A picture is worth a thousand words

man in water

“How do you make sense of what you see when you look at an image, especially if that image comes with no caption, headline, links or other clues about its origins? What can constructing meaning from an image teach you?” – New York Times 

I’ve always loved the New York Times “What’s Going On In This Picture” feature. Each week, they choose a picture and ask students to answer three simple questions: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find? Students are allowed the opportunity to form their own interpretations and share ideas. They are encouraged to post their findings and cite evidence to prove their argument. Throughout this process, students are engaged, developing critical thinking skills and constructing knowledge.

What is really interesting is that the image analysis skills needed to find information is similar to those skills required for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) reading anchor standards. CCSS1

If you want to see how the rest of the CCSS reading anchor standards align to image analysis skills, check out the Library of Congress (LOC) – Teaching with Primary Sources table.

As teachers, we are always looking for lessons to meet our content standards. Both the New York Times and the Library of Congress have lesson plans and teaching resources already created (or that can be modified) that incorporate their images and non-fiction informational texts. Below is a list of potential ideas and links:

  1. Create your own version of the New York Times Learning Network’s “What’s Going On In This Picture”.
  2. The New York Times has a Learning Network Blog that offers content specific lesson plans and learning materials. Lesson examples: Exponential Outbreaks: The Mathematics of Epidemics or The Fall of the Berlin Wall: Reporting in 1989 and Remembering 25 Years Later.
  3. The Library of Congress expanded this concept to include all types of primary sources. They created Teacher Guides and Analysis Tools for analyzing motion pictures, maps, political cartoons, oral histories, etc.
  4. The Library of Congress also has a comprehensive education site. This site offers a teacher’s blog along with teacher-created lesson plans. Lesson examples: Titanic (bias) or Nature’s Fury (interpreting and constructing meaning).

If you think you have a lesson or an idea that might be created/adapted using images or primary sources, just let Kellie or I know. We’d love to help you!


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