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Ford's Theatre does an undeniably good job exploring the details of Lincoln's assassination and the events that followed. However, history teachers will be just as interested in the site's other materials. For instance, the resources that will help students examine the way Lincoln's positions on slavery evolved through his presidency, why there was a need for the 14th Amendment after the failed promise of Reconstruction, and the continued impacts of discrimination are all powerful ways to foster student understanding of history and civics. Teachers should certainly check out the resources on Lincoln's assassination, but then go beyond them and use Ford's Theatre to develop student understanding of the broader contexts of the Civil War, its aftermath, and its enduring impact.Continue reading Show less
Ford's Theatre is the website version of the famous Washington, D.C.-based theater (and now museum) where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. A big part of the museum's outreach and education focus is on the events of the assassination itself as well as its legacy. Using primary accounts and documents, students can learn about the assassination, the investigation into the plot to kill Lincoln, the trial of the people behind the plot, and the reaction of the country to his death. In addition to the primary sources, students and teachers have access to lesson plans, writing prompts, and discussion ideas that encourage a full analysis of the assassination.
In addition to the assassination, Ford's Theatre explores other essential elements of American history, including Reconstruction, the Civil War, and racism (past and present). The site makes use of speeches, plays (such as August Wilson's Fences), and videos featuring modern historians, intellectuals, policymakers, and more -- including readings and performances of plays. Lesson plans come with Common Core connections, supporting materials, and full step-by-step instructions for the classroom. Most of the materials are free; however, there are live virtual field trips and facilitated explorations of resources that are available for individual fees.
Ford's Theatre offers high-quality and classroom-ready learning materials, all designed to provoke critical thinking and meaningful engagement with history and its modern legacies. This work, however, is somewhat obscured by the theater's own history as the site of a consequential and well-known event. Much of the site's content privileges the assassination of Lincoln (and understandably so); however, it's the other materials that go beyond the assassination that truly shine, and have particular resonance today in light of continued struggles with racial injustice that connect so closely with the time of Lincoln and the Civil War. The Ford's Theatre site makes a commendable effort to help students and teachers explore these other aspects of American history --- including modern issues -- but the site's organization could be better optimized to help teachers make use of these standout materials. Ideally, teachers would touch on the assassination and then go beyond it to the events before and after Lincoln's death (e.g., the Civil War and Reconstruction). It seems like the site is in the midst of a transition to facilitate this, but currently educators might still get a little stuck in the death itself. With that said, Ford's Theatre does handle the Lincoln assassination well, encouraging students to analyze and understand a host of primary source materials and to draw connections from that event to others. So even if teachers do just focus on that event, they'll get a satisfying experience.
Key Standards Supported
Reading History/Social Studies
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Identify key steps in a text’s description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).
Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.