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History through Photos II

Lewis Hine photographed child laborers in the early 1900s -- and laws were changed. Look at the children's faces in these photos. Imagine their lives. Write for just seven minutes.

This challenge is intended as a free write, but it may get you interested in the subject enough to want to pursue your own project. Or it can be incorporated into your My Community Story project.

Look at each of these photos and imagine yourself as one of the children in the photos. Choose the one that speaks to you most. Hover your mouse over the photo to stop the slideshow and think about what life must have been like. Write for seven minutes only. Tell us a story of what happened in your day. Or tell us how you happen to be in the photo, or what your life is like that requires you to work. 

When you are finished, save, and read a classmate's post and tell her/him your reactions to what they wrote.


Incorporating Research into Stories

Use the completed stories as drafts in a larger research project. The purpose would be to conduct research and revise -- edit, expand or redo -- your story with what you discover to create historically accurate representations of these children’s lives. Some important questions:

  1. Why is it important to add historically accurate elements to your story?  
  2. Where can I go to find out more information? websites: 
    1. http://www.history.com/topics/child-labor
    2. http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/
    3. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/hine-photos/#documents
    4. http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/1566/lewis-w-hine-american-1874-1940/
    5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Hine
  3. Now that I have gotten more information, how do I incorporate it into my story, or, write a new one? What's the most compelling thing I discovered? What are some other details about the time, the conditions, that I can incorporate into my story?
  4. Are there other, broader topics that might make a good personal, independent project such as child labor?
(Photo credit: Lewis Hine, Library of Congress)

Photo Challenge

Choose one of these photos and write. For seven minutes. Then comment.

Before you write, take a close look at each of the photos. When you've got one that interests you, hover your mouse over the photo to stop the slideshow and then think about the photo -- its characters, what's happening, what led up to that moment. Think about what point of view you want to take -- one of the characters? someone just outside the frame? the photographer? And decide upon a verb tense -- present is more immediate. Tell us a story, perhaps the back story or what happens after the photograph.

When you are done, save, and find a classmate's post to read and comment upon.

[Photo 1: Fine Art America, photo by Steve Williams]
[Photo 2: Deviant Art, photo by daMaeko]
[Photo 3: My Intwood] 
[Photo 4: Robert Doisneau Photo Archives, photo by Robert Doisneau] 
[Photo 5: National Geographic, photo by Gemma Collier] 



History through Photos I

BEFORE you listen to the audio, write for seven minutes in response to this photo. Imagine yourself as the person in the photo, or one of the children or the photographer. Tell the story. Tell the backstory. Look at details; where might this be? What's going on? 

After you finish. Take a look at some of your classmate's responses. Give one of them -- someone who hasn't gotten a response -- a comment. 

ONCE you have done that, listen to the recording. The woman speaking is Florence Leona Owens Thompson, 1903-1983. She is the woman pictured in this 1936 iconic photograph by Dorothea Lange. Lange was working for the Resettlement Administration and Farm Security Administration documenting the Great Depression and happened upon Thompson, a migrant worker with seven children. Lange took six photographs without getting the woman's name and left. Both Lange and Thompson came to dislike the photograph for different reasons: Lange felt it became a symbol and no longer felt it was her work; Thompson said she felt ashamed -- but determined never to be that poor again. 

There is much more to Florence Thompson's story and to the story of this photograph (if you wish to find out more, see: https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/285) which, among other things, was a catalyst for the writer John Steinbeck to write Grapes of Wrath a story focusing on the plight of migrant workers in the Depression.   The intention of this challenge, though, is to help you feel -- and understand -- the potential for narrative within historical research and interviews.

Potential follow-up projects:
  • Go to your local Historical Society and explore their archive of photographs. Do any particularly move you, interest you? If so, use that as a jumping off point for finding out about the people, situation or time period within the photograph. See what records your Historical Society has. Check with the library. Are their any living witnesses? Or elders who may have memories of their ancestors' stories.
  • Go to a relative or an elder in your community and ask if they'd be willing to share an old photo and tell stories about the photo and the times depicted in the photo.
  • Explore a particular historic event in your community -- something that happened that was significant such as a natural disaster or war or major achievement or change. Look for photos -- and even old audio recordings. 

In all of these, combine what you find -- photos and sound -- with text to create a compelling story. 

[Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress]

Jul 31

Commenting - Part I

As a group, make a plan for the best way to give and receive comments. 

External readers -- peers, teachers, friends -- can provide you an honest response to your writing along with specific observations that can help you improve your work and your ability to learn how to edit yourself -- a vital skill to being able to express yourself well.

