Friday, November 09, 2007

A Presidential Doughface

As a writing exercise I often place pictures of important or famous people up on the screen in my room and ask students to provide a caption or write something about the picture. After a few minutes students share their ideas and then I share one of mine which leads into a quick lesson in history. Sometimes this type of activity can be used to review a topic, introduce something new, or simply move a unit along with additional content.

The last time I presented students with this image they came up with some interesting responses:

*My belly hurts. I should have left that last taco in the bag and thrown it away.

*When are they going to invent a real tie that doesn’t look like a bow?

*This man is important. He looks really smart. Maybe he’s a writer or a great thinker. I wish the picture was in color.

*The picture looks like it is from a long time ago. I didn’t know they had hair gel back then. Interesting!

These are the better ones, of course. I left out the silly, off the mark, or inappropriate ones that can be the result of this type of exercise, but you can see that some students can really get into the moment when analyzing photographs.

Next we discussed names and labels…words we use to identify individuals or groups of people. We talked about how those names aren’t always meant to be nice. We also talked about how some names stick simply because it’s easier to remember a group of people by a certain name in order to remember what they stood for….groups like tree huggers, Bible thumpers, and even educrats.

These types of monikers are not simply for the 20th and 21st century. Certain groups throughout history have claimed remembrance through their name such as the Know- Nothings, muckrakers, and don’t forget the hawks and doves.

Do you know who the gentleman is in my image?

It is President Franklin Pierce, our fourteenth president and the tidbit of knowledge I share with students is Franklin Pierce was a doughface.

What’s a doughface?

Well, click on through to the American Presidents Blog and you can scroll down to find my explanation.


CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I like this exercise! I think I'll try it with my reluctant writers and see if it gets them to pick up their pencils. Thanks!

EHT said...

CTG believe me when I say an exercise like this can really produce a great amount of chaff, but if you model it for them a few times....some "for" students and "with" students they will eventually be able to produce some great comments in the "by" students portion.

Geoff Elliott said...

Franklin Pierce was so unpopular at the time of his death that it took his hometown something like 40 or more years to erect a monument to his memory. On the way to his inauguration in Washington, his son (Bennie) was killed in front of his and his wife's eyes. A tragic man.

Geoff Elliott
The Abraham Lincoln Blog

EHT said...

Wow, Geoff...40 years. I hadn't seen that anywhere. So many did see him as a turncoat.

I believe I remember reading somewhere that his wife felt the loss of their son was punishment for obtaining the White House. Tragic....yes.

Thanks for visiting.