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Poetry From Photos: A Great Depression Activity

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Subjects

  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts
    --Literature
    --Visual Arts

Grade

  • 6-8
  • 9-12
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Brief Description

Students view photographs of migrant families during the Great Depression, try to interpret the photos to answer questions about the subject’s life, and then write a cinquain poem based on their interpretations.

Objectives

Students will
  • Gain understanding of the personal struggles faced during the Great Depression
  • Learn to interpret information from a visual medium (photograph) and express that knowledge in written form (poem).

Keywords

photographs, Great Depression, poetry

Materials Needed[shopmaterials]

  • Computer with Internet access and a word processing program
  • TV monitor or projector hooked up to a computer (for whole class instruction).

Lesson Plan

Getting information from the Internet often is just a copy and paste operation. The challenge for teachers is to teach students to apply and extend what they learn online. In this lesson, students view photographs of migrant families during the Great Depression, try to interpret the photos to answer questions about the subject's life, and then write a cinquain poem based on their interpretations.

Preparation
Prior to this lesson, students should have a basic understanding of the Great Depression and the subsequent displacement of families in search of work and better farmland.

Process
Begin this activity with a brief class discussion of the Great Depression, particularly focusing on how it impacted families. Then, using a projector or TV monitor, display the photos of a migrant mother from the Library of Congress collection America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945. Encourage students to look carefully at the photo and share their observations about the mother. Some questions students might consider include:

  • What is she thinking about?
  • What has happened just before the photo was taken?
  • What has happened in her life in the past year?
  • What might be about to happen?
  • What was she feeling as the picture was taken.

Share the quote from the photographer Dorothea Lange in which she describes taking the photograph and provides background information about the life of the mother and her family.

Have students choose their own favorite photograph from the collection, reflect on the life of the subject(s) pictured, and write a cinquain poem that expresses what they see in the photograph.

Even if students never have written a cinquain poem before, the process is quite simple. A cinquain poem contains five lines:
  • The first line is one noun that describes the topic.
  • The second line is two adjectives that describe the topic.
  • The third line is three verbs ending in ing that further describe the topic.
  • The fourth line is a phrase (not a sentence) that describes the topic.
  • The fifth line is another noun that describes the topic.

Provide students with the following directions:

  • Select your favorite photograph from the Library of Congress collection. Remember that the photo should focus on a person or small group of people, not on a building or other object.
  • Have your teacher approve the photograph.
  • Look carefully at the photo, jotting any notes as you look. Consider the following questions: What is the subject doing, feeling, thinking, saying? What are his/her hopes or fears? What is she/he wearing? What else is in the photo that can tell you something about the subject's life?
  • Use a word processing program to type a cinquain about the subject of the photo.
  • Copy and paste the photo into the document just beneath the poem.
  • Copy and paste the photo's URL (Web site address) just beneath the photograph.
  • Print the poem and photograph.
Student might turn in their poems to you and or share their poems and photographs with the rest of the class.

Assessment

Students will be evaluated on their ability to complete project based upon teacher observation and on their knowledge of the Great Depression based upon the poem's content.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Lorrie Jackson

National Standards

FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
GRADES 5 - 8
NA-VA.5-8.4 Understanding the Visual Arts In Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
GRADES 9 - 12
NA-VA.9-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts In Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

LANGUAGE ARTS: English
GRADES K - 12
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge

SOCIAL SCIENCES: U.S. History
GRADES 5 - 12
8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
NSS-USH.5-12.9 Era

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