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Organizing History Through Images

Students organize photographs from the U.S. Holocaust Museum both chronologically and conceptually in order to construct a narrative of the Holocaust.

Photography, Yedioth Sfarim Holocaust Flier Close-up, 8 Apr 2010, Flickr CC

In this lesson, students organize photographs in order to tell the story of the Holocaust and construct an evidentiary narrative that makes sense to them. The lesson does not include any “correct” ordering or organization of the photographs and instead encourages students to experiment with organizing them both chronologically and thematically.

This lesson also guides students through the process of revising conclusions based on the discovery of additional historical evidence. Students are given a definition of the Holocaust and asked to consider or revise the definition with each new photograph in order to illustrate how historical narratives change depending on the available evidence.

Reading and analyzing primary texts can often be a daunting task for students who struggle with basic literacy skills. However, because this lesson presents historical data in the form of photographs, it is an excellent way to provide all students with access to the historical process, and to support historical thinking with struggling readers or English language learners.

For more advanced or older students, the supplementary activity asks students to read and incorporate brief testimonies of survivors into their definition of the Holocaust.


The photographs that accompany this lesson are available here.

Teachinghistory.org Lesson Plan Rubric
Field Criteria Comments
Historical Content Is historically accurate?


Includes historical background?

The lesson requires students to “read” photographs and write a detailed “definition” of the Holocaust.

Requires students to read and write?

Captions and dates for each photograph are included in the lesson. There are additional background materials available.

Analytic Thinking Requires students to analyze or construct interpretations using evidence

Students construct an interpretation of the Holocaust using photographs.

Requires close reading and attention to source information?

Students closely “read” photographs and accompanying source information.

Scaffolding Is appropriate for stated audience?

Some of the photographs are disturbing (as is to be expected given the lesson’s topic).

Includes materials and strategies for scaffolding and supporting student thinking?

A student worksheet guides students through the process of analyzing each photograph and helps them focus on relevant details.

Lesson Structure Includes assessment criteria and strategies that focus on historical understanding?

Some general strategies for assessment are provided. Teachers will want to determine and communicate their criteria for assessment.

Defines clear learning goals and progresses logically?


Includes clear directions and is realistic in normal classroom settings?