“A picture is worth a thousand words,” as the saying goes. It is so true, especially for social studies teachers. A single image can be a powerful way to introduce a lesson, serving as a doorway into a historical event. Photo analysis can aid in student writing. And through studying photographs students can to learn empathy for others, even take steps toward civic engagement.During my unit on the Civil War I use the famous photograph of an escaped slave, “Private Gordon", to begin the discussion of the role of African American soldiers in the Union Army. My Private Gordon Lesson starts with students making inferences and discussing the photo. Then students read an online article, "Photography Changes the Way We Record and Respond to Social Issues”, by Frank H. Goodyear, adding historical background to the photo. Think about the next unit you are teaching, is there a single photo that might be a doorway into your lesson?
As you plan your US History units, be sure to harness the power of photographs to tell part of the story.