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An Early Canadian Photo Album

A Teaching Strategy for Use with the Images Canada Website

It is important that students learn about primary sources at an early age and use them in appropriate ways. Primary sources give students the opportunity to extract and interpret information, exercising higher thinking skills in the process. Images Canada provides a wealth of images that reveal details about life in Canada's past, and gives students an excellent opportunity to use primary sources and learn their first Web research skills at the same time.

In this project, students will search the Images Canada database for images depicting life in Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They will use these images to create a photo album.

Copyright / Credit

Students need to properly Credit images used from the Images Canada website. For more information on copyright and reproduction of images, please see Copyright.


Social Studies (History) and Language Arts
Ages 13-15

Learning Outcomes (WCP)
Objectives (QC)
Learning Outcomes (APEF)
Expectations (ON)

Social Studies Outcomes (History):

In completing this project, students will:

  • Access and use appropriately information from primary and secondary sources, using the Internet and other media

  • Describe the everyday life of various groups in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Language Arts Outcomes:

(W) Writing

  • Produce pieces of writing using a variety of specific forms, techniques and resources appropriate to the form and purpose, and materials from other media

(O/V) Oral and Visual Communication

  • Communicate ideas and information for a variety of purposes

These Language Arts Outcomes correspond to:

  • WCP GO - W: 3.3, O/V: 5.1
  • Quebec objectives - 1 (Writing); 4, 1 (Oral)
  • APEF CGO - W: 9; O/V: 2.1

Student Demonstration of Learning

Students create an "Early Canadian Photo Album" (10 to 15 photos with accompanying text) depicting an aspect of Canadian life during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Materials/Resources Required

Computers with access to the Internet
Student Handout
Assessment Criteria

Web Links

Images Canada, hosted by Library and Archives Canada:

"Defining Primary and Secondary Sources"

For a comparison with American experiences: American Memory: Original Format: Photos & Prints:

Instructional Procedures

Enhancing Student Interest

This activity could be preceded by Library and Archives Canada's "Defining Primary and Secondary Sources" activity (see Web Links above), which introduces students to different kinds of primary sources in everyday life.

Large Group Work

Bring a personal photo album to class. Share photos, and for two or three pre-selected photos, relate a detailed recollection of the pictured events, thus communicating your involvement in the "story behind the picture."

Following this photo sharing, ask students for their opinions on the following:

  • Why do people take photographs?
  • Why do we enjoy looking at photos?
  • What makes a good photograph?
  • What is a "photo album"?
  • What different types of photo albums are there (family, trip, theme, subject study…)?

Small Group Work

Phase I - Experience

Organize the class into small groups of 3-5 students. Each group is responsible for designing an "Early Canadian Photo Album" of 10 to 15 photos depicting an aspect of Canadian life during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Each group's first challenge is to decide the focus of the photographic content. Will the photos concentrate on:

  • Homes?
  • Transportation?
  • Clothing?
  • Work?
  • Food?
  • Leisure?
  • Pioneers?
  • City dwellers?
  • First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit?
  • Other areas?

Phase II - Research

Introduce the students to the Images Canada website. If necessary, review keyword search procedures to find images related to a topic. Generally, each search topic will yield many results.

Model the process of selecting appropriate and revealing images using the following criteria:

  • Photo clarity
  • Relevance to project focus
  • Accuracy (is it a genuine depiction of an aspect of life at the time or a romantic or biased representation?)
  • Information (how much useful information is communicated by the image?)

Students select and obtain 10 to 15 photos related to their album focus.

Phase III - Interaction

Demonstrate the following process.

  • Study each photo carefully. Number a paper 1 to 5.

  • Beside (1), list all of the nouns (people, places, objects) you see in the photo. Underline 3 to 5 key nouns from your list.

  • Beside (2), list at least one adjective to describe each of your underlined key nouns.

  • Beside (3), briefly describe personal feelings you have when you focus on each of the key nouns.

  • Imagine yourself in the photo. Beside (4), Make notes about where you would be, what you would be doing, who would be involved with you and how you might interact with them.

  • Beside (5), use the results of (1), (2), (3) and (4) to write a fictional, personal recollection of your involvement in the pictured event.

Each group will complete this process for each of its 10 to 15 photos.

Phase IV - Communication

The "Early Canadian Photo Album" (10 to 15 photos with accompanying fictional account generated in phase III) is collated. Now it will be subjected to a "credibility rating." Each group member must submit the album to an exterior reader (parent, teacher, adult or older student) who rates the content (based on the use of time-appropriate vocabulary and language, historical references, text-to-photo relationship and personalization of the pictured event) as:

  1. Hard to believe
  2. Moderately credible
  3. Very credible
  4. Almost authentic.

The reader is also invited to provide suggestions for improving the credibility level of the group's "Early Canadian Photo Album."

Phase V - Evaluation

Each group meets with the teacher in order to:

  1. Present its completed "Early Canadian Photo Album."
  2. Present and discuss the feedback obtained during the phase IV's credibility rating.
  3. Describe what new historical information or insights they were able to acquire in the process of creating the "Early Canadian Photo Album."

Notes on Enriching This Activity

An Early Canadian Photo Album | Student Handout | Assessment Criteria

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