Primary Sources for the Primary Grades: Springtime Playtime

This post is by Teresa St. Angelo, the 2016-2017 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.

Spring weather has long brought children outside to play, and primary sources can help children today explore the ways in which children in the past enjoyed the season. On a spring day, gather your students together and make a list of activities children do in springtime. When ideas have been generated, tell students they are going to analyze two images from the past to discover what children did in spring.

May Day Playground

Playgrounds, May Day

Give each student a copy of the image.

Allow students time to look at the image independently and quietly. Ask them to identify what they see or what they noticed first. Pose questions for reflection, such as:

  • What evidence do you see in the image that makes you think it is springtime?
  • What evidence do you see in the image that makes you think these are school children?

Finally, allow time for students to create and express questions they have about the image while you record them. Use prompts such as Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? as needed.

Some students may be eager to report their findings. Tell students they will be analyzing two images before stating their conclusion to the class, and invite students to write what they think the school children are doing on the back of the image. Remind them they are historians, detectives of history. Mention that detectives look for many clues, think deeply about those clues, and then establish a conclusion. The conclusion must be supported with details and evidence.

Encourage students to gather more evidence by analyzing the next image.

Playgrounds, May Day. May pole dance

Give students time to look at the image independently, and then let students turn and talk to a partner about what they see in this image. Next, present questions for the students to think about and discuss as partners.

  • Do you think the children are having fun? What evidence do you see to support your answer?
  • Do you think the children are at school? What evidence do you see to support your answer?
  • What season do you think is evident in the image? What evidence do you see to support your answer?

Encourage partners to develop questions about the image. Those questions will lead to more observations and thinking between the students. Then, instruct the partners to compare both images. What is the same? What is different?

After completing the comparison of the two images, students can reveal what they think children in the past did in the spring. Have students report the evidence that helped them come to that conclusion.

After their evidence has been reported, tell students that both images include “Playgrounds, May Day” in their titles. How does that information change their thinking? What new questions do they have?

Hold a discussion about playgrounds and spring activities. Focus on comparing playgrounds past and present.

Students might examine additional images with “Playgrounds, May Day” in the title, including this one of the May pole dance a bit later.

Leave us a comment to let us know what your students discovered!


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