Learning from the Source: Pairing Pictures & Poems to Tell Stories


Students learn the power of pairing pictures with poems to tell stories about historical and contemporary issues.

  1. Display the paired primary sources (Image 1 | Image 2), showing only the images (i.e., cover up the text) and inform students that the poem accompanying these illustrations has been removed. Ask them to predict what the poem is about using details from the images to support their conclusions.
  2. Display the bibliographic records for the sources and ask students what new information they learned and what questions that they have.
  3. Divide students into groups of four and give each group one or more copies of the paired primary sources, featuring both the pictures and the poem. Direct groups to analyze the poem, using both the paired primary sources and the bibliographic records, based on the prompts below.
    • What kind of poem is it?
    • Who wrote it?
    • When was it written?
    • What is the overall tone of the poem?
    • What is the theme of the poem?
    • Look closely as specific words that the poet uses. What words and phrases appeal to your different senses?
    • How does this imagery compare or contrast with the illustrations that accompany the poem?
    • For whom do you think the poem was written?
    • What do you think the creators wanted the audience to think and feel when looking at the illustration and reading the poem?
    • What questions do you have?
  4. Discuss student analyses as a class.
  5. Direct students to read the introduction section of the National Child Labor Committee Collection in their groups to gain background knowledge, then discuss why they think the illustrated poem was included in the collection.
  6. Discuss student findings as a class.
  7. Tell students they will use what they have learned, combined with a new primary source analysis, to tell the story of an image from the National Child Labor Committee Collection through poetry.
  8. Instruct students to select a National Child Labor Committee photograph, complete a sensory exploration of the image they selected, review the source’s bibliographic record, and use both of these to write a poem to accompany the picture that tells a story about child labor.
  9. As a class, discuss contemporary issues involving kids. Challenge students to find/create a picture illustrating one of these issues and to write a poem that tells the story of the issue from their own perspective.
  10. Display student work and hold a gallery walk to allow students to learn from their peers. You might also display student work on a class website, blog, or Twitter account.

Image 1 bibliographic record

Image 2 bibliographic record

Common Core Anchor Reading Standards

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