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The New York Public Library's Picture Collection Online In The English Language Arts Classroom

The Picture Collection Online gives you the chance to integrate images of a variety of types into the English language arts classroom. The following are some examples, organized by grade level and with correlations to the New York State Learning Standards. Many of the ideas included support Learning Standards in curriculum areas other than the English language arts. However, only the English language arts standards are listed here. Although these ideas are organized by age group you will find many are adaptable to younger or older ages.

Elementary School

Any one of the photographs, portraits, or illustrations available at The Picture Collection Online provides great opportunities for classroom creative writing activities. Select an image from the collection and ask your students to write a story or poem about that image. After students have completed their creative endeavors ask them to talk about what they think the image represents, how old it is, and where it came from. Then let them in on the real story about the picture. [New York State English Language Arts Standard 1 - Language for Information and Understanding; New York State English Language Arts Standard 2 - Language for Literacy Response and Expression]

image detailWork with another classroom on a postcard project. Show students how to browse through The Picture Collection Online. Divide the students into groups and have each group browse through the collection and select an image they would like to turn into a postcard. Print out the images the students selected and have each group mount "their" image on card stock. Then have the students write a message to a group of students in the other classroom that explains why they selected the picture on the front of their postcard. [New York State English Language Arts Standard 2 - Language for Literacy Response and Expression; New York State English Language Arts Standard 4 - Language for Social Interaction]

Intermediate School

When working on genre studies - humor, mystery, horror, science fiction, fantasy, etc. - ask students to search The Picture Collection Online database and create a gallery of images that provide visual representations of what a particular genre means to them. Before starting The Picture Collection Online search have students brainstorm what they might look for in an image that illustrates the qualities of a particular genre. Show students how the browse function at The Picture Collection Online works. Ask them if by looking at the subject headings for images in a particular category if they can make any predictions about the genre an image might depict. Students can then search the Collection for images. They can print out images, write captions discussing how each image represents a literary genre, and create posters or other visual materials. [New York State English Language Arts Standard 1 - Language for Information and Understanding; New York State English Language Arts Standard 2 - Language for Literacy Response and Expression]

Search The Picture Collection Online and find a selection of images that show New York City streets, neighborhoods, people, and buildings. Print out the images you locate. Divide students into small groups and distribute one image to each group. Ask the students to study the image and then to imagine themselves in the location that is shown. Have the groups create a list of what is the same and what is different about living in New York City at the time displayed in the image and today. Make sure each group of students is able to articulate why they think there are the differences and similarities and make sure they refer to the image in order to prove their point. [New York State English Language Arts Standard 1 - Language for Information and Understanding; New York State English Language Arts Standard 3 - Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation]

High School

image detailPrint out a selection of images from The Picture Collection Online and put them into groups of two. Try to develop pairings that create interesting visual connections between images. Divide the class into groups and have each group select one pair of images from those you have pre-selected. Have each group develop an oral presentation in which they compare and contrast the image pairs. In preparing for the presentation students should only use the information they can gather from the images themselves. Make sure that students highlight details of each image in their presentation to prove their points about similarities and differences. Following the presentations have students access The Picture Collection Online to locate the title, source, and date of the images they compared. You can then expand on the activity and have students research the two images using the Internet and print resources. [New York State English Language Arts Standard 1 - Language for Information and Understanding; New York State English Language Arts Standard 3 - Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation]

Use The Picture Collection Online website as a way to teach students in your classroom steps in the research process. Divide the students into small groups and give each group an image you selected from The Picture Collection Online. Ask each group to brainstorm questions they have about what's depicted in the image and to come up with search terms and phrases they might use to learn about what's shown in the image. Then have students use various Internet search tools - Google, Yahoo!, etc. - to locate information that answers the questions generated about their images. As the final part in the process ask each group to develop an oral presentation about the image they researched. [New York State English Language Arts Standard 1 - Language for Information and Understanding; New York State English Language Arts Standard 3 - Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation]