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National Museum of Naval Aviation
History Education Program

Home Front - Section II

Photograph Analysis

Is seeing, believing?

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This statement is especially true when applied to the study of history. Photographs allow us to see the past with our own eyes, giving us a glimpse into what the world was like before we existed. Through analyzing photographs we are able to gain knowledge and insight into how those who came before us lived. If someone explains the appearance of downtown Pensacola during World War II, we can only imagine it and if we have no prior knowledge our imagination will most likely be inaccurate. However, if we are shown a photograph, we are able to place a picture in our minds and improve our ability to relate to the past.

This "Photograph Analysis" exercise not only allows students to relate to the past and improve their knowledge of a time gone by, but aids them in learning to be very specific about what they see and what they think they see. This activity gives students the opportunity to learn how to differentiate between fact and speculation while improving their ability to think critically and formulate constructive opinions. Also, through participation in this exercise students will learn new techniques and analytical skills that will benefit them when conducting future research. Through use of the provided worksheet, students are given an opportunity to learn and use these skills, while also practicing constructive question framing and asking. By completing this exercise students are being introduced to practices that are essential in building effective learning skills that will not only benefit them in their study of history, but other subject areas as well.

What do you see?

Do not explain the photographs to your students prior to distributing them. It is best to copy the photographs onto transparencies so that they may be displayed in a large format in front of the class. If possible, the preferred method for analysis of photographs is to place students into small groups and give each group a different photo. Provide each student in the group with a copy of the photograph that the group has been assigned for analysis. The next step is to give each student a copy of the provided "Photograph Analysis Worksheet," and make sure all students understand the directions. Allow twenty to thirty minutes for analysis of the photos. After the allowed time has passed, call upon each group, one at a time, to discuss their findings. As the photographs are being discussed, place them in large format in front of the students for the class to review together. Ask each group to first discuss what they have found to be fact, then move into a discussion of what they are speculating about the photograph. After a group is finished discussing their photo, open the photograph to discussion by the entire class. This will offer students more opportunities to use what they have learned. After a photograph has been fully analyzed, read the class the provided caption and discuss their reactions. Were the student's assumptions correct?

[click] the button below for exercise instructions and student worksheet.

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National Museum Of Naval Aviation

1750 Radford Blvd. Pensacola, FL 32508
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