Collection Overview
Content-Area Literacy Teaching Writing primary sources

Effective Use of Primary Sources with An Emphasis on Art

Lessons and Resources

6 Posts in this Collection

This document contains a compilation of lesson plans and units generated by the “Effective Use of Primary Sources Inquiry Focus Group”, a part of the “Studying and Teaching Our Complicated Histories” grant project of the Redwood Writing Project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the National Writing Project.

Our Focus Groups were a part of our larger, eight month project which took place via Zoom from August, 2022 through March, 2023. The project included presentations by historians (both local and national), disciplinary literacy study, and research/classroom lesson planning via Inquiry Focus Groups.

Each Focus Group met once a month from October 2022-March, 2023. This group’s facilitator, Lois MacMillan, teacher extraordinaire at Grants Pass High School in Grants Pass Oregon, encouraged participants to locate rich visual images which would enhance students’ understanding of key historic events in our local and regional history, and then plan lessons which would enable students to analyze images and their connections to historic events. As part of their initial work together, Lois introduced participants to quality materials including the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Looking to Write, Writing to Look” teaching resource, as well as their “Activities for the Classroom” resource for the Rodin Museum.

The lessons in this collection were developed using the resources presented during our larger group presentations, the resources above, as well as multiple locally curated primary sources. The lessons are designed to encourage teachers to incorporate primary sources, especially visual images and resources, into their U.S. History lessons. Many of the lessons can be adapted for use in 4th grade through high school classrooms.

  • Jennifer Coriell’s lesson, “Chinese-American History in Old Town Eureka, CA and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882”, uses the Eureka, CA Mural “Fowl” as a central art piece. In this series of lessons, students will then learn about the history of Chinese Americans in the Eureka Area and the consequences of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • Jeff Bertotti implements visual thinking activities to help students analyze images across time in the lesson “Redwood National Park: Past and Present”.
  • Shana Langer’s lesson, “Oscar Howe: Art, Culture, and Indigenous Connection to the Land” utilizes biography and the art of Oscar Howe to guide students as they explore the importance of Native lands, the lasting effects of Indian Removal policy on Indigenous people, and how art and poetry can be used to maintain and rebuild connections to land and culture.
  • In the lesson “Visual History: Exploring Bias Through Art”, Yavanna Reynolds seeks to encourage students to learn how to engage with visual primary materials as a way of deepening their understanding of historical themes. This two-part lesson is intended to explore themes of cultural, social, racial and gender bias through the lens of art in a concrete way.
  • Stacey Usher-Wong introduces learners to the exquisite work of Humboldt County local artist Lyn Risling in the lesson “Analyzing Symbolism in Art: Local Artist Lyn Risling.” In this lesson plan, students analyze Risling’s art, discuss the artist’s use of symbolism, and connect symbols in the art to historical artifacts within the Yurok, Karuk, and Hupa cultures.
  • Finally, Tyler Vack’s unit “Expressing Community Change Through Collage” enables students to reflect on the meaning of community, analyze various works of art from the Harlem Renaissance (literature, poetry, music & visual art) and create collage art about their own community inspired by the work of Romare Beardon. Additionally, students will develop and understand the causes for the Great Northern Migration and compare/contrast the freedoms & discrimination between southern and northern Black communities in the early 20th century.

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