspapers, make a collage: illustrate things important in today’s world. Give it a title.

Self-test for sub-concept II:

1. In a paragraph, describe what your house means to you in terms of your senses, emotions and intellect.
2. Define culture.
3. List 3 objects that illustrate our culture today.

Sub-concept III

Artifacts are reflective of the cultural values that produced them. By using our imagination, raising questions, and doing research, we may gain insight into the world of the past and enlarge our own world with a discerning eye.

Performance Objectives:

1. You will list questions that can be answered by investigation.
2. You will develop the use of your imagination and write a creative narrative paragraph.
3. You will research an object to determine what information it can reveal.

Activities: (do all activities)

1. Select an object from the list below. Make up 10 questions relating to the object and the person(s) who used it. Identify the object if it is not known to you. Draw a picture of the object (optional).
windmill trencher pewter tankard
bed-warmer quilt spinning wheel
quill pen cupboard postage stamp
stoneware jug tombstone windsor chair
2. Write a creative essay about one of the following:
milking stool quilt colonial candle an apron
butter churn ax flintlock rifle iron pot
____Your story could be from the object’s point of view or from the viewpoint of a person who used the object.
3. In your home, find the oldest snapshot that you can and learn everything you can about it. Write your information adding your own observations. Where was it taken? When? Who is in it? If there are buildings, are they different today? Describe what you see.

Self-test for sub-concept III:

1. You have entered an old house that people no longer live in but it remains as they left it. Choose one room. Name 10 things that might tell you about the people who once lived there and write a paragraph describing what the family or a person was like.


1. Using a photograph exhibited by the teacher or a picture from a textbook, write a descriptive paragraph including its physical qualities, the content and analysis of form.
2. A visitor from another period in history is staying with you. List 5 objects or experiences that they would not know and 5 that they would recognize using their senses, emotions or intell etc.
3. Define culture.
4. Write a paragraph explaining how an object can tell us about people’s lives, give at least two examples.
5. List 5 objects that you own and state next to each what values that they reflect. Then list 5 objects that you owned when you were half your present age. Next to them state what value they had to you then.


1. Write an account of a particular chair in your home. Check the height of the seat and back. What is it used for and where is it found? Was this always true? How is it put together? How is it finished? Does it have a special history? Compare it to others in your house.
2. Look at all the pictures in your house and select the oldest. Describe your choice. Give the title or subject shown. Who was the artist? Describe the medium. ExPlain why the picture was chosen, ask.
3. Make a copybook. Use 5 pieces of paper and a cover. Stitch the paper together. Put something special in it: write neatly and draw carefully.
4. Pretend you are a portrait Painter. Do a color Portrait of a family member or friend and include a background. Will the portrait tell a story?
5. Investigate colonial cooking. Cite some recipes. Try cooking one.
6. Make a list of 10 streets near where you live and try to discover or reason why they were given their names.
7. Try to discover the oldest thing that your family owns. Discuss its history with a family member who knows and write a report.
8. Visit an historic house and make up questions that you would want to ask the people who first lived there that would reveal their life style.
9. Investigate your house. Draw a floor plan to scale.
10. Often old objects have new and different uses. Look around your house and identify two if possible. Describe what they were originally used for and what use do they serve now.
11. Investigate colonial lighting or soapmaking. Write a report explaining the types and the making.
12. Choose a car. Write an essay describing it. What can you tell about the society to which it belongs?
13. Make a list of 5 objects which you would include if you were responsible for filling in a time capsule. Write a paragraph explaining your choices for each.
14. Take some photographs (5 to 10) and arrange them to relate a theme showing how people feel about things.
15. Choose a person. Paint a portrait of that person in words using vivid nouns and adjectives.
16. Choose a colonial craft. Research it and write a report.
17. Using your copy of handout II, complete a description of a painting or photograph approved by your teacher.

Handout I for sub-concept I, Activity 5:

You are to draw a picture of a sailboat in a step by step manner. You may copy a sailboat or use your imagination. Keep it simple. Yours will be special because it will be different. Be neat. Be prepared to share it with the class. Follow the steps in order.

1. Using a pencil draw a sailboat using straight and curved lines on a piece of white paper. Draw it large enough, at least 5” x 8”, so that the sections may be cut out.
2. Cut out the parts of your sailboat and staple or glue them to a plain background. Cut out some more shapes that you can add to your picture in order to Put the boat into a scene.
3. Using crayons or water colors, add some color to your picture, the sailboat and the setting. You need not color everything in and do not use white.
4. Place something rough under your picture and rub a white crayon or white chalk over the parts that you want white. Think where you want to add the white texture. Move the rough surface around. You are adding texture and white highlights to bring out the colors, lines and shapes that you have arranged into a picture.
Refer back to Activity 5 for follow up discussion.

