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Going to the Show: Lesson Plans

Image Analysis through the use of photographs, postcards and illustrations of the Bijou Theatre in Wilmington, North Carolina in the early 1900s

Introduction  |   Activities 1 - 2  |   Activities 3 - 4  |   Learn More

By using postcards and photographs related to the UNC DocSouth Going to the Show digital collection ( that highlights the moviegoing experience in the early 1900s, students will expand their visual literacy skills and gain experience analyzing comparable visual images of the same subject, and consider motivations for different visual image constructs.

A lesson plan for grade 8 Social Studies, grade 12 Social Studies
By Lisa Speaker



Time Required for Lesson:
1-2 class periods (80+ minutes). The amount of time required depends on how much analysis time the teacher allocates for the students. The lesson has three parts:

  1. Break the class up into 3 groups and give each group an image to analyze, either a photograph, a postcard or an illustration. All of the images will be of the same subject.
  2. Each group will report on its findings.
  3. As a class, identify and discuss key similarities and differences across the images, and the motivations for these variations.

Teachers might want to conclude the session with a collective wrap-up discussion and ask students to share: What did they find? What was most interesting? What was most surprising? Are there any major questions that their explorations generated? Where might they go to get answers to those questions?

A class period should be allocated for the students to prepare and/or present their summarized analysis (Activity 5).

Materials / Resources

Technology Resources


Social Studies - Grade 8
Goal 5: The learner will evaluate the impact of political, economic, social, and technological changes on life in North Carolina from 1870 to 1930.
Objective 5.02: Examine the changing role of educational, religious, and social institutions in the state and analyze their impact.
Objective 5.04: Identify technological advances, and evaluate their influence on the quality of life in North Carolina.

Social Studies - Grade 12

Goal 7: The Progressive Movement in the United States (1890-1914) - The learner will analyze the economic, political, and social reforms of the Progressive Period.
Goal 7.03: Evaluate the effects of racial segregation on different regions and segments of the United States' society.
Goal 7.04: Examine the impact of technological changes on economic, social, and cultural life in the United States


In this lesson, students will be presented with three images of the Bijou Theatre: a photograph, a postcard derived from the photograph and a sketch illustration of the Bijou Theatre. The images were taken following the Bijou Theatre's renovation in 1912 when it was transformed from a canvas tent to a permanent building.

Teachers should basically familiarize themselves with the UNC DocSouth Going to the Show digital collection. Read the following brief essays and articles to acquaint yourself with the collection:

This lesson will focus on one venue in Wilmington, North Carolina, the Bijou Theatre. You can find it at the Going to the Show website:, or go directly to the Wilmington page:

Students should have already covered nineteenth century North Carolina history and be familiar with the geography of North Carolina. This lesson focuses on a very specific activity in the early 20th century, going to see a moving picture show in Wilmington in the early 1900's. Therefore, this lesson would align well with discussions of the early 20th century, particularly 1900-1920. Other historical materials that provide basic historical background, technological innovations, advancements in transportation would also provide helpful background and context for this lesson, such as are provided in Chapter 8 of A Journey Through North Carolina. The timeline provided on page 271 provides a useful summary of technological advances that were occurring during this time period.

Critical to this activity, teachers will want to make sure that students are familiar with working with visual and photographic primary sources. A good general primer on using primary sources in the classroom is Using Primary Sources in the Classroom ( from the Library of Congress.

Learn NC provides several learning resources related to visual literacy and photographic analysis:
Reading images: an introduction to visual literacy ( by Melissa Thibault and David Walbert,
Resources for teaching with photographs ( by Melissa Thibault, and
Reading photographs ( by Melissa Thibault and David Walbert

This lesson references photographic images of both an individual theater and also contemporary street scenes near the theater. This lesson also prompts students to look at the same place in two different time periods, and to compare and contrast the nature of that location at the two different time periods.

Key skills for this lesson include:

This lesson also references several images from the Going to the Show website. Teachers may want to print them out to make them easily available for your students. Note: you will need a color printer to print out the postcard. Teachers will find the links to the images listed in each activity below.

Introduction  |   Activities 1 - 2  |   Activities 3 - 4  |   Learn More