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Lesson Plans
A Thousand Words Worth
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Create overheads of the Lange and Steichen quotes, available online at

Print and laminate a classroom set (one per student) of images selected from The Year in Pictures Web site at As an alternative, the images may be made into overheads or copies may be placed in protective sleeves. To copy pictures to a document, right-mouse click on the image, select, copy, and paste it into a document file.
Bookmark all Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom.

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

Post the following quotes on the board or on an overhead projector:

Quote A
"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera" -Dorothea Lange

Quote B
"The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself." -Edward Steichen

Quote C

"Thought is impossible without an image." -Aristotle

Quote D
"A picture is worth a thousand words." -Unknown

Discuss what the authors of these quotes meant. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to go to the Picture's Worth a Thousand Words Web site at and identify the "real" phrase and the controversy surrounding the statement.

Discussion of Quotes A and B may center on how pictures tell stories; it may also suggest the biased or objective nature of a picture. Discussion should also lead to the close connection between social interaction and societal references – the context for most societal issues arise from social contacts. Discussion of the latter quotes will likely engage more critical discussion. The idea that pictures form a platform for greater concepts promotes an understanding of the role of art in human enterprise. Discussion of Quote D is best facilitated by knowing that the actual phrase is, "A picture is worth ten thousand words." According to Paul M. Lester of California State University-Fullerton, the statement is a Chinese proverb that explains the harmony, rather than the hegemony, that exists between words and pictures. Restate to students, "With the correct interpretation of the proverb, words and pictures live in harmony as they are both used equally in order to understand the meaning of any work that uses them both."

Step 2:

Distribute the "Lenses" activity sheet to each student. Ask students to predict what the photographer was trying to convey by developing a title for each of the pictures shown on the activity sheet. Ask students to pair up after adding their title to the picture. Give students a few minutes to discuss similarities and differences in their titles.

Step 3:

Write a new phrase on the board, "Communities are fantastic social laboratories." Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking each pair of students to log onto the Photography & Social Change site at to find the meaning of documentary photography. Instruct students to write the definition of documentary photography on the "Lenses" activity sheet. (Documentary photography both records and demonstrates the importance of people, places, events, and circumstances.)

Step 4:

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION asking students to place a check next to titles they developed that accurately predicted the content and intent of the original photographer. On the reverse side of the "Lenses" activity sheet, students should record two goals of the Photography and Social Change course. (Title #1: Reading tutorial at Bean Elementary School; Title #2: Women's Protective Services Shelter; Title #3: Lakeside Retirement/Rehabilitation Center; Title #4: Haven Animal Shelter; Title #5: Buckner's Children's Home. Some of the goals of the Photography & Social Change course were: to investigate the impact of policies and social change on citizens – their resistance to structural impediments and citizens as social change agents. Students conducted social problem research through community service, observation, and documentation.)

Learning Activities

Step 1: Applying Aesthetic Realism as History

Using laminated pictures downloaded from The Year in Pictures: 2000 Web site, engage students in photojournalism. Hold laminated pictures face down and allow each student to pick a picture for essay development. Once pictures have been distributed to all students face down, coordinate reflection time by asking students to turn pictures over and spend three minutes reflecting on their chosen image. Instruct students to write a one-word descriptor of the image on the front of a 3x5 index card. On the reverse side of the card, instruct students to write a one-sentence improvisation of the theme incorporating the one-word descriptor they provided on the front of the card. Finally, on a separate sheet of paper, instruct students to write a commentary of the picture in 3-5 sentences exploring themes, thoughts, or reflections. Create a class gallery/exhibit of the images and index cards. Use the "Gallery Template" (landscape or portrait view) to mount the students' reflections.

Step 2: Observing Documentary Photography in Video

Distribute the “At the River I Stand” questions. Inform students that documentary photography has evolved to become documentary film. Ask students to name images that they associate with the 1960s and Civil Rights in general. (Some of the images students may associate with the '60s and Civil Rights include pictures of Martin Luther King and family, Rosa Parks, SCLC, March on Washington, Kennedy Family, Little Rock 7, Thurogood Marshall, Freedom Riders, Klan members, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X and family.)

