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Stop and Source!

photography, Jonathan with a ball, c. 1957 digitized 23 May 2010, Flickr CC

I am teaching first grade. As part of the lesson I am going to put photographs of families from the 1900s into an album and ask the students how these families are the same or different than their own families. Any suggestions on how to spice this up?


Before you place photos in an album and make comparisons, use your pictures to introduce an activity called Stop and Source. Sourcing refers to taking inventory of the creator, date, place, and type of a piece of evidence in order to “read” it more accurately. Sourcing is an essential skill for critical analysis and information literacy. As soon as children have books read aloud to them or look at pictures, they can be introduced to the concept that all texts, written or visual, have a creator and a time when they were made.

  1. Choose pictures for which you have some source information such as the date taken, the photographers’ names or where they were taken, etc. You may wish to use pictures from the late 1800s to make a bigger contrast with today.
  2. Project a long ago picture with an overhead or interactive board and ask your students to describe what they see.
  3. Next, project a picture from today and again ask your students to describe what they see.
  4. Ask your students what is different about the pictures.
  5. Ask your students why these things are different.
  6. Next, share the available source information for the pictures with your class, such as:
    • WHO took the picture?
    • WHEN was the picture taken?
    • WHERE was the picture taken?
  7. After you share the source information for each picture, ask your students if the dates are the same or different, if the places and photographers are the same or different, etc. Could differences in time and place that we find in the source information begin to explain some of the differences in the pictures?
  8. To help your students remember to always look for sourcing information when they read a book or look at a picture, teach them to Stop and Source with a kinetic activity. Ask them to stand up, raise a hand to their shoulder, palm out, then push it forward as they say “Stop and Source!” Do this a few times, then return to your activity.
  9. Project another photo and ask your class what to do first. Hopefully they will say “Stop and Source!”
  10. Repeat the comparison of a pair of pictures from long ago and today.

This activity will help your students begin to develop a sourcing habit, and understand that source information helps us “read” pictures accurately.


Wineburg, S. and D. Martin. "Seeing Thinking on the Web." The History Teacher 41(3) (2008).

For more information 

The Bringing History Home project's Source, Observe, Contextualize, Corroborate Visual Image Analysis Guide can help guide your students' sourcing.

Or check out this Ask a Master Teacher by Teachinghistory.org on using scrapbooking in the history classroom.