Oct 03

Pictures from the Past

In this lesson, students will analyze historical images and categorize them using background information they’ve learned throughout the school year. Images may also be used individually to address various standards.

Click here to download the full lesson with attached handouts. Pictures from the Past

Historical Background

This lesson is designed to be a pre or post assessment in teaching South Carolina or United States History.  The standards below are tied to the images associated with this lesson.  The time periods and labels are taken from a general survey of United States history and can be altered to suit your individual needs.


South Carolina Standards

This lesson includes standards indicators from 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 8th grades.  See chart below to identify images with indicators.



  • Students will analyze historical images.
  • Students will categorize historical images into time periods


Time Required                                                                    Recommended Grade Level

1 class period                                                                                                                          Elementary/Middle/High

Lesson Materials


Lesson Preparation

  • Print the ten historical images attached to this lesson onto blank 4×6 index cards.
  • Print the period labels and post in order around the room.
  • Print the Analyzing Photographs and Prints sheet


Lesson Procedure

  • Explain to students that they will be analyzing historical images and categorizing the images into time periods.
  • Pass out the Photograph Analysis sheet
  • Practice analyzing an image with the class.
  • Arrange students into groups or pairs. Distribute one post card image to each pair.
  • Instruct students to use the photograph analysis guide to help them interpret each picture.  Allow 10 minutes at most for analysis.
  • Instruct students to identify the time period that they believe their picture belongs to.  Once they have identified the time period they should stand near that label in the class.
  • Students should be prepared to explain why they chose the time period.
  • Give the class 5 minutes to identify and stand near their time period.
  • After all students are in place, go around the room starting with the “Colonial America” period.  Have each pair or group display their picture and explain why they chose the period to stand under.  Explanations should include historical information from their background knowledge.



This lesson is designed as an assessment to help identify what students know or have learned about South Carolina and/or United States history. You may have students write their explanations and turn them in for a more formal assessment.


Lesson Extension Options

  • After each student explanation, have the rest of the class vote “agree” or “disagree”.  If the students are in the wrong place, have them sit back down in group to re-analyze and try again.  Follow up with these students at the end of student explanations.  Allow them time to correct their misinterpretation and stand under the correct time period along with the rest of the class. Guide students as necessary.
  • You may also consider, guiding students as they are analyzing so that no one will have to sit down.


Digital Collections Information                    

This lesson plan is based on images and/or documents derived from the K12 Pilot Project Collection available from the University of South Carolina’s Digital Collections Library.


To see other collections that may be helpful to your search, visit the Digital Collections homepage or visit SCDL’s collections.

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