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Getting Around - Transportation Photographs

Lesson Plans

Grade: 5 - 8

Time: One 50-minute class period

Lesson Introduction: This lesson uses the Transportation Photographs that are a part of the Nebraska Western Trails project. Students will view and analyze photos and then write a historically accurate story based on one of the photos.


Nebraska Social Studies Standards:

8.1 United States History

  • By the end of eighth grade, students will describe growth and change in the United States from 1801-1861.
  • By the end of eighth grade students will explain post Civil War changes in the United States, and the role of the United States in world  affairs through World War I.

8.4 Skills

  • By the end of eighth grade, students will demonstrate skills for historical analysis
  • By the end of eighth grade, students will improve their skills in historical research and geographical analysis.

AASL/AECT Information Literacy:

  1.  The student who is information literate accesses information efficiently and effectively.
  2.  The student who is information literate evaluates information critically and competently.
    2.1 Determines accuracy, relevance, and comprehensiveness
  3.  The student who is information literate uses information accurately and creatively.
    3.1 Organizes information for practical application
    3.2 Integrates new information into one's own knowledge
    3.3 Applies information in critical thinking and problem solving
    3.4 Produces and communicates information and ideas in appropriate formats


  • Strengthen critical observation skills
  • Gather and analyze data from photos and form generalizations
  • Develop writing skills


  • A computer for each student or show photographs to the entire class using an LCD projector
  • Access to Nebraska Western Trails web site
  • Copies of the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration Photo Analysis Worksheet for each student.
  • A copy of the Story Assessment form for the teacher


  1. To locate photographs go to the Nebraska Western Trails Project. Click on Photos. Scroll down and click on Transportation Photographs.
  2. Students will look at all photographs, then choose three to analyze using the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration Photo Analysis Worksheet.
  3. If there is no information with the photo, students will need to research their chosen types of transportation.


Final Project: Students will choose one of the three analyzed photos and write a story based on it. Requirements:

  • be realistic for the time period
  • use language from the time period
  • use the 6+1 Trait Writing

Use of the 6+1 Trait Writing Scoring Guide will be evaluated using the rubric. Stories will also be evaluated using the Story Assessment Form.

Extension Activities:

  1. Take photographs of various types of transportation used today. If a student in the year 2150 saw these photographs, what would they conclude?
  2. Instead of a story, students could write a diary/journal entry based on the photograph.
  3. Ask students to bring in photos of their parents, grandparents, and/or great grandparents that also show forms of transportation. Have students analyze them, and try to figure out when each was taken. Create a transportation timeline either on a bulletin board with the photos or on a computer as a Power Point presentation.

Please send comments to Kay Paulsen.

For more information, contact Devra Dragos.