Lesson Plan I -- Analyzing Photographs
Linda Harris of the J. Paul Getty Museum Trust has written a lesson plan on analyzing four Lange photographs, including
White Angel Breadline
It includes questions to ask about each photograph, as well as basic questioning on three different levels that easily correlate to the CMT Language Arts Strands explored in this unit. Her lesson plan and questions are great resources for this exercise.
One 50-minute class period.
Students will apply to a photograph the skills of forming a general understanding, developing interpretation, making reader/text connections, and examining content and structure.
LCD projection viewer, Lange photographs
Do Now! Assignment:
Look at the slide projected on the screen. For five minutes, write down EVERYTHING that comes to your mind: What you see, what you think, the impressions the photograph gives you, the things it reminds you of, the facts it seems to recall.
Have students Think-Pair-Share their observations and reflections for 3 minutes each.
Compile a class list of these reflections on chart paper. List them all as we will address issues of accuracy and personal evocation as we go. Leave space to the left of each entry, as after learning some information about the photo, we will make some decisions about each entry and mark it accordingly for use later. Introduce the photograph, using the information on Harris' link to the photograph. If the entry listed from students' writing was
mark it with a star,
mark it with an x,
an intentionally-evoked response,
mark it with a checkmark,
an unintentionally-evoked response,
mark it with a circle, or
needs further research,
mark it with a question mark.
Next, question students about the photograph, urging them to say when something we discuss has answered a question from our opening activity. Harris' Level I questions will help students to form a general understanding of the photography. (Examples:
Describe the colors, lines, shapes, texture, and space you see in the image. What do you notice first in this picture? Where is your eye led? What are the people wearing? How are they posed? Are you looking up or down at the people in the image?
) Her Level II questions lead students to develop an interpretation. (Examples:
In your opinion: What are the people in the photo looking at? What are they thinking? Where was the photo taken? What were they doing?
) Her Level III questions encourage students to examine content and structure and make reader/text connections. (Examples:
Based on what you know about the 1930s: Who are the people in the photographs? What message do you think the photographer was trying to convey? Using visual elements in the photograph, what do you think is the situation of the people depicted? What would you title the photograph, and why?)
Repeat with as many photographs as time allows. Don't forget to revisit the chart of questions and observations made at the beginning of class. Encourage discussion and exploration of theme, meaning, and artistic vision. As a Ticket-to-Leave, ask students to write down 3 important things they learned today. For homework, students can write either a short story or non-fiction companion piece to the photograph of their choice.
Lesson Plan 2 -- Documentary and Fact
Two 50-minute class periods
Students will determine a collective definition of accuracy, truth, and reality. Students will view several photographs, form a general understanding of what is presented, develop an interpretation of what meaning may be evoked from them, and choose a photograph to either crop or add background to that will change the determined meaning.
Index cards, felt-tip pens, LCD projector, a computer, a selection of color photocopies of Lange's photographs, Lange books, paper, markers, rulers, art supplies
Do Now! Assignment:
Choose one of the following words to define according to your own personal definition (please be complete): Accuracy, Truth, Reality. Write the word you chose on one side of an index card, and your definition on the other side. Please write darkly and clearly, and do not write your name on the card. Please hand your card forward when you are done. [Three words were given so that students may choose between concrete and abstract concepts, based on their comfort and ability.]
After collecting cards and dividing them based on word defined, the teacher will decide how best to split them up; Did students equally choose each word, or are there many more
cards? Depending on how many students are in your class and the distribution of definitions, set the cards out in a number of groups. Have students count off by that number, to form groups of students. Place an extra index card at each station, for additional thoughts from groups. Each group will have 1-3 minutes to read the definitions at a station and make any brief comments, verbally and then in writing. Depending on the amount of time you have you can have groups travel more times; I would have them hit at least two stations. Volunteers will be called on for aspects of the definitions so that we can come up with classroom definitions, comparing and contrasting all three.
Once we have established our classroom definitions, students will be shown
Land of the Free
(1938) through the use of an LCD projector and the Internet. Hard copies of the photograph from books should also be available. Don't show the title at first. Create a running list of facts or truths that the photograph seems to reveal. Encourage students to note everything seen first, and only after all the "facts" are gathered, to make some interpretations of the images. Provide the title to see if it reflects what was discussed or not. Then show the photo from which it has been cropped,
Plantation Overseer and His Field Hands, Mississippi Delta
(1936). Again, don't give the title right away. Ask students for any immediate emotions or understandings. Ask where those emotions or understandings came from, what was included in the second image that was not in the first to elicit such feelings. Now share the title to see if it supports the discussion. Ideally, students will come away with some understanding that the first image conveys a sense of a hard-working man achieving the American Dream, while the second image reflects the subordinate nature of the field workers to the plantation overseer, as well as Southern racial concerns of the time. This is meant to show students the effects of cropping photographs, and how the reality conveyed can be altered by selection of what does or does not remain in the frame. Tell students that the original photograph (as shown in Curtis' book
Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth,
page 14) contains her husband Paul's hand. This was because Lange would have him talk to her subjects while she lined up her shots, which relaxed them. She altered the negative so that that edge was not included, not only because it didn't look right, but also because she didn't want to draw attention to this strategy of hers. So the second picture looked at was also partially cropped as well, though for a much different reason.
Next, provide students with a selection of Dorothea Lange's photographs. Each student will "shop around" for a photograph to analyze. They will choose a photograph, write a list of what appears in the frame, write a paragraph explaining their interpretation of the photograph's meaning based on that list, and will either crop the picture (using rulers and markers or paper and scissors to create a frame) or add background to the picture (by mounting it on paper and artistically creating the "rest" of the picture) in a way that changes the determined meaning. Students will
complete a Comparison Matrix for the before and after pictures, and from that will write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two pieces visually and ideologically.
This activity could also be done with
One Nation Indivisible
, as shown on the
Dorothea Lange: Photographer of the People
website's Virtual Exhibit [http://www.dorothea-lange.org/gallary-camps/template_expanded%20gallary_pledge.htm]. This photograph shows a young Japanese-American girl reciting the Pledge of Allegiance a few weeks before the evacuation and internment in 1942 that was prompted by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The cropped photograph is a close-up of one serious and nervous-looking girl; the original show the whole class, with several students smiling.
Lesson Plan 3 -- Practicing Photojournalism
One 50-minute class period, plus homework
Students will process a reading passage, determine the main points to summarize, design a photograph and create a caption to best represent the summary.
Computer lab, colored index cards for pairing, hat and three pieces of paper with one job title on each paper (in reserve)
Do Now! Activity:
Look under your seat and find the colored index card there; find the two other people with that color card, as they will be your group-mates.
Choose roles. Each group will have 1 Artist/Photographer, 1 Writer/Journalist, and 1 Editor (although everyone should participate in all roles, as that is how these teams work!) Have groups who cannot resolve job choices choose jobs from a hat.
Each group will be assigned to 1 of 7 categories of the
PBS: American Photography
website (Art, Photography and War, Digital Truth, Presidential Image-Making, Persuasion, Social Change, Cultural Identity). Students will read the section and list the most important parts. From that list students will write 2 --3 sentences explaining each item. They will create a list of questions they have about the reading. Students will then think of the perfect picture to represent the information -- one photograph that could be taken that would serve as an accurate summary or representative image for the piece. They will sketch out what would be in the photograph. They will include a caption, with a paragraph explaining why the caption was selected. Students will present their work to the class and discuss.