History Experience Lessons Overview

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Lesson 1: Introductory Lesson

This two–day lesson, driven by a PowerPoint slide presentation, introduces the History Experience.

On day one, students first learn that in the History Experience they will act as historians. They discuss what historians do. Then they are shown a slide of Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre and answer document-based questions about it. Finally, they learn background information about what led to the Boston Massacre.

On day two, students briefly review what they have learned. Then in small groups, they are given snippets of testimony from the Boston Massacre trials, answer questions related to the testimony, and critique the accuracy of Revere’s engraving. Finally, they learn about the Boston Massacre trials and hold a discussion about the engraving and about what historians do.

Lesson 2: Writing the Declaration of Independence

This two-day lesson examines the Declaration of Independence and the key ideas behind it.

On day one, students first explore the purpose of government as they react to the question: Why does government exist? Next, they read an article on the reasons behind the Declaration of Independence and engage in a discussion on it.

On day two, students review the previous session, and then they work in pairs to put the historic second paragraph of the document into their own words.

Lesson 3: The Declaration’s Ideas

This two–day lesson (with an optional third day) examines the ideas in the Declaration of Independence and the controversy surrounding slavery.

On day one, students read a short article on the declaration and engage in a discussion on its key ideas and the contradictions between its ideals and slavery.

On day two, working in small groups, students create a poster to demonstrate their understanding of key ideas expressed in the document and express why they think these ideas are important today. The practice of creating the poster will also introduce them to the type of project they will create for the History Experience.

Lesson 4: Historical Research

In this lesson, students learn about the skills and methods that historians use in order to help them prepare their own research for their History Experience project. First, students participate in a focus discussion to review primary and secondary sources. Then in a PowerPoint presentation, students learn about the practice of historical research using the example of Walter Lord’s research into the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Next, in a small-group activity, students examine a source related to the Titanic, determining what it is, why it was created, what information it provides, and what other sources might be helpful in expanding that information. Finally, students present their source in a gallery-walk activity that simulates a historical museum.

Lesson 5: Reliability of Sources

In this PowerPoint-driven lesson, students learn how to evaluate the reliability of their sources. First, students answer questions about an unfamiliar picture to test the accuracy of their points of view. Next, students discuss how to detect point of view and bias in sources. They examine the death of Davy Crockett at the Alamo during the Texas War for Independence. Using the INSPECT method of source-analysis, students participate in a jigsaw activity to evaluate the reliability of the diary of Jose Enrique de la Peña and other first-person accounts of Crockett’s death.