Grade: 5

Using historical images from Whitecap Dakota First Nation, students will analyze the images for clues about the identity of the person in the photo. Students will then have an opportunity to use the information provided to them by the teacher to write a poem about the image.

Essential Question

How do photographs tell a story?

Big Idea

All people have a story that needs to be heard and understood.

View Complete Lesson Plan

Lesson Outline

Approximately 4 (45 minute) sessions

Part 1: Setting the Stage
Part 2: Examining the Photos
Part 3: Experimenting with Poetry
Part 4: Author Celebration


ELA CC5.4: Use a writing process to experiment with and produce multi-paragraph narrative (including stories that contain dialogue), expository (including reports, explanations, letters, and requests), and persuasive (including letters) compositions that clearly develop topic and provide transitions for the reader.
j. Experiment with different forms including poems, short scripts, and journal entries to communicate and demonstrate understanding.

ELA CR5.1: Analyze and respond to a variety of grade-level texts (including contemporary and traditional visual, oral, written, and multimedia texts) that address identity (e.g., Exploring Heritage), community (e.g., Teamwork), social responsibility (e.g. What is Fair?).
a. View, listen to, read and respond to a variety of visual, multimedia, oral, and print texts that examine the diverse range of personal identities, perspectives, and backgrounds (e.g., appearance, culture, socio-economic status, abilities, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, career path) including First Nations and Métis texts.

1. Teachers can use the Teacher Checklist to evaluate the different components of this lesson.
2. Students can complete the Poetry Self Evaluation Handout to reflect on their poem and how well they pulled out elements of the photograph.


Part 1: Setting the Stage

  1.  Choose one of the three example poems on the webpage that are displayed from the book When the Rain Sings By Young American Natives. Using the website information explain how the book and the poems were created and who the authors are.
  2.  Display just the picture of the image that the author wrote about. Walk through a picture talk doing a think aloud, so students can see how to view a picture. Depending on the photo, questions that could be thought through are:
    •  Describe what is in the photo.
    •  What do you think the object is?
    •  Where do you think the picture was taken?
    •  Why does the place look as it does?
  3.  Read the poem out loud while the students see the words and the image that the young author received their inspiration from in order to write their poem.
  4.  Discuss with the students how the poem matches with the image.
  5.  Discuss the poetic elements in the poem (Example: rhyme, rhythm, repetition, punctuation)


Part 2: Examining the Photos
Picture Talk Variation: Historic Photographs (Enriching Comprehension with Visualization Strategies By: Jeffrey Wilhelm, page 150)

  1.  Explain to students that they will now do their own picture talk, but their picture will have people in the photograph.
  2.  On a whiteboard, data projector or on chart paper, list the questions the student groups can reflect on as they view the photograph:
    •  Describe what is in the photo.
    •  How many people are in the picture? Do you think the people in the picture are related?
    •  How are the people feeling? How old are they?
    •  What event has happened?
    •  What is happening in the photo?
    •  What happened after the photo was taken?
    •  If you were there at the time the photo was taken, what do you think the people were saying or thinking?
  3.  Put students into groups of 3 or 4. Each group receives a photograph from Dakota Photo package.
  4.  Students paste the photo in the middle of a piece of chart paper. Students can write their thoughts to the answers to the questions around the outside of the photo on the chart paper.
  5.  After students have made notes on the questions, use the Photo Information sheet to share facts about the photos. Students can reflect on how that information changes some of their ideas about the photograph.
  6. Each student can write a I used to think… but now I think statement.

Part 3: Experimenting with poetry

  1.  Students can choose a photograph they would be interested in writing about. The following are suggestions of places to get photographs:
    1.  use one or the Whitecap Dakota First Nation historic photographs.
    2.  look through other photos from the National Museum of American Indian.
    3.  get students to talk to their family and get a historical photo (does not have to be the original photograph, could be a photocopy) from their family that   they could use as inspiration to create their own poetry.
  2.  Have students choose 5 questions from the Picture Talk Question Handout that they could use to think about their picture.
  3.  Discuss with students what the criteria would be for the poem. You could look at the poems from the motivational set to come up with criteria. Make sure to   tie in the curricular outcome.
  4.  Students then brainstorm ideas they could write about that would reflect the photograph they have chosen.
  5.  Students then experiment with creating a poem (if necessary, some students might need to do research about their photograph before they write their poem).
  6.  Students use the Poetry Self Evaluation Sheet and possibly receive either peer, teacher or adult feedback before writing their final copy of the poem.


Part 4: Author Celebration

  1.  Before students share their poetry, have the students photos and create a way to show them on a screen so the pictures are larger (example: document   camera, or scanning them into the computer and putting them in a Powerpoint).
  2.  Have students sit in a circle in an area where there is the ability to see each photograph when the poem is shared.
  3.  Go around the circle having each student share their poem.
  4.  After each author shares positive reflections could be shared around the circle by class members.
  5.  The poems and supporting images could be posted in the school to share to others.



  • Some students might need more guidance with creating a poem and might need to use a type of form poetry like an acrostic.


  • Students could continue collecting pictures for the different English Language Arts units they study and incorporating other types of writing or poetry to support the pictures so they would have a book to showcase at the end of the year.

Materials Required