The Evolving Faces of Democracy American History Foundations August 10, 2012 Fran Macko, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
What is visual literacy? • What is visual literacy? • Visual literacy is the ability to interpret information presented in the form of an image. • Visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read”. • Students view an image and construct an interpretation.
Why is visual literacy an important skill for understanding history? • Visual literacy activities provide access to content for students who have difficulty reading text. • Primary source documents in history are often visual; paintings, photographs, cartoons and other images figure prominently in the resources that are available for students. • State and local assessments frequently ask students to interpret images.
Framing the Session:Using Images in the Classroom • Images can be used to introduce or enhance a unit of study, an event or an individual. • They can also support students in gaining insight into “big ideas” or essential questions. • In the elementary school classroom • How have different groups gained the right to vote? • In the middle school classroom • How has the definition of democracy evolved since the American Revolution? • In the high school classroom • What is the relationship between citizenship and democracy? • What is the tension between legislation and implementation?
What are the contexts for “reading” an image? • An image may be placed within four historical contexts: • The personal history of the artist • The history of the style • The history of the time represented in the image • The history of the time in which it was created
The Personal History of the Artist • An image may be placed in the context of the personal history of the artist. • Landscapes and genre scenes can reflect the area where the artist lives or lived. • Portraits can reflect important people in the artist’s life. • Self-portraits can offer insight into the artist.
The History of a Style • Images placed in the broader context of a style provide insight into the history of that style and its particular nuances or features. • Political Cartoons • Social Realism • Hudson River School • Portrait Painting
The History of the Time Represented in the Image • Artists who record the major events of their own life and times create unique glimpses into the period. • The American Revolution • The Indian Removal Act • The Civil War • The Depression
The History of the Time in Which it was Created • The artist creates a representation of a scene or famous event from a previous time period. • These images often reveal more about the time in which they were created than the time they represent. • Washington Crossing the Delaware painted in 1851 by Emile Leutze
Images as Primary Sources • Images can be used to document life and history. • Images and their accompanying dates are primary sources: • If an image was created during the time period it represents, what can be learned about the subject and the time period? • How is an image as reflective of its subject as a letter or journal? • If a image was created after the time period it represents, what can be learned about the times in which the image was created? • How is an image as reflective of a time period as an historian’s or novelist’s commentary?
Analyzing Images of Democracy • How do we define democracy? • The concept of “democracy” can be defined as “rule by the people”, and is characterized by” • The right to vote • Equality for all citizens • Respect for mutual rights and freedoms • How has the definition evolved over time?
Taking a Closer Look • View the images and answer the questions in the “Image Analysis Sheet”. • Create three developmentally appropriate essential or “big” questions that would support students in understanding the challenges faced by the founders in defining democracy.
More Content Literacy Activities with Images • Analysis of images can be springboards for other content area literacy activities. • Elementary and Middle School- Making Artwork Come Alive • Provide the historical context of the image • Project the image and have students discuss the artist’s message and how the artwork represents this message • Reproduce the image with dialogue boxes • Choose one character and model an historically accurate voice. • Have students work in groups to create dialogue for the remaining characters in the image
All grade levels- Giving Images a Voice • Have students choose one character and write a speech, poem or journal entry in that person’s voice. • Have students choose one character and interview him or her. • Have students build on the dialogue boxes and create an historically accurate conversation between or among the characters. • Have a group of students create a tableaux where they recreate the image and step into the shoes of the characters.
Middle and High School- Creating a New Perspective: • Project several images of an historical person from the time period. • Have students work in groups to generate a list of characteristics of that person based on the images. • Read and analyze a famous speech by the person. • Have students compare their thoughts on the individual as portrayed in the image and his or her words in the document. • Evaluate whether or not the person’s words coincided with the artist’s portrayal.
Final Thoughts • Visual literacy supports students in making meaning of historical events and people. • It supports students who struggle to read and understand text. • It engages students in the study of history as students are increasingly familiar with visual images. • It supports critical thinking skills. • It provides an entry point into the study of history.