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Battle of Lake Champlain in Images

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: War of 1812

Grade Level: 4-12

Common Core Standards
SL5.2. Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
SL4.3. Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points.

Content Areas: Social Studies, Language Arts, Art

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minutes

Learning Goals: Students will use an analytical framework to grasp information from an image of a historic event.


  1. Introduce the activity by discussing how images of important events are captured. Lead the discussion to the fact that the War of 1812 happened before cameras. Images from that time had to be drawn or painted by people who were there, or by artists who talked to or read accounts of witnesses.
  2. If you have not used it before, distribute copies of the Library of Congress’s “Primary Source Analysis Tool.” Describe the three main activities for analysis: Observe, Reflect, Question.
  3. Distribute copies of the historic images of the Battle of Lake Champlain.
  4. Either orally or in writing, have students observe what they see in the picture. Guiding questions might include:
    • What is the setting of the picture?
    • What do you notice first?
    • What are the people and objects you see?
    • How are they arranged?
    • How are they similar or different?
    • What other details do you see?
  5. Either orally or in writing, have students reflect on what they see in the image. Guiding questions might include:
    • What is happening in the image?
    • Why do you think this image was made?
    • When do you think it was made?
    • Who do you think was the audience for this image?
    • What tools were used to create it?
    • If someone made this today, how would it be different? Same?
  6. Either orally or in writing, have students ask questions about the picture. Guiding questions might include:
    • What do you wonder about?
    • Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Assessments: Informal assessment based on participation.

Primary Source Teachers' Guide and Images of the Battle of Plattsburgh (pdf), which includes:

Special Considerations: If students are not familiar with image analysis, the teacher may want to practice with several simple or familiar pictures to practice the skill before using a topical content image.

Extensions: Students may want to analyze several images of the same event. Students may want to try and find answers to the questions they generate as part of their analysis.

Notes: The Library of Congress is a wonderful place for primary sources. Their comprehensive Teachers’ Guide to using Primary Sources can be found online:
We have reproduced two of their guides here, the Primary Source Analysis Tool and the Teachers Guide to Analyzing Photographs & Prints.