Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: 2–Part Lesson
2–3 class periods
Author: This lesson was adapted by J. Paul Getty Museum Education staff from a curriculum originally published on the Getty's first education website, ArtsEdNet.

For the Classroom

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Lesson Overview

Students examine the roles of mothers and grandmothers by looking at black-and-white photographs of one American family and comparing that family's multi-generational story with their own. Students will make a photo-collage triptych based on the theme of multi-generational families. This lesson connects to SRA's Open Court Reading units "Our Country and Its People" and "Sharing Stories."

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• define and understand the terms photograph (noun) and triptych (noun).
• discuss the changes that occur between the mother and her daughter with the passage of time as depicted within a series of photographs.
• make an original photo-collage using photographs of mothers and their children that conveys a message about stages in life.
• present their own artwork to classmates.


• Reproduction of Eva and Daughter by Milton Rogovin
• Reproductions of individual photographs that compose the triptych Eva and Daughter (optional)
• Newspapers and magazines with images of mothers and grandmothers that students can cut out
• Photocopies of family photographs
• Worksheet: Triptych Template
• 8.5 x 14-in. heavy paper or posterboard
• Scissors, glue sticks
• SRA Open Court Reading stories from "Our Country and Its People" or "Sharing Stories" units (optional)
• Reproductions of images from Rogovin's series Buffalo's Lower West Side Revisited (optional), see links below

Lesson Steps

1. Use the following questions to introduce the concept of documentary photography to the class.
• Does anyone in your family take pictures?
• When do members of your family take pictures?
• What do they take pictures of?
• What are some of the reasons members of your family like to take pictures?

2. Explain that documentary photographers take pictures for many of the same reasons families take pictures—to remember people, special occasions, important events, etc. Show students the image Eva and Daughter by Milton Rogovin. Share the following information with students.
• Milton Rogovin took these pictures to share a story with us. His photos are grouped together in a set of three. This is called a triptych.
• Write the following word and definition on the board:
TRIPTYCH: a picture (as in an altarpiece) or carving in three panels side-by-side; something composed or presented in three parts

3. Use the following to continue discussing the photograph with students.
• Have students look closely at the triptych for 1–2 minutes without talking. After the time is up, ask them to share their observations. What did they notice first? Next? Chart student responses.
• These photographs tell a story. How might the story be different if Rogovin had used only one photograph? Show students one of the photographs from the triptych in isolation, or cover up two of the images. How would the story be different if Rogovin had used two photographs? Show students different combinations of images and ask them to think about how the story conveyed is different in each case.
• Milton Rogovin has put all three photographs together in one frame purposely to tell a story. What story do you think he is telling with these photographs? Why do you think he used three images instead of one? How does using three images tell a story differently from just one or two images?
• Describe the people, or subjects, in each photograph. How would you describe their surroundings in each photo? What do you think they are feeling? What do you see that makes you say this?
• What title would you give this artwork? The title of this triptych is Eva and Daughter. Do you think this title fits the triptych better than the title you selected? Why or why not?

4. Give students the following information about Rogovin's photograph.
Eva and Daughter is part of a series in which Milton Rogovin photographed people who lived in poor areas of Buffalo, New York over a period of 20 years. He wanted to tell the story of these people's lives. We see their homes, their possessions, and their neighborhoods at three different times in history.
• In this triptych, Rogovin described the stages of motherhood. The first photograph, taken in 1973, shows a very young, single mother, Eva, and her daughter. Mother and daughter are heavily bundled against the cold, standing on the dirty, littered sidewalk in their neighborhood. The next photograph, taken 12 years later in 1985, shows Eva and her daughter in their home—they seem to be much more comfortable than in the earlier scene. They are both young and look like they could be sisters. The third photograph in the triptych, taken seven years later in 1992, depicts Eva as a grandmother and her daughter as a mother of three. They are again surrounded by the comforts of their home and seem to be happy and healthy.
• In this triptych Rogovin tells the story of a mother and her daughter. The series that this triptych comes from focuses on a number of different types of families in Buffalo. The theme of the series is how families grow and change. When Rogovin took the first group of photographs in 1973 he did not intend to make a series. But 12 years later his wife suggested he revisit the neighborhood, which sparked the idea for the triptychs. He had to work hard to track down the families he photographed earlier, but through the second set of photographs, taken in 1985, he was able to build a relationship with the different families that made it easy to find them for the third photographs.