Handout II for sub-concept I, Activity 8:

1. Physical qualities:
____a. Length _____: height _____: weight _____.
____b. material(s) made of: __________.
____c. construction (put together) _____.
2. Content:
____a. inscriptions, words, initial s, numbers, etc.: _____
____b. story illustrated: _____
3. Formal analysis:
____a. colors:
____b. shapes:
____c. Lines:
____d. textures:

Handout III for sub-concept II, Activity 1:

Complete each of the following. Your lists will be share in class.

1. List 5 sounds that you know the cause of by just hearing.
_____ _____ _____
_____ _____
2. List 5 odors that you can identify by just using your power to smell.
_____ _____ _____
_____ _____
3. List something that gives you each of the following tastes.
sweet _____ sour _____
tart _____ salty _____
4. List 5 objects in a dark room that you could identify by touching: name the texture of each.
1. _____ _____ 2. _____ _____
3. _____ _____ 4. _____ _____
5. _____ _____
5. By using just your sight (in your minds eye) describe:
____1. an ice cream cone __________
________ _______________
____2. a piece of Pizza __________
________ _______________
(Could your descriptions be of any other things?)

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Teacher Bibliography

Andrews, Ruth, ed. How to Know American Folk Art. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977.

A concise paperback with illustrations; eleven essays on various aspects of folk art.

Botein, Stephen, et al. Experiments in History Teaching. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977.

Ideas for beginners in looking at objects in chapter entitled “Cultural Artifacts”.

Deetz, James. In Small Things Forgotten: The Archeology of Early American Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1977. Delightful reading; illustrates how historical evidence can be extracted from everyday objects.

Demos, John. A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Uses material to study the ordinary life of this colonial community. Part One deals with the physical setting—housing, furnishings and clothing.

Fleming, E. McClung. “Artifact Study, A proposed Model”, Winter- thur Portfolio. Wilmington, Delaware: 1975. Exercises for having students think systematically about artifacts.

Fransecky, Roger B. and Debes, John L. Visual Literacy: A Way to Learn—A Way to Teach. Washington, D.C.: Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1972. A short publication presenting rationale and suggestions for teaching.

Giedon, Siegried. Mechanization Takes Command. New York: Oxford Press, 1948.

An account dealing with the impact of nineteenth century science and technology upon our world, and of the relationship between workers and machines.

Glassie, Henry. Pattern in the Material Folk Culture in the Eastern U.S. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968. Structures are covered from the builders perception. Procedure may be used for evaluating any residence.

Kuhlman, Yvonne and Bartky, Joyce, ed. Spectrum of English: Language, Composition and Expression. Encino, California: Glencoe Publishing Co., Inc., 1979.

A basic English text that is used in various 7th and 8th grade classes throughout New Haven. Seventh grade level (Amber) contains excellent chapters on spatial organization and the use of vivid words.

Linderman, Earl W. and Herberholz, Donald W. Developing Artistic and Perceptual Awareness. 3rd edition. New York: William C. Brown Co., 1974.

For the classroom, contains exercises for developing awareness for artistic expression (see chapter 2), and various student projects suggested in other chapters, extensive topical bibliography.

Lipman, Matthew. What Happens in Art. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967-

Considers the entire art process by binding ourselves with art in order to discover ourselves in the process; note chapter 11 “Critical Observation”.

Mergen, Bernard and Peters, Marsha. “Doing the Rest: The Uses of Photographs in American Studies”, American Quarterly, Fall: 1977.

A bibliographical review containing teaching and research techniques.

Place, Linna F. “The Object as Subject: The Role of Museums and Material Culture Collections in American Studies”, American Quarterly, August: 1974.

Some suggestions for teachers using museums’ artifacts; promotes involvement of the students with how-to-do-it ideas.

Quimby, Ian, ed. Material Culture and the Study of American Life. New York: Norton, 1978.

Good introduction to field of material culture.

Schnacke, Dick. American Folk Toys: How to Make Them. Baltimore: Penguin Books Inc., 197 .

An easy to follow handbook for students to use in making folk toys. Plans, directions and information provided.

Tunis, Edwin. Colonial Craftsman and the Beginnings of American Industry. New York: World Publishing, 1972. Excellent for students; many illustrations with information on colonial crafts.

Weitzman, David. Underfoot: An Everyday Guide to Exploring the American Past. New York: Scribners, 1976.

A “how to” book for exploring the American past. Included are chapters dealing with old photographs, gravestones and buildings for the everyday explorer. Also consult Weitzman’s My Backyard History Book.

Wright, Louis B. Life in Colonial America. New York: Capricorn Books, 1971.

Depicts life in American colonies during 17th and 18th centuries. Chapters 2-8 deal with family and community life. May be read by students, illustrations included.

Wright, Louis B., ed. The Arts in America: The Colonial Period. New York: Schocken, 1966.

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