Pinterest in the history class

How can a seemingly superficial social network as Pinterest take your students on a journey into the past?


Although I studied Journalism as well as Brazilian and Portuguese Literatures, history was always one of my passions in school. I was fortunate to have good history teachers in high school, and later, in graduate school, to be a student of Nicolau Sevcenko, almost a legend professor! This no doubt influenced my interest.
Besides, it is natural for me, a story lover, to like a subject that is made up of so many of them, and it is no coincidence that I get perplexed when I hear young (and not so young) people saying that studying history is boring. Why is that?
Maybe it is this tendency we have to despise everything that is considered old and to think that if it relates to the past, it is also outdated.
Another possibility is that teaching history in an interactive and instigating way is still a major challenge for some teachers.

Whatever it is, today I want to share an interesting idea that uses Pinterest and can be adopted by history teachers from Middle to High School and, in some cases, even before.

What is the image that comes to your mind when you hear about Pinterest? I confess that I visualize pictures of enviable interior design, fashion styles and paradisiacal landscapes…Indeed it is quite normal to find all of these things there. But if you investigate thoroughly, you will realize that there is much, much more! And I am not exaggerating.

It was by chance that I realized that you can work, for example, with the theme of immigration in Brazil in the 20th century. Keep in mind, however, that other topics can be explored, obviously with the appropriate adaptations.

Research with a fun face

Just to name a few, European immigration may appear as one topic in addition to, for example, the study of slavery in the Americas. Imagine how many possible discussions when investigating why European immigrants were chosen to replace black labor in Brazil? Why didn’t they employ former slaves, with fair wages and now without work? Wasn’t this negligence a factor that would have condemned so many Afro-descendants to systemic poverty? Oh, there are so many possibilities to explore…

,Anyway, I am not a historian and these are just a few ideas. Before starting the actual research it is important to do a warm-up, a brain storm, in which you raise questions to the class. In the follow, some example related to the subject I chose above.

  1. Which groups arrived in Brazil in the late 19th century and the first part of the 20th century?
    Italian? Portuguese? German? Japanese?
  2. What led these groups to seek Brazil? (of course you can also work with the country/nation and its particular issue here)
  3. Why did they leave their countries?
  4. Where did their ancestors come from?

Note that the scope of the investigation must meet the interests of your course and the demands of your curricular program, but keep in mind that the range of possible discussions is endless.

Enough said, now to the practice:


  • – First, each group will create a board on Pinterest. Note that Pinterest boards can be secret. This means that in this case only people in the class will have access to the group’s photo gallery. To create a board you need to have a Pinterest account, which can be opened via a Facebook or Twitter account. The other option is to open an account linked to an email, which takes a little more time, but not much.
  • – After opening the board, ask the students to look for photographs that are representative of the subject studied, in our example: the arrival of immigrants to Brazil in the period in question.
  • – The image search can be individual or in groups, depending on access to computers, tablets or cell phones. The group search sounds very productive because you will have to take into account different selection criteria.
  • – About the criteria for choosing the photos, well, it is up to you. A good idea is to set a minimum and a maximum number of images.
  • – With the images selected, it is time to hand in the script for the activity, in which your students will have to investigate the photos they have chosen. Is it possible to know who they are about? Where did they come from? When? What do the photos have in common (a ship, a train, suitcases…).
  • – With all the aspects properly raised, it is time to discuss the historical content itself. What was happening in Brazil at that time or, for example, how did the move of these groups to different regions determine the characteristics of each place or was it the other way around? Reminder: The questions here are merely illustrative for this specific theme.
  • – Next, each group will have to write the captions for the photos in their Pinterest gallery.
  • How you will use the cue of photos and research to further your program is of course your choice. But don’t miss the opportunity to link the past with something contemporary. An activity combined with literature classes would be fantastic! Imagine if they were reading a work related to the period covered in the collection on Pinterest?
  • – A visit to a museum, whose collection informs about certain immigrant groups, for example, can be a very rich complement!
  • – Take the opportunity to talk about the current wave of immigrants and refugees around the world. What is the difference between them and the immigrants of another time? Why did they have to leave their countries? How have Brazilians and other countries welcomed them or not? What about the refugee crisis in Europe or the new policies restricting the income of refugees and/or immigrants? All of this should be carefully chosen according to the level you teach and the engagement of your students as well as the context of your school and region.
  • – If you have read this far, but your subject is not history, cheer up! There are many ways to use similar dynamics for various subjects. In Science, for example, a Pinterest board of certain types of trees; in Geography, you can collect images of deserts around the world, or cities. And, better, in any case the material on Pinterest serves as an archive for later reference.

If you try this activity, come back here to share your experience with us!

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