Lesson Plan

Zooming In on Zoom In: Working with Primary Sources

Zoom In will get your students analyzing and thinking about primary sources. In doing so, they will be learning how to 'think like historians'.
James D.
Educator/Curriculum Developer
IdeaDriven Education
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My Grades 6, 7, 8
My Subjects English Language Arts, Social Studies, English Language Learning
Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • "Think like a historian," interpreting evidence from the past to understand and analyze historic and contemporary issues in American society
  • Collaboratively analyze primary source documents
  • Build their understanding of important issues and events in American history through the use of primary source material
  • Engage in a Socratic seminar using evidence and examples from primary sources to support their opinions
  • Write an academic essay using evidence and examples from primary sources to support their opinions
Subjects
English Language Arts
reading
writing
Social Studies
government
history
Grades 6 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook: Creating a "Perfect" Society

Activity: Reading

This activity is part of a unit on Governance that culminates in a constitutional convention. This is one segment of it.

After reading The Giver (or any other novel that deals with attempts to create a utopian society, (e.g. Animal Farm, Brave New World), initiate a discussion with students to draw out their ideas of what would constitute a perfect society.

Student Instructions

In small groups of up to three or individually, come up with an extensive list of traits of what you would consider a perfect, utopian society.  

You can include things like: 

  • policies that the leadership implements
  • structures or institutions
  • things that are missing
  • things that are present
  • rights
  • ways the society runs

Note them on paper and be prepared to discuss with the larger group.

2 Hook (2): Sharing ideas

Padlet
Free, Paid

Have students post their lists of traits/characteristics of a perfect society digitally on Padlet.

After each group posts, have students share their Padlet boards with each other and give time to comment (focusing on questions and or clarifications on meaning). 

Student Instructions

1.  Create a Padlet wall and post the traits you came up with on the wall.

2.  Share your wall with the other groups in class.

3.  When you receive their links, take 15-20 minutes to comment.  Your comments should focus on asking questions or seeking clarification.  If you disagree with something, that's fine, but this is not the time to argue a side.  

3 Context: The Case for a New Constitution in the Early United States

For this part of the lesson, you can use the Zoom In lesson called Ratifying the U.S. Constitution.  They provide their own Context section using a series of six slides ranging from Fixing the Articles of Confederation to Three Big Issues Debated at the Ratifying Conventions.  

1.  Review the six different slides with students.

2.  Have them focus on these questions:

  • Why would a country want a strong central government instead of having strong local governments?
  • Based on what you saw in these slides, in what way was the United States limited in its ability to act as one country?
  • What kinds of things do you think countries should have local laws about?  What kinds of things should they have national laws about?
  • Who should represent the people in a country?  Should there be special qualifications?

If you prefer, you can divide the different slides among different student groups and have them share basic information about each.

Follow the student review and note-taking with a whole group discussion.  Keep track of major issues that come up from students, especially disagreements among student groups.

Student Instructions

1.  Review the six different slides.

2.  Focus on these questions and prepare notes to use in discussion in class.

Why would a country want a strong central government instead of having strong local governments?
Based on what you saw in these slides, in what way was the United States limited in its ability to act as one country?
What kinds of things do you think countries should have local laws about?  What kinds of things should they have national laws about?
Who should represent the people in a country?  Should there be special qualifications?

4 Guided Practice: Analyzing the Documents

Use the Zoom In documents section to introduce three major issues in the creation of a U.S. Constitution.  They include taxation, separation of powers, and representation.  

These are primary source documents.  Because of the language and style, almost all students will need teacher support to identify key ideas and information.  There are also additional documents for extension.  For each one, I recommend breaks for small group/pair discussions or short class discussions.   

For each document, Zoom In has questions and annotations built in if you want to use them (Yes, they make it easy for you).  You are able to review them in your class portal on Zoom In as a formative assessment, checking for understanding and analysis.  

NOTE: Most of these questions are pretty high quality.  They are not simple comprehension questions but instead try to zero in on important concepts.  I generally use a mixture of Zoom In's questions and my own.  

Student Instructions

Participate in the discussions as we go.

Answer the document related questions as you go through them.  

5 What Do You Believe?

Activity: Conversing

The documents students have been analyzing have raised some big issues/concepts about governance.  It's time to have students try to articulate their own opinions about government and how it should work.

1.  In an open discussion have students identify the major opinions and issues raised in the documents (which were some of the major issues in the framing of the U.S. Constitution).  

2.  Record them somewhere that all students can refer to them (chart paper, board, Padlet, etc.)

3.  Have students note down three issues from that list that are (or would have been) very important to them personally.

4.  Have them mingle in the class to try and find peers who agree with their point of view of what is important.  If they do not find anyone, that's okay.  

5.  Have them sit in these groupings (which are sort of like voting blocs or caucuses).  

6 Individual Practice: “Should We Ratify the Constitution?”

Zoom You can use this activity to assess students' understanding of key issues in the writing of the U.S. Constitution OR as a step in their defining of their own beliefs.  If you use it as the latter, you can consider it a step before a debate.

Students will take a side on the key question,  “Should we ratify the Constitution?”  To answer, they should use evidence from the different documents analyzed in class, choosing specific points or ideas that support their point of view.  Older students should have to use proper citation formats and quotes.  

Zoom In gives EXTENSIVE support for teachers in how to implement this essay.  If you want to, you can follow it closely or adapt it.  I adapted extensively.  They even provide examples of essays to show students and an assessment rubric.

7 Wrap up: Debate or Socratic Seminar

Activity: Debating

Students should participate in either a debate or Socratic seminar that requires them to articulate their point of view on ratification using examples from the text to support their points of view.