Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
Follow The Annenberg Learner on Facebook Follow Annenberg Learner on Twitter

Protest and Politics

1968, Year of the Barricades

“On Assignment”

Learning Targets

  • I can assume the perspective of someone who lived through the events of 1968.
  • I can select photos to tell a story and write captions.
  • I can examine photos for elements such as vantage point and tone.
  • I can formulate questions about events, leaders, and student involvement in the protest movements.


Previously provided background and sources are relevant to this activity.

Questions to Consider

  • What is the role of the photographer (or journalist or narrator)?
  • What questions do photos answer? What questions do they raise?
  • To what extent is a photograph objective?

Begin the Activity

Give students the choice of the following assignments:

  • You work for the Columbia University student paper and are sent to document the events in April 1968.
  • You are a photojournalist for the French paper Le Monde, charged with covering events in Paris in May 1968.
  • You are an American sportswriter, sent with your pen and camera to cover the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968. You arrive early and find yourself covering, instead, the Tlatelolco Massacre.
  • It is August 1968, and you are a photography student living in Prague. The Soviets have just invaded, and you know the borders will soon be closed. You want to interview people and take pictures as evidence and smuggle them out to the Western press.

In each instance, students (individually or in pairs) use the Essential Lens project archive to create a photo essay that describes the events in their chosen location. Provide clear guidelines, such as suggesting they choose a specific number of photographs to become a short photo essay that would appear in a magazine or newspaper. Give them time to think about the effect they are creating by the types of photos, the point of view or setting of the photos, the sequence of the images, or the caption they write. Have students give the essay a title. You or your students can review the “Focus In” feature from the Essential Lens website, which provides methods on how to closely examine photographs for detail. Instruct students to end their photo essays with three to five questions they have about the events that they can’t learn from the background information or photos. You might also have them suggest ways they would have tried to answer those questions had they been around in 1968 and ways they could get answers today.

Extension Activities

1. Ask students to be “on assignment,” creating a comparative photo essay on events in all four countries.

2. If a student has a particular interest in one of the countries not covered in this collection (perhaps because of a familial tie to that place)—such as Spain, Brazil, Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, etc.—have the student research events and images from that place.

next: Create a Classroom Timeline or Visual Thinking Wall About 1968

Grade Level

Middle & High School


English Language Arts
U.S. History
World History


To download this collection, you must agree to the following terms:

Photos downloaded from the Essential Lens site are cleared for educational use only. For other uses, please contact Annenberg Learner for permission.

I Agree

Collection PDF (large)
Collection PDF (small)

Photographs in This Activity

© Annenberg Foundation 2015. All rights reserved. Legal Policy