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Using Source Material Online Lesson
A Lesson for classroooms with student access to computers 

Angels' Flight Railway Postcard

Old Commercial Street Freight House

Student Observation Sheet

Third Street Tunnel

Student Instructions

Background information on Angels Flight

Union Terminal 1918

5th Street LA

Go To Teacher Lesson Plans

  1. Students will critically examine photographs.
  2. Students will ask questions leading to relevant research about photographs.
  3. Students will do online research to gather information about photographs.
Student Task: Students will critically examine a photograph looking for historic clues and generate a list of possible sources for more information.

Time Required: One to two 50 minute lessons

Recommended Grade Level: 4th

Lesson Content and Standards References
California Department of Education

  • Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills
    Kindergarten through Grade Five
    Research, Evidence and Point of View:
    Historical Interpretation:

Subject Areas: History-Social Science, Language Arts, Technology

Resources Used:

Materials and Preparation:

Download and print Third Street Tunnel

Download and Print Student Observation Sheet

Download Old Commercial Street Freight House


  1. Discuss how primary sources can be used to give historians information about events and locations. Emphasize the need to look carefully for details. discuss the ability to draw conclusions from evidence presented by the photographs. Remind students that conclusions need to have supporting evidence. Train students to look carefully at photographs by doing one of the following:
    • Download the photograph Old Commercial Street Freight House. Make a transparency to use on an overhead. Have the students study the photo for 2 minutes then turn off the overhead. Ask students to recall the details of the picture, recording the responses. Show the picture again, checking to see what details were left out. Ask students what conlusions they could draw from this photo and what supporting evidence they observed. Students will then be ready to carefully study the next photo.
    • Download and print student copies of the photo Old Commercial Street Freight House. Distribute the photo face down so students don't have opportunity to observe photograph. Ask students to turn photo sheet over and look for all the details they can observe in the photo. After two minutes, have them turn photo document face down on their desks. Ask students to recall the details of the picture, recording the responses. Ask students to look at the photo again, looking for details they overlooked. Briefly discuss which details were overlooked. Ask students what conlusions they could draw from this photo and what supporting evidence they observed. Students should understand the connection between conclusions and supporting evidence. Students will then be ready to carefully study the next photo.

  2. Distribute Third Street Tunnel.
  3. Tell the students to study the photograph carefully.
  4. Distribute Student Observation Sheet.
  5. Allow students time to record their observations on the sheet.
  6. Note that the Observation sheet asks students to record questions raised by the photo.
  7. Conduct class discussion brainstorming what sources could be used to answer questions raised by the photo. Discuss where those sources might be located locally- i.e. the library, classroom encyclopedia etc.
  8. Distribute student instructions for online research.
  9. Allow small groups of students to go to the LearnCalifornia.org website and go to the Using Source Material Lesson. Make sure a student direction sheet is near each computer.
  10. Encourage students to examine the material online to see what answers they can find to their questions. Much of the material online refers to the Angels flight railway in the photo.
    (Teachers note: there is a teacher background information document giving many details about the 3rd Street Tunnel photograph. It is located in the online lesson plan for Using Source Materials.)
  11. When students have finished their online research, conduct a class discussion of answers they found and where they might find answers to some of their other questions. Inform them that this is the method many historians use to gather information about historical events and locations.

Evaluation and Extensions Evaluation

Students will be evaluated on:

  1. Thoroughness of observations on "Observation Sheet."
  2. Support for conclusions reached on "Observation Sheet."
  3. Extensions teachers choose to use.


  1. Students could examine photographs and artwork in their textbook for information to further their understanding of the text presented.
  2. Students could predict what will happen one hour (month, year, 50 years) after the picture was taken, based on evidence in the picture and outside information they have already.
  3. Students could examine other photographs found on the Learn California.org website using the same skills they have learned in this lesson, applied to other situations.
  4. Students could write a creative story about a child who has ridden the Angels Flight for the first time.
  5. Students who live in the Los Angeles region could visit the Angels Flight train in downtown Los Angeles.
  6. Additional photographs of historic Los Angeles street scenes are available for student practice:5th Street LA or Union Terminal 1918.

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