This is a guest post from Cindy Rich, of the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Eastern Illinois University.
In a recent Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) workshop, gathered to learn about the power of teaching with primary sources, a teacher was concerned that she needed to “change everything” to address anchor standards for reading. As we discussed ideas for using primary sources in the classroom (already a good sign, right?), we realized that some small activities, such as close attention to reading a title, can be very powerful.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the title is worth… well, you get it. The simple, yet deliberate, task of learning from the title of a primary source can provide ongoing practice of literary skills. Students learning new material may require support, including guiding questions, to help with vocabulary or syntax to gain information from captions within and across disciplines. Once mastered, learning from titles becomes a natural, almost effortless, part of learning from primary sources, and a skill that students will use in many academic disciplines and throughout life.
How do word choices influence how we interpret a photograph? Here are three simple strategies for guiding students to look more carefully at a title.
|Write your own title. Allow time for pairs or small groups of students to analyze the photograph, and then write a title for it. Display the title from the item record, and ask students to take another look at the image. Discuss:
|Focus on specific words. Allow time for pairs or small groups of students to study and analyze the photograph. Then direct them to examine the title: What is the significance of the word last in the title?
|Develop questions for further investigation. This title includes multiple ideas. What questions come to mind? How and where might students find answers?
You may apply similar processes to studying primary sources in other formats. Let us know in the comments what other examples of interesting titles you or your students discover.