Insert Road to Freedom #5: At the River I Stand into your VCR and inform students that the video they will see is a documentary film about Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by informing students that Question 1 on their worksheet will be answered during the first 10 seconds of the video. PLAY tape from the beginning. You will see opening credit "Film from California Newsreel." The narration begins with background music and lyrics that state, " more river to cross." PAUSE tape to CHECK for understanding when burning buildings appear on the screen and the narrator states, " was the end of an era in the Civil Rights movement." (The emergence of labor unions in the United States concurrently with the Civil Rights movement helped to polarize the citizens of Memphis in spite of apparent social harmony between whites and blacks.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking students to consider who Coby Smith, Taylor Rogers, and Clinton Burrows (referred to in Question 2) may have been in 1968 if this documentary was developed in 1993 (25 years later). PLAY tape. PAUSE tape at the conclusion of Mr. Burrows' interview. You will see him speaking; his final comment is, "...let us have the money to buy as others." (From the apparent age of the men, Coby Smith was probably among the young protesters who supported change. Additional footage in the video shows that Mr. Smith, trained in non-violent strategies, was leaning toward a more definitive resistance to oppression of the '60s. Mr. Rogers and Mr. Burrows were both sanitation workers directly affected by poor working conditions.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by checking to make sure students have identified at least four reasons why the men were willing to strike in 1968 (Question 3). (Injury could lead to firing, no benefits/workmen's compensation, no overtime pay, long work hours, filthy working conditions, no paid vacation, no grievance procedures, full time workers qualified for welfare benefits, poor salary.)

PLAY tape. STOP tape when you see a large number of men walking in a parking lot. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by stating to students that the answers to Questions 4, 5, and 6 were provided in the last segment. If necessary, REWIND tape to review for students who may have missed answers and/or video clues.

FAST FORWARD the tape to the image of a black and white photo of a white man pointing his finger. The narrator states, "Standing firmly against the union is newly elected mayor Henry Loeb. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to consider the phrase plantation mentality (Question 7). PLAY tape. STOP tape when you see Jerred Blanchard being interviewed. His final comments are, "No, no...we're going to have a union." (Plantation mentality was espoused by both blacks and whites. It was a pseudonymic state of harmony between whites and blacks in which whites "took care of" blacks and blacks waited to receive their subsistence from whites.)

Ask students to conjecture the social climate of Memphis as a result of the strike. (A clear dividing line between blacks and whites is being drawn as a result of the unified efforts of the striking men. Additional footage suggests that even though city council and the police force were integrated, distrust and discontent among citizens and politicians was growing.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify the significance of Rev. James Lawson (Question 8). FAST FORWARD tape to the image of Rev. Lawson at a press conference. He begins his comment saying, "When a public official orders a group of men..." PLAY tape. STOP tape when you see a black and white photo of a marcher wearing a placard that says, "I AM A MAN." During the final segment, students should be able to answer Questions 9 and 10. Walk around the room to monitor that all students are on task. (Reverend James Lawson played a significant role in the Sanitation Worker's strike. He was a major organizer with respect to community agencies on the local level. He also helped to raise funds and bring national attention to the civil rights cause presented by the striking men.)

Step 3: Identifying the Next Generation of Documentary

Start a closing discussion by saying, "The role of imagery in recording history is clear." Isolated pictures transferred to video formats are now being re-evaluated as valuable art. Many galleries are now available online. There are many photographers whose images helped preserve history, but very few Civil Rights photographers were African-American. Gordon Parks and Ernest Withers, however, are two whose work is available. The "I AM A MAN" slogan of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike galvanized men (and women), including Dr. Martin Luther King, in the fight for fair pay.

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to consider the following question: Which medium is more powerful at communicating the human condition: still art, novels, video, or multimedia Web-based forms?

Instruct students to upload the previously bookmarked images available on Chrysler Museum of Art at, Shattered: September 11 at, and Kodak Civil Rights Photography at (Answers will vary. As part of the discussion, indicate that all three forms validate the authenticity of the other. As consumers of information, it is important to know that some representations may be biased simply because they cannot be fully verified. A full "picture" is developed best by all four means: pictures, videos, words, and Web media.)

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1: Establishing the Connection of Culture to Policy, History, and Change

Ask students to think about the key ideas (as presented in the video) that initially polarized young black citizens and older black citizens, but would eventually be the same points that brought them together. (Possible answers include: nonviolence versus more vocal resistance; economic strength/independence; self-respect; religious freedom, and; freedom of expression.)
Duplicate this drawing on the board:

Note to Teacher
Drawing represents several roads/rivers coming together for one common cause: FREEDOM

Ask students:

Consider the interpretation of the titles "Road toward Freedom" and "At the River I Stand" represented by the drawing. (At stake in the "Memphis Movement" were social, political, and economic liberties that younger citizens demanded, often arrogantly, while older citizens often accepted a diminutive "portion." In the late '60s, common needs – public health, decent wages, "professional" acceptance, common goals, and common resolve for change brought all views together: the conservative to the radical, the old to the young, the South to the North, and the East to the West. The "Poor People's Campaign" is evidence of this phenomenon.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the non-violent movements of the '60s was the power of the "march" to bring attention to a cause. The road then serves as an icon for marching. Metaphorically, it can also represent a great distance - through space, time, or circumstances. Like roads, which are largely construed to be rough/unpaved terrain, rivers may also be unpredictable and difficult to navigate.)

