At a Glance

  • History teacher Joe Jelen, of Northwood High School, MD, introduces "zoom-in inquiry," a technique for approaching visual primary sources. Using PowerPoint, Jelen guides students in looking at small pieces of a political cartoon on the My Lai Massacre, slowly revealing the entire image.

Zoom-in Inquiry

Zoom-in Inquiry

Video Transcription

  • Zoom-in Inquiry

  • 4:35
  • Joe Jelen: Students participate in what's called a zoom-in inquiry, which is simply putting together a PowerPoint that's looking at a cartoon in small pieces, looking at a specific part of the cartoon and not the entire image, and revealing slowly the entire image to them, thereby eliciting responses about more specific pieces of the cartoon to engage in some hypthosis making and think about what's coming next and what they expect to see in the rest of the cartoon.

    Joe Jelen: So I want you to determine what you see. And what questions you might ask to get the bigger question here. Describe who you see.

    Student: The U.S. conscience.

    Student: It's like Uncle Sam.

    Joe Jelen: What do we think we're going to see next? We're expecting to see some things up here, alright. Let's find out. What new things do you see?

    Student: Nothing.

    Students: The top of the ditch.

    Student: Like the top part of the ditch, and it looks like some grass on top of that.

    Joe Jelen: So light and dark is being used, perhaps. This looks like the top of the ditch. It seems that he's down quite a way.

    Student: Like just below the grassy stuff, it looks like it's sort of like two walls pretty close together snaking off that way.

    Joe Jelen: What was described in some of that testimony?

    Student: That they were throwing them into some kind of trenchy ditchy thing—

    Student: That they were throwing them into the ditch.

    Joe Jelen: That there might—there was a trench involved in this whole thing, right? Hm. We might want to make sense of that. Well, let's make a hypothesis, why this person is on the ground.

    Student: I think that it's talking about how, like, the U.S. conscience died in the My Lai incident and that possibly there wasn't really morality in Vietnam, or it seemed that way.

    Joe Jelen: Loss of morality, that U.S. conscience has died here. Alright. Huh. Casey.

    Student: I think it goes maybe one step further and it's saying that U.S. soldiers maybe killed the U.S. conscience during their actions in My Lai, since—

    Joe Jelen: Maybe who we're going to see up here are U.S. soldiers?

    Student: —the U.S. soldiers pointing guns at the dead body. Joe Jelen: What new things do you see? Casey.

    Student: Well, there are people throwing up confetti, waving American flags, and somebody's holding up one of those, like, protest board things.

    Joe Jelen: Now, what questions do you need to ask, then, to get closer to the meaning of this whole cartoon? Jake.

    Student: What are they really cheering for?

    Joe Jelen: What are they really cheering for? Great question. Andrew. Student: Who are they?

    Joe Jelen: Who are these people? Good. Let's see then if we can get an answer to that. Huh. Now what do you see.

    Student: Um, that they believe he did the right thing and that they're happy with him, about it.

    Joe Jelen: Okay.

    Student: They support him in his decision or maybe they don't believe in his decision but they believe that he shouldn't be sentenced the way he was.

    Joe Jelen: So it might be that these people aren't supporting the decision, that they're with Lieutenant Calley. That they don't like the decisions of the court. Hm.

    Student: Well, it seems like they're almost [indecipherable] to the person in the ditch, the—it looks like it's Uncle Sam, just because of the heading at the top.

    Joe Jelen: Okay.

    Student: They don't see what really happened at My Lai, they just see this guy, this lieutenant in the Army who seemingly did something really patriotic and, you know, killed a bunch of stupid North Vietnamese enemy people and they don't see that he just massacred civilians.

    Joe Jelen: Slowing down the process of looking at the cartoon really helped students examine more closely details that you as a teacher want to have them pick out and help them examine. Instead of jumping in and looking at an entire cartoon at once and being bogged down by the overwhelming details of it, taking students through the process of examining pieces of the cartoon allows them to process the cartoon in a more logical manner and to develop greater understanding for them.