SOS: What Did They Say?!?

Welcome to Spotlight on Strategies Challenge!  Our S.O.S series provides help, tips, and tricks for integrating DE media into your curriculum.

What Did They Say?!?
PDF Version
*For a link to all the PDFs in this series click here.


Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.43.52 PMIf you ask a student what it takes to do well in social studies, they may likely say a good memory. Historians disagree.  It’s much more than that. “To historians, history is an argument about what facts should or shouldn’t mean. Even when historians are able to piece together the basic story of what happened, they rarely agree about what an event means or what caused it. Historians argue about the past’s meaning and what it has to tell us in the present” (Thinking Like a Historian- Wineburg)  How do we help change students’ perspective? We do that by putting them in the picture.


  • Find a primary source image. This could be a painting or historical photograph.
  • Have students discuss what they see, know, and wonder about the image.
  • Find a collection of resources (videos, reading passages, audio files, etc.) about that event or time period to support students’ understanding of what events actually took place.
  • Have students use sticky notes to create speaking or thought bubbles above the character’s head and fill in with something that individual could have likely said or been thinking at the time of the image.
  • Allow time for students to share in small groups and provide evidence to support why they chose their statements. They should look for similarities and differences in their choices.
  • For an added bonus, have students re-enact the image.

Special Thanks

  • This strategy is courtesy of DEN STAR Carmella Doty from Prince George’s County Public Schools in MD.

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  1. Susan Gauthier said:

    I LOVE this strategy! It is so simple but absolutely creative.

  2. Andrea Stewart said:

    Why not use it next week with a picture of the Pilgrims landing at Plimoth? Wven create preconception bubbles and “the real story” bubbles after research or discussion!

  3. Kelly Cagle said:

    We had so much fun using this strategy for the Yalta Conference during WWll! We did silly sayings from the Big Three leaders that led to som very insightful dialogue about what they really discussed at the conference.

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