5. Explain to students that they will use the themes of "motherhood" and "family and change" to make their own triptychs. They will make a photo-collage featuring stages of motherhood. Use the following questions and the three individual photographs from Eva and Daughter to discuss the project.
• Consider the first photo in the triptych. What type of things would Eva do to care for her infant daughter? What do you see in the photograph that tells you this? What are some of the things a mother has to do to care for her baby?
• Consider the second photograph. What types of things would Eva do to care for her teenage daughter now? What do you see in the photograph that tells you this? What things does your mother do for you now (at your age as second graders) that is the same as what she did for you as a baby?
• Now look at the last photograph. Eva's daughter is all grown up, with children of her own. What do you think Eva does to care for her grown-up daughter? What do you see in the photograph that tells you this? How are these things similar to, or different from, the things she did when her daughter was younger? What does your grandmother do for your mother?

Ask students to notice how Eva's role as mother changes over time. At first she is a caregiver, concerned with meeting the daily needs of the baby. As her daughter grows, she is still a caregiver. But it is also likely that she has become a friend, a teacher, and a giver of advice. Tell students that in the three panels of their own triptychs, they will show three stages of motherhood—mothers with infants, mothers with school-age children, and mothers with grown-up children.

6. Ask students to bring to class copies of family photographs and/or images from magazines and newspapers to use in their collages, which will celebrate the roles of mothers over time. It is appropriate for students to bring photographs of themselves with their moms. They can also bring photos of other women in their families with children, or photographs showing motherhood in general. Show students a sample of a triptych to help them understand the types of photos they should bring to class.

7. Pass out the rectangular triptych templates, which resemble Rogovin's triptychs. Have students trace the template three times onto posterboard and then cut out with scissors. Rectangles can be attached together using tape.

8. Students should use scissors and glue sticks to cut and paste their motherhood images onto their triptych panels. Have family-themed magazines and newspapers available for students who were unable to bring photos from home.

9. When students are finished, have them present their projects to the class. Students should use their speaking skills to describe the images they selected for their triptych, and the stages of motherhood represented in the images.

Eva and Daughter, 1992 / Rogovin
Eva and Daughter: Eva and Daughter, 1992, Rogovin, 1992


Students will be assessed primarily on their participation in class discussions and activities. Students will also be assessed on their completion of the photo-collage activity and their ability to speak about their work with classmates, as described in the California Content Standards for visual arts and/or English—language arts.


• For a connection to Artistic Perception under the Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools—after Step 3, have students revisit Rogovin's photographs, considering the art vocabulary shape, form, and balance. Use questioning strategies to discuss Rogovin's use of these elements in the photograph. Then challenge students to consider shape, form, and balance when making their own collage triptychs.

• For a connection to Writing Strategies and Applications under the English—Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools—have students write a short paragraph describing the photographs and images that inspired their own triptychs and discussing the compositional choices they made.

Standards Addressed

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 2

Creative Expression
2.1 Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of basic tools and art-making processes, such as printing, crayon rubbings, collage, and stencils.

Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Explain how artists use their work to share experiences or communicate ideas.
3.2 Recognize and use the vocabulary of art to describe art objects from various cultures and time periods.

Aesthetic Valuing
4.3 Use the vocabulary of art to talk about what they wanted to do in their own works of art and how they succeeded.

English—Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 2

Listening and Speaking Strategies
1.5 Organize presentations to maintain a clear focus.
1.6 Speak clearly and at an appropriate pace for the type of communication (e.g., informal discussion, report to class).
1.7 Recount experiences in a logical sequence.

Speaking Applications
2.1 Recount experiences or present stories:
2.1.a Move through a logical sequence of events.

National Standards for Visual Arts Education
Grades K–4

Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.
Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

Using knowledge of Structures and Functions
Students know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas.
Students describe how different expressive features and organizational principles cause different responses. Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas.

Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
Students explore and understand prospective content for works of art. Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
Students understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art.
Students understand there are different responses to specific artworks.

National Standards for Language Arts, English
Grades K–12

Communication Skills
Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.