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Going to the Show: Lesson Plans

Exploring the early North Carolina moving picture theater experience in the early 1900s through the Bijou Theatre, Wilmington, North Carolina's first moving picture theater

Introduction  |   Day 1  |   Day 2  |   Day 3  |   Day 4  |   Final Project  |   Learn More


Students will develop an understanding of the early moving picture theater experience during the early 20th century through photographs, news clippings, advertisements and Sanborn maps; practice visual literacy skills and gain experience analyzing visual and written sources of historical information; and learn to synthesize the information found in different kinds of primary documents by developing a project that provides a visual or textual comparison of their analysis across two different time periods.

Grade Level 8th and 12th grade Social Studes

Learning outcomes

Students will:

Teacher Planning

1-5 class periods. The amount of time required depends on how many activities the teacher chooses to use. The lesson is provided that enables the teacher to structure this lesson in a variety of ways:

  1. Focus solely on a single photograph and analyzing that photograph (Activity 1).
  2. Focus solely on photographic analysis and analyze the photos of the Bijou Theatre in 1906 and 1912 (Activity 1, Activity 3).
  3. Broaden the photographic analysis to include not just the Bijou Theatre (Activity 2) but also the photographs of N. Front Street near the Bijou Theatre (Activity 2B).
  4. Combine photographic and textual analysis by focusing on the Bijou Theatre in just 1906 using the theater photographs and the news clippings (Activity 1, Activity 2).
  5. Combine photographic and textual analysis across time (Activity 1, Activity 2, Activity 3, Activity 4).
  6. Combine individual and street photographic analysis and textual analysis across time (Activity 1, Activity 2B, Activity 3, Activity 3A, Activity 4)

Teachers might want to conclude each session with a collective wrap-up discussion and ask students to report back on each activity: 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).


Computer lab with high-speed internet access. Students could work independently or in small groups depending on computer availability and teacher preference. Technology to display a web page from the Going to the Show ( ) website.

In this lesson, students will be presented with two photos of the Bijou Theatre taken at two different times in the theater's early history in the early 1900's, along with news clippings that provide some descriptive details regarding the theaters and their construction.

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.

As this lesson focuses largely on the UNC DocSouth Going to the Show online digital collection, teachers will want to familiarize themselves with the collection. Teachers might want to start with the overview essays:

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:

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 news clippings from the Going to the Show website that are contemporary with the images. Teachers may want to print them out to make them easily available for your students. Teachers will find links to the clippings listed in each activity below.

Similarly, teachers will want to make sure that students can read textual materials, specifically news articles, and are familiar with skills such as:

Using the above two activities together will reinforce for students how information gaps may be filled by using not only multiple historical sources, but multiple types of historical sources. There's information that pictures convey that cannot be simply conveyed in textual articles, and likewise information provided in textual articles that can't be conveyed by the photographs.

Therefore, a key skill used in these activities is synthesizing information gathered not only from multiple sources, but also from multiple points in time.

Teachers who want to show the Sanborn Maps to the students to augment the discussions around the photographs, should familiarize themselves with the Wilmington view and basic map user interface features, such as:

You can start at the Going to the Show home page:, or go directly to the Wilmington page:

The activities for this lesson plan will primarily focus on the Going to the Show website from the DocSouth digital collection at the University of North Carolina Library along with "slides" from the Dr. Robert M. Fales Collection from the New Hanover County Public Library


NC curriculum alignment

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

Lesson plan created by Lisa Speaker

Introduction  |   Day 1  |   Day 2  |   Day 3  |   Day 4  |   Final Project  |   Learn More