For those giving the feedback, the key is to:
1. Notice what you notice when you are reading someone else's work;
2. Articulate what you notice in a way that is well-received.
3. AND, if you can give the writer some details on where you got confused, or where you got really interested, that will help them immensely.
4. A hidden gain is that you, the commenter, will begin to look at your own work with the same objectivity and this will help you improve as a writer.

With this exercise, you'll need to get your teacher(s) involved:

  • Conduct a classroom discussion to set the guidelines for giving feedback in this digital space. YWP encourages students to lead the discussion with the teacher taking notes that everyone can see (projector? smartboard?) Some questions to ask each other:
  1. What is the purpose of commenting? Why are we providing each other comments?
  2. What is a useful comment?
  3. What should be the focus of our comments?
  4. Should we comment on grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc?
  5. What about throwaway language, like "That's amazing!" "You're a great writer!"
  6. Should everyone get a comment? How do we ensure that?

Establish some guidelines and then have someone post them in Resources on your site.

Some resources on commenting: Overview: https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/273; On Commenting: https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/240

Jul 31

Advice from a Friend -- Editing 1

Use one of your My Community pieces that you have not yet edited for this exercise. Analyze your own strategy, the strategies of others, and make a new revision strategy.  

1. Think about how you usually edit your writing -- not the grammar and spelling, but large revisions like adjusting the structure, checking for clarity, honing your point (thesis). Write down your own process; what works best for you? 
2. Ask two friends how they go about editing. Write down their processes. Do the same with a teacher. 
3. Look at all of the processes you have gathered. Did you pick up some ideas? Which do you like best? Would a combination of them all work best as your editing process/ strategy?
4. Make a new editing process from what you have gathered, and start revising your My Community piece. 

Reflect: Do you think your new strategy is better than your original? 

[Creative Commons Lisence: Flixelpix David, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/flixel/]

Jul 31

Grammar Memorization

If you're having issues learning grammar rules, this activity will help. For this activity, find a friend, and a recent My Community piece you need to edit for grammar. 

First, make sure you have all of your large edits done on your piece -- structure, tone, point of view, etc.; don't edit for grammar. 

Second, print three copies of your piece. Give a copy to a friend, an adult (like a teacher), and yourself. You all should edit the piece for grammar. 

Third, compare all of the pieces. With what grammar rules do you most struggle? Comma usage? Semicolons? The hyphen? Identify your struggle areas, and make a list. 

Fourth, learn each grammar rule on your list, and come up with a creative way to memorize these rules. Maybe you could create drawings, or rhymes, or make a song. Find the best way to help you learn these rules. Check out the Grammar Memorization Resource for some memorization strategies. Or comment memorization strategies on the work of your peers. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang] 

Jul 31

Group Editing

This is a revision activity you could do with your class on a My Community piece you need to edit. It will help you get a better idea of what you should look for when you are editing, and it will give you a better idea of what you struggle with in your own writing. 

First, with your class, make a list of things you typically revise in writing. Example: consistent thesis, clarity, smooth transitions, redundancy, order, length, etc. Avoid things such as grammar and typos. Focus on the big ideas in the editing process. 

Second, look for each of these items in your class list in your own writing. Do you need to revise some of these areas? All of these areas? Keep track of what you think you need to do. 

Third, give your piece to two friends in your class. Using the class list, have them look for the areas they think you need to work on. 

Finally, compare the three lists. What were the similar areas that need to be worked on? Focus on those, and have a conversation with your two friends about what you need to revise. Each of your friends should come up with one solution to each problem area. With these trouble areas and possible solutions in mind, start revising. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]

Jul 31


This is an activity you can do with your class, as it centers around positive lessons you have learned from your school community in an unusual way by using humor. Use humor to tell a story, and learn how to really engage an audience.

Humor can be a creative, and, well, hilarious way to get your opinion across about a certain topic. You can engage an audience about any topic — even one that was originally bland — and grab their attention throughout.

First, think about a funny or frustrating experience you had with one of these three things: a homework assignment, a group project, or a field trip.

Second, once you have your memory, think about how you could tell this story in a funny way, but ultimately show that you learned something from this community experience. Write a detailed outline of this story with a few jokes and messages you want to remember.

Third, with your class, everyone should get up and do their comedy routine. People shouldn’t be reading a prepared speech or paper. Just let the jokes flow naturally.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Erik Short] 



Soapbox Part I

A soapbox is an impromptu debate you make with a group — in this case, your class community. This is an activity you can do with your class to hopefully spark positive change in your community through the speeches you create in the classroom. 