Describe what systems existed in the '60s that could be interpreted as "old ways" and "new ways." Old ways: slavery, indentured servitude, sharecropping, dependence; New ways: equality, economic freedom, independence.)

Identify the difference between the two smaller "rivers" represented on the right side of the drawing. (In the drawing, one of the smaller rivers is cut off by the "New Way" path, while the other feeds into the path. This might indicate militant groups that are little known today in comparison to those that still exist or survived throughout the duration of the Civil Rights Movement.)

Change the theme of "freedom" to a new theme appropriate for some other era in American or world history that could also be represented in a drawing similar to the one drawn. (Answers will vary greatly. Consider for example "CONTACT" to describe the Clinton Era in the United States. Clinton became known as the "MTV president" due to his appearances in media forms that catered to the tastes of younger Americans.)

Step 2: : Identifying Symbols of the Change

Established in 1966, Kwanzaa was born out of the pain associated with converging divergent pathways into one road toward freedom. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, informing students that on the next Web site they will study the symbols of Kwanzaa and identify whether these are social, cultural, or political symbols. Distribute the "Kwanzaa Symbol Classification" sheet. Log onto the Official Kwanzaa Web site "Symbols" page. Allow students 5-10 minutes to navigate the site and complete the activity sheet.

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify the Nguzo saba along with their Swahili and English meanings. Instruct students to record their responses on the "Kwanzaa Symbol Classification" sheet. (The Nguzo saba are Swahili terms that form the basis of the Kwanzaa observance.)

Nguzo saba
Umoja: unity
Kujichagalia: self-determination
Ujima: collective work and responsibility
Ujaama: cooperative economics
Nia: purpose
Kuumba: creativity
Imani: faith

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Explore the meaning of words that epitomize specific principles. Consider creating a cultural dictionary using the same ideals expressed in other languages. Consider esperanza (“hope,” Spanish), tikkun (“repair,” Aramaic/Hebrew), cuidar (“to take care of,” Portuguese), gambatte (“hang in there,” Japanese), veritas (“truth,” Latin), salaam (“peace,” Arabic), önfeláldozás (“self-sacrifice,” Hungarian).

Media images can be overwhelming without a context. Invite families in crisis to use documentary art to assuage anxiety through creative expression. Using a disposable instant camera, a digital camera, or pictures from published sources, chronicle a situation by collecting images surrounding a theme or event. Develop a teen pregnancy information center using documentary photos like those available on the A Closer Look at Teen Pregnancy Web site at

Use this lesson to further investigate the Labor Movement in the United States. Consider chronological parallels between the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, the Labor Movement, and the Industrial Age in the United States.

Develop students' critical listening skills using Internet audio files. Using video segments from the Road to Freedom episode, compare and contrast the sentiments presented in the video against those presented in the speeches of Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, or Malcolm X. Audio files of speeches made by various American leaders may be found on the Historic Audio Archives: Voices of the Civil Rights Era Web site at or the Great American Speeches: RFK Eulogy of MLK Web site at

Many "grassroots" movements use literary forms as a vehicle to carry their messages across race, class, and gender lines. Study the works of Amiri Baraka (aka Leroi Jones) as protest prose, or the journalism ideas presented by the Young Lord/Black Panther Party 10-/13-point programs Web site at

Community Connections
  • Kwanzaa builds on fundamental concepts of continental African life: harvest, family and kinship, identity, celebration, respect, remembrance, responsibility, and avowal. Host a Kwanzaa karamu for students and families. Use one-word themes (like Cooperation, Victory, Gratitude) to guide the organization of the observance. Make it a school-wide project to include community service or the opening of a school/class store, or encourage family participation through recipe exchanges, storytelling events, and food festivals. Exhibit student essays improvised from family photos. Visit the Official Kwanzaa Site at to gain an understanding of the historical context, African influences, and development of the observance in the United States.

  • The New York Times Multimedia Web site at presents photographers' journals that combine photo essays with audio commentary. Use the site during Women's History Month to explore Ruth Fremson's "Behind the Veil" essay. Other multimedia links are available to explore a variety of special interests related to New York Times articles/headlines.

    Visit Rutgers University’s virtual gallery,Women in NJ History at Life magazine also hosts a photo gallery online of classic pictures of varying themes from Americana to Winter Wonderland at Allow your class to be inspired by these Web-based galleries and create a community gallery for citizens. Use the gallery to bring older citizens into schools as oral and pictorial historians.