Picturing Our Lives Through Written Tales, Oral History and Photographs

Author: Dale Apple

School/Organization:

Lewis C. Cassidy Academics Plus School

Year: 2012

Seminar: "But Mostly I Lie A Lot" - The African American Short Story in the 21st Century

Grade Level: 4-6

Keywords: oral history, photographs, smart phones, social media, stories

School Subject(s): Social Studies, Technology

This unit will emphasize using photography to make connections to African American Short Stories. It will employ a variety of cutting edge technologies for digital photography, apps on smart phones, social media implications in relation to sharing media, movie making and podcasting. With an audience of upper elementary school students, it is designed for students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 but can be adapted for any upper grades through Grade 12.

Students will collect oral histories handed down through generations to explore their family identity, research how their families came to live in the United States, origins and meanings of their names, and explore connections to their communities using the Pennsylvania Historical Society archives along with family documents and stories.

Students will explore three short stories from the seminar that deal with issues they experience in their own lives: Toni Cade Bambara- “The Lesson” and economic disparity comparing lives of people who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds utilizing ,photographs from the Depression that showcase such disparity such as Migrant Farm Workers series by Dorothea Lange from the rural southwest and Walker Evans’ images of wealthy urban families during this same time period; Jamaica Kinkaid- “Girl” exploring mother/child relationships and “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. Students will look at photographs by contemporary African American photographer, Carrie Mae Weems, to see how she portrays relationships in families, particularly her Kitchen Table series.

Students will also consult Roy De Carava’s collaboration with Langston Hughes, The Sweet Flypaper of Life. Finally, they will study the work of Jamel Shabazz, a more contemporary “Hip Hop” photojournalist and compare it to their own family photo albums, as well as the phenomenon of “Instagram”.

Students will create their own photographic stories of their home life using the technology available to them: cell phone cameras, digital cameras, computer cameras and digital camcorders.

Lastly, using the interviews with families and stories about their ancestors, students will write stories about their lives; as well as create podcasts and/or movies using digital slideshows to conceptualize the soundtrack they feel best coincides with their lives.

Download Unit: DApple-2012-Unit.pdf

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