1. After some preliminary discussion about the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era to provide background for the lesson, students should spend some time studying the materials about Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine, becoming familiar with who they are and what they did to raise awareness about the lives of a segment of American immigrant children (See “Photography and Social Reform,” and “Jacob Riis,” websites, below).
2. Students then should study the Riis and Hine photographs, paying particular attention to the photographs of children at work (“Photographs of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine,” website below).
Individually or in small groups, and guided by the teacher, students should select one of the possibilities for working with a photograph as follows (these ideas are taken from the instructions for using primary sources on the Library of Congress, American Memory website, at http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/primary.html.
- Use a historic photograph or film of a street scene. Give an oral description of the sights, sounds, and smells that surround the scene, presenting evidence from the photograph itself and other sources about the time period. Examine the image to find clues about the economics and commerce of the time.
- Select a historical photograph or film frame. Predict what will happen one minute and one hour after the photograph or film was taken. Explain the reasoning behind your predictions.
- To encourage focus on detail, show a photograph or film frame to the classroom for three minutes and then remove it. Have students draw the contents of the image on a piece of paper divided into a grid of nine sections. Repeat this exercise with new images and watch students' ability to recall detail improve.
3. Depending on the choice of activities, students should then be asked to pose hypotheses about the lives of these children, and about the society in which they lived. If this part of the activity is done before reading about the era in their texts, it can make such reading a way of gathering evidence to support or reject their hypotheses.
4. To complete the lesson, students can write a short essay on the hypotheses raised, or prepare a PowerPoint presentation that analyzes a photograph, raises a hypothesis, and presents evidence to support or reject the hypothesis.
Photography and Social Reform
Photographs of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine
The Gilded Age WebQuest
This lesson plan was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.