First, with your class community, choose a community you are all in. It could be school, your town, your state, etc. Create a list of problems each of these communities face. Put all of these problems into a hat. 

Second, everyone get in a circle with the hat in the center. One person should be recording. One by one, everyone will go to the center of the circle, pick a problem out of the hat, and gave an impromptu two minute speech about the topic. Talk about how you can fix the problem, or about why it is so annoying in the first place. 

Look at "Soapbox Part II" for an expansion. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Aliya Schneider, 2013] 




Use this challenge as a fun writing activity that asks you tough questions about community. In the end, you might even have a really engaging discussion about what a "perfect" community really is. 

Think about the town, country, and world you live in now. What are the flaws of these communities? 

Create the "perfect" society. What would the government be like? Economy? Education? Functionality? Write about a world you think would be perfect to live in. 

After you write, show your friends your perfect world. Discuss with them whether or not it would be better to live in your perfect world, or a flawed world. Look at the worlds they created too. 

[Creative Commons License: Leo the Sound Monster, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/soundmonster/​]

Jul 28


Write about a positive memory you have with a teacher who made a difference in your life. Exercise your narrative skills, and reflect on lessons that have helped you grow. 

Teachers are part of your school community. Think back to all of your years at school. Who was the one teacher who really made a difference in your life? Did they encouraged your to do you best, gave you life changing advice, or helped shape your life in some way? 

Think about one specific memory you have with that teacher. Write the true story of that moment — what they did, and what you learned from it. 

Comment on the works of your peers. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2016]

Jul 28


One of the strongest communities we will ever have is our friend group. Friends give us support, happiness, and a shoulder to cry on. Reflect on how your friends have helped shape you as a person, and write poetry based on these thoughts. 

First, think about your friends, and, specifically why they are your friends. What are the qualities and elements about them that make you want to be their friend? 

Second, think about all of the good memories you have had with each of them. How have they made your life better. 

Third, ask yourself this hard question: what would my life be like without this person? 

Fourth, write a poem about each of your friends. Think about all of these elements, and really try and focus on why your friend community is so important to you. 

Comment on the works of your peers. 

Read your poems to your friends. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]



Write an opinion piece about an iconic piece of art in your community (or your state). Add photos of the art from different perspectives at different times of day. Send it to the local newspaper as an illustrated opinion piece.

Public art can be one of the joys of community. It can also irritate, confuse or offend people. If there is an iconic piece of art in your town, reflect on it. Do you like it? Does it help define your community in a positive or negative way? Has it been there so long that it is invisible?

  • Find out more about the piece of art (the artist, the name, when it was installed, what it means, etc.)
  • Visit the piece of art at various times of day and take photos from different perspectives.
  • Write a review of the piece. Include the pertinent details (see above) and give your opinion about it.
  • Share your writing and photos with a friend or family member who knows the art and ask for their thoughts. (You might be surprised at their reaction.)
  • If you are swayed in your opinion, you might consider revising it. If you are firm in your original opinion, give your writing another careful look for typos and grammatical errors.
  • Send the package -- the writing and the best two photos -- to your local newspaper as an opinion piece.

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Madi Cohen, 2016]


Op-ed Part I

An op-ed is a short (maximum length three paragraphs or 500 words) opinion piece where someone tries to persuade someone towards a certain view point using a combination of facts and personal experiences and beliefs. You will usually find an op-ed on the opposite side of the editorial section in your local newspaper. Learn how to express and edjucated opinion through this journalism tool. 

First, find the op-ed section of your local paper to get a sense of the opinionated style. Read one or three pieces. 

Second, as a practice, write a humorous op-ed about a decision your parents or guardian recently made that you disagree with. In 500 words or less, bring in the facts about why your opinion is the correct opinion. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Megan Charland, 2015]



Is there a special place in your community that is under threat? You can advocate for this place. Write a letter to the local newspaper. Contact officials and make a strong, persuasive argument.

  • Is there a special place in your community that has been changed, removed or is under threat? A playground where you met some of your best childhood friends? A swimming hole? A forest? A sledding hill? 
  • Don't stand by and watch.
  • Organize like-minded people. Write letters to the editor and local officials. Include photos and your best memories of this place. AND make a strong persuasive argument for why this matters -- not just to you, but to the community. 
  • Ask for a meeting with the officials, and make your case, face-to-face.
  • It might not be too late. Act now!

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]