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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

Day 1: Activity 1

To begin the discussion, let the students know that you will be spending the next couple of days learning about moviegoing in the early 1900's in Wilmington, North Carolina, and also learning how to use photographs and news clippings as primary sources. Explain to the students that you will be using aspects of a digital collection that has been developed that focuses on moviegoing in the early 1900's for the state of North Carolina that includes visual images, architectural drawings, newspaper articles and advertisements, and Sanborn maps; as well as slides from the Dr. Robert M. Fales Collection, who had a personal project to capture "old street scenes and hallowed local structures of yesteryear" of "old Wilmington and its environs."

Note: The Going to the Show collection also includes Sanborn Maps, which provide a geographical reference for a city across time. While not included as part of the student activities in this lesson, they are included as a teacher reference. For a student lesson that explores the Sanborn maps, refer to the Evolution of Personal Transportation.

Next, ask some questions to get students thinking and talking about photography as an historical source, such as:

Next ask some questions to get students thinking and talking about their general experience and familiarity with going to the movies today. Ask questions that will prompt them to consider how the experience might have been different in the early 1900's:

Describe the movie theater you see a movie in today - how is the building constructed, how is it outfitted, what is the heating/ventilation/cooling like?

Activity 1: Analyzing the first image together:
Students can complete a photo-analysis worksheet, or you can provide them with a questionnaire that includes the basic questions you want to cover.

Next, introduce the students to the process you'll follow for analyzing images by analyzing the first photograph as a class. Using a digital video projector or an overhead transparency, show the first photograph of the Bijou Theater.
bijou theater

The photo is of the Bijou Theatre (pronounced bye-joe), the first movie theater in Wilmington, and one of the first in North Carolina, which opened in December 1906.

NOTE: When possible, teachers and students should access the photo online, as their websites often provide utilities to zoom-in on the photograph.

Ask students questions about the photo, interjecting your own observations and follow-up questions as needed to keep pushing them further with their analyses. Questions to consider asking (note that these questions go from objective questions about simple observations to questions that are more and more interpretive, speculative and analytical):

You may want to capture the students' responses and impressions on a flip chart - so that you'll have their initial reactions captured to revisit as you proceed through the following activities.

Lesson plan created by Lisa Speaker

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