Rural Voices, Photos

Online Lesson Plan
Rural Voices Through Photography

Students will research the history of the Depression particularly in the ways it was documented by photography. Then they will take their own pictures in the style of one of the best documentarians, Dorothea Lange.

Lesson Plan by Suzanne Ratzlaff, Fourth Grade Teacher, Heartland Community Schools, Henderson, Nebraska.

 

Objectives

Suggested Grade Level – 5th-8th. The student will:

As a learner

  • gain knowledge about the Dust Bowl era through a variety of genres including poetry, historical fiction, and nonfiction;
  • learn about the life and work of documentary photographer, Dorothea Lange;
  • identify basic and essential facts from what they see;
  • learn how to use a digital camera and take six photos of their friends and family, emulating the style of Lange;
  • compile photographs and writings into a scrapbook form;
  • deepen an awareness for stereotyping and discrimination.

As a reader

  • identify basic and essential facts from a variety of texts.

As a writer

  • respond to literature read through writing;
  • create writings based upon photographs that involve sense of place and sense of self.

As a speaker

  • respond to literature read in discussion groups.

As a listener

  • listen attentively, appreciatively, and critically.

Introduction

“Bell Ringer”
Display a toy train in the classroom, and share an experience you have had with a train. Have the students share about a train trip they have taken, a train museum or depot they have visited, or a toy (electric) train they might own. Then bring up the subject of people hopping trains and riding the rails. What do you call someone who rides trains without tickets and hides in a train car? A Hobo. Have you ever seen one? Bring up the idea of being homeless, and share about the time in history, during the 1930s, when there were many homeless families.

Next, show them the book Nowhere to Call Home, by Cynthia DeFelice, and tell them that this story is about a girl whose family was very rich, but looses everything during the Depression. Share that someone in this book becomes homeless and rides the rails.

 

The Resources

Materials needed –

  • Books . . .
    * Nowhere to Call Home by Cynthia DeFelice
    * Children of the Dust Bowl by Jerry Stanley
    * Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge
  • computers with Internet capabilities
  • digital camera(s)
  • scanner
  • printer
  • materials for scrapbooks (paper, rings, double-sided tape, etc.)
  • Suggested resources:
    * Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
    * Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
    * Dust Bowl Descent by Bill Ganzel
    * music by Nat King Cole and Woody Guthrie, like this version of “This Land is Your Land.”

Links from within the Wessels Living History Farm site. [Note that clicking on these links will open a new browser window. Just close it and you’ll be back to this page.] Direct the students to these pages to learn about rural life in Nebraska during the 1930s.

Weather affected every aspect of farm life during the 1930s, especially the migration of families. Have your students read and discuss this information.

Dorothea Lange was employed by the Farm Security Administration, which began as an agency of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. To learn more about the FSA, read this section from the Wessels site.

To learn more about the migration of Okies and others from the Great Plains have the students read and discuss the information from these sites:

Other links:
Have the students visit these sites to learn more about the Great Depression.

 

The Process

Read aloud Nowhere to Call Home, by Cynthia DeFelice, as an introduction to the time period of the Great Depression.

Have students read Children of the Dust Bowl, by Jerry Stanley, which is a non-fiction book about kids during the Depression.

Share excerpts from Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse. This book, written as a diary with free-verse poems, is a compelling tale of a girl filled with strength and courage during the 1930s.

While reading and discussing these books introduce the music from the 30s by listening to songs of Woody Guthrie and Nat King Cole.

Visit these Wessels sites to learn more about the Dust Bowl.

Weather affected every aspect of farm life during the 1930s, especially the migration of families.

Have your students read and discuss information from these Wessels sites.

To learn more about the migration of Okies and others from the Great Plains, have the students read and discuss information from these sites:

Dorothea Lange was employed by the Farm Security Administration, which began as an agency of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. To learn more about the FSA, read this section from the Wessels site.

Have the students visit these sites to learn more about the Great Depression.

Introduce students to the life and work of Dorothea Lange using the book Restless Spirit, by Elizabeth Partridge. Break the students into groups, have them read chapters, and report their findings back to the class. Make a T-chart with the class showing what they have leaned about Dorothea’s events from her life and what they learned about her character.

  • Each student selects six of Lange’s photographs to work with during this project.
  • Students take their own photographs, in the style of Lange, using digital cameras. Each picture that they take should be matched as closely as possible to the setting and pose that Lange used.
  • Begin work on writings that will be displayed with photographs in their scrapbook.
  • Read aloud Esperanze Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, to show a Mexican perspective of the same time period. This semi-fiction book tells of the experiences of a young Mexican girl in California and of her encounters with prejudice and stereotypes. This will help deepen the students’ perspectives.
  • Print the students’ pictures in black and white.
  • Students then type and print captions and writings.
  • Put together scrapbooks.

Learning Advice

Timeline – From beginning to end, this project takes about three months; although you will not need to work on it daily. Take about one month to read about and research the Dust Bowl. The next month, introduce the book on Dorothea Lange, have students make their photo selections and take their own pictures of their family and friends. Then begin working on the writings that accompany these photos. During the last month, the students will work in the computer lab to finish their writings and then compile their scrapbooks.

Details – A photographer is aware of details while shooting a photograph, just as a writer is aware of details while writing. Use the photographs as a tool for collecting details because details are everything.

 

Conclusion

Celebrate and share – These dedicated, hard-working students deserve recognition for a project such as this. Celebrate with an open house at school, and invite parents, community members, and other classrooms to visit your display and talk with the students. Or you could leave the four walls of the classroom and set up an open house at a real museum. If there is a local, historical museum in your town, contact the curator about an open house for the public. While surrounded by historical artifacts, the students could stand by their scrapbooks and share their knowledge of the Depression. This atmosphere would give this project authenticity and validate the students’ work.

 

Assessment Activity

Proofing and editing can be assessed relating to Nebraska State Standard 8.2.3.

Student’s final writing can be assessed on Nebraska Writing Standard 8.2.1 (standard English conventions.)

 

General Notes

Where did this project originate?
“Rural Voices Through Photography” was developed by teacher Amy Wilson, for her fifth grade language arts class, and was recognized as an outstanding learning project by being awarded a Peter Kiewit 2002 Nebraska Achievement Award. Therefore, it is truly a project worth implementing.

Real people – The powerful photographs, taken by Dorothea Lange and other FSA photographers, are lasting memories of the Depression; yet, those people in the photographs were real, and their lives continued on after the 1930s.

The book Dust Bowl Descent, by Bill Ganzel, connects the past to the present by seeking out these subjects of Dust Bowl photographs and discovering the stories of their lives today. This book makes the memories real, and your students will love learning their stories, making history come alive.

  • Bill Ganzel’s Dust Bowl Descent

lrSubmit02
Get Published. You can also submit your own lesson plan based on this Web site to us by clicking the button at left. We will review the plan and publish it for you.

 

 


                

Go to:

Making Money  Water  Farm Life  Machines  Crops  Pests & Weeds  World Events