Living Pictures

Language Arts and Social Studies Activity

Students tell the story of certain populations whose lives were affected by major events of the 20th century.



  1. Share with students photographs of typical scenes from the 20th century, such as photos of migrant workers, the flag-raising at Iwo Jima, and a bread line during the Great Depression. Have students "read" the pictures and describe how they think the people felt, what they think might have happened before the picture was taken, and what might have happened after.

  2. Divide students into teams. Tell students they are to research photographs of ordinary people of the 20th century whose lives were affected by major events. Each team is to research the lives of particular group, then tell its story by first forming a living picture, then having each person "step out" of the picture to give information about the people involved, that particular person's point of view, and events of the time.

    Use the following list of possible groups to start students thinking:

  3. In their "stories" about their characters, students should answer questions such as "Who are you?" "What are you doing in the picture?" "What is your life like?" "How do you feel about it?", etc.

  4. Have students rehearse their performances, then present their living pictures over a period of several days. Photograph the performances. If possible, videotape them.


Get a slide projector and project a background for the picture as large as possible, then have students "step into" the background and begine their performance.

Invite other classes to share a performance of all the living pictures. For younger classes, have students create an informative narrative to prepare them for each living picture.

Invite to class community members who witnessed major events of the 20th century. Ask them to share their remembrances, including photographs, and tell how those events affected their lives.

Encourage students to go further back in American history and find other major events (such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence) and form similar living pictures.

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