Students are often asked comprehension questions based on text that they have read. However, it is important for students to consider pictures used in the text as well. Pictures can help increase students' understanding of the text, topic, or story. In this lesson, students are asked four different types of questions about historical photographs. The questions range in difficulty from those with answers that require inferences. Students learn to categorize questions by the four question types and use pictures to help them better understand history. 

Students will...
• Categorize questions according to the four picture–question–answer relationships: Right There,
Artist and You, On My Own, and Putting It Together
• Answer basic and inferential comprehension questions using the pictures in a text and or historic photographs
• Explain their reasoning when answering comprehension questions 


RL.1.1 Ask and answer such questions about key details in a text.
RI.1.5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
RI.1.7 Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.

1.LT-U.1. Make predictions about what will happen next in a story and explain why the predictions were or were not confirmed. 


Cole, Henry. (2012). Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad. New York, New York: Scholastic
Set during the Civil War, Unspoken follows a young girl as she discovers the secrets of her family's farm. Though we never see who is hiding in the hen house, the illustrations carry the protagonist's urgency to protect and care for whomever is using this stop on the underground railroad. Henry Cole's graphite illustrations capture details and carry powerful emotions. Though wordless, Henry has included an author's note at the end that tells his story and encourages readers to "write the words and make this story your own-- filling in all that has been unspoken." A wordless masterpiece on the underground railroad, Unspoken will appeal to those who pour over Brian Selznick's work.

Levine, Ellen. (2007). Henry's Freedom Box:A True Story from the Underground Railroad. New York, New York: Scholastic
Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday -- his first day of freedom.

Moore, K. (1994). If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War. New York, New York: Scholastic

Walker, Sally M. (2012). Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown. New York, New York: Harper Collins
Henry “Box” Brown’s ingenious escape from slavery is celebrated for its daring and originality. Throughout his life, Henry was fortified by music, family, and a dream of freedom. When he seemed to lose everything, he forged these elements into the song that sustained him through the careful planning and execution of his perilous journey to the North.

-[Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President, looking at a photo album with his son, Tad Lincoln, Feb. 9, 1864] (LOC)
-Crowd at Lincoln's second inauguration, March 4, 1865 (LOC)
-Original Caption: Photograph of a Drummer Boy with the United States Colored Infantry. U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: War and Conflict 139 Series Photographic Prints in John Taylor Album*, compiled ca. 1861 - ca. 1865
-Photo taken in September-October of 1862. President Abraham Lincoln surveys the battlefield of Antietam

Warm Up

Read Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole. Begin by introducing students to the (wordless) picture book. Explain that you have chosen a book without words because you want them to think about how pictures can tell a story. Go on to explain that pictures can also help readers to better understand a story they are reading. The focus of this session will be to practice this type of thinking by looking only at the pictures in the story and then at historical photographs fro the Civil War period. Have students begin examining the pictures on each page of the book while you ask them questions. Move through the story page by page, making sure to ask one or more of the four question types for each set of pictures. Explain to students the definition and purpose of each  question type as you introduce it. As you  progress through the story, have students identify the type of question you are asking. Remember  to allow time for students to also develop their own questions in addition to answering yours, and  record their questions for each question type on chart paper as reference. Always ask students to  explain how they arrived at their answers, as well as how each type of question can help them as  readers. Here are a few examples of the Picture–Question–Answer Relationship (P–QAR) Type questions for a story follow. 
Right There. Open to the first page of the book, and pose the following examples of Right There
questions: • What is the setting for this page? • What time of day is it?
Artist and You. Turn to the next page and ask the following examples of Artist and You questions: • What do you think the people are doing? • How do you think they feel?
You can ask a combination of Right There and Artist and You questions as follows: • What is the setting for this page? • What are the children/people doing? • How do the masters seem to feel about the slaves? Here is an example of a On My Own questions: • Why do you think this (whatever you choose) happened?  Putting It Together. To answer this type of question, students may need to review numerous pictures in the story. Have students look at the picture on the last page of the book. • What is going to happen next?

New Material

Historical Photographs


1. Have students sit on the floor or in such a way that they will all be able to see the photographs (on the screen). 

2. Begin by introducing students to the (wordless) picture book. Explain that
that historical photographs can help historians to better understand historical events. 

3. Explain that you will be asking students the same four different types of questions you asked while reading the wordless picture book (Right There. Artist and You. On My Own. Putting It Together). They will be able to answer some of the questions by looking directly at the picture. Other questions will require them to make their best guess based on the other pictures they have seen or their own prior knowledge. Tell students that the purpose of these questions is to help them think about what is going on in the photograph and to make connections across the collection of photos.

4. Begin by showing students the first slide. Pose the question, “What time of day is it
in this picture?” This would be an example of a Right There question. State some things that are right there in the picture. For example, you could say, “I can tell it is not nighttime because the sky is not dark.”

5. Engage students in a brief discussion about how answering this type of question can help them as readers. In this case, you might say, “Knowing this information helps me to make predictions about the historical events surrounding this photograph.”or  “I think this book is going to be about something that happens at during the day.”

6. Ask students to brainstorm and share some other examples of Right There questions based on what they see. You may wish to list these questions on a sheet of chart paper for later reference. When finished, ask students what other predictions they can make about the photos and have them develop their own questions.

7. Remind students that good readers ask themselves questions as they read a story. Asking and answering questions about the pictures in a story can help them to better make predictions about the story and understand what is happening. Observing historical photographs can also help us to understand and interpret actual events as well.

8.  End the session by reviewing the four question types, and answering any questions students may have. In the next session, students will have an opportunity to apply the strategy in small groups or in pairs.


Note how successful students were at brainstorming and answering each of the four question types. For example, some students may be comfortable with Right There questions, but may have difficulty with the other question types.  Ask students to write journal reflections explaining whether they find this strategy to be useful or not. Have students explain their rationales.

Closure and Reflection

Review and discuss with students the activity from the previous session. Remind students how they used pictures to help answer questions about the story. Let them know that they will work in groups for the next lesson to observe and draw more conclusions about the Civil War period in history.

Did the students meet the objectives?
Did the students learn new information about the Civil War?
Did the students answer the (P–QAR) Type questions accurately?
What can I do to improve this lesson next time?