The San Diego Unified School District welcomes you to this web-based resource. Great care has been taken in assembling a range of materials to support the teaching and learning of history-social science in classrooms across San Diego County. Click on the following links to learn more about them:
While we hope these resources are valuable for you and your students, we realize that the fourth grade collection cannot be stagnant. The selected photographs, suggested questions, and bibliography represent a starting point. We need the voice of San Diego’s teachers to continue to shape and refine these resources. Please let us know:
- What additional topics could be enhanced with photographs?
- What books need to be added to the bibliography?
- What questions elicit talk that builds understanding?
- How have you used the images to support teaching and learning?
Visual literacy is an area of study in which students analyze, interpret, and pose relevant questions to support their understanding of history through the use of photographs, historical documents, maps, architecture and artworks. The California History-Social Science Framework is based on the premise that history should be presented as a “story well told”. Visual literacy allows teachers to make the story of history more vivid by bringing the past to life through images that depict the struggles and triumphs of men and women who lived in other times and places. Photographs provide us with images of past events. Today, historians study the content and the meaning of these visual images to locate information about particular topics, times, or events. Photographs can convey countless details about people, cultures, places, and experiences. For historians, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Sometimes, photographs are the only means of reconstructing the materials words, and behaviors of people who may not leave many written records.
Fourth Grade Collection and Support Materials
The web-based visual literacy collection includes a strategic set of images selected for their potential to enrich the 4th grade curriculum by making San Diego’s history both visible and tangible. Fourth grade students study the story of California from pre-Columbian cultures to the present day. A focus on the visual history of San Diego serves to connect local events and cultures to the story of California. An initial emphasis on local history allows teachers to construct bridges of understanding from familiar information to the new information. The fourth grade visual literacy collection is not intended as a complete curriculum nor is it intended to replace the curriculum currently used by teachers and students. Rather, this rich body of primary source documents is intended to supplement existing curricula, encourage academic discourse, and help students make connections from the past to present. The photographic resources are intended to “make history come alive” for the students of San Diego. Multiple resources are available for teachers through this website including:
- Photographs suitable for electronic downloading or printing
- Big ideas, content standards, and analysis skills
- Essential questions and topical questions
- A bibliography of relevant texts
Big Ideas, Content Standards and Analysis Skills
Every photograph in the fourth grade visual literacy collection has been aligned to the California fourth grade history-social science content standards. Content standards provide an important framework for teachers as they define the curricular and assessment emphases of their social studies program. However, it is important to recognize that the content standards serve as guideposts to a set of bigger ideas. The enduring understandings or “big ideas” serve to anchor and link lessons, units, and courses of study within and across grade levels. The California History-Social Science Content Standards identify a series of analysis skills that are also important in building understanding of historical concepts. These skills include intellectual reasoning, reflection and research skills and are related through the following strands:
- Chronological and Spatial Thinking
- Research, Evidence and Point of View
- Historical Interpretation
The big ideas and accompanying topical and essential questions are referenced from the History -Social Science Standards Based Implementation Models Template, and are available through the San Diego County Office of Education. Click here to order the document: http://jrrtcevents.sdcoe.net/hssp/default.htm
Essential and Topical Questions
Essential questions are provocative in nature and designed to engage student interest and guide inquiry into the important ideas in history-social science. The essential questions are intended to stimulate discussion about the context and content of the photos as they relate to the big ideas for grade four. Topical questions are more focused and content-specific than essential questions and provide an explicit link to the content.
Photographs as Primary Source Documents
Photographs, like other primary sources, must be studied carefully and critically. While they appear to be the most objective and accurate of all primary sources they are not. Photographs are not always a moment “frozen in time.” They are the product of the photographer’s intentions, perspective, expertise, and equipment. Photographers have the ability to manipulate the event, intentionally and unintentionally. It is the photographer and the camera’s frame that defines the picture’s content. The photographer chooses what will be in the picture, what will be left out, and what the emphasis will be.
Photographs are especially significant for students. They provide visual images of the past which is so important for young people whose personal memories may extend only into the last decade. The analysis of photographs can stimulate students’ visual sense as well as their cognitive abilities as they pursue an understanding of history and its imprint on their lives.