A Model: From Frameworks or Content Objectives to Primary Source-Based Lesson


Some useful steps to follow if you have a Content objective in mind and wish to develop a

corresponding lesson that is rich in primary sources and source analysis


I. Framework Connections and Content Summary

1. Familiarize yourself with the topics and issues listed in the Mass. History and Social Science Framework.  Consider any books you’ve read or notes you have on the topic at hand. If you need to refresh or update your knowledge of the issue, locate high quality scholarship and read closely.  From this reading and your notes make a list of the topic’s key themes/ideas/interpretations/understandings. Consider how each ties to the Mass. History and Social Science Curriculum Framework.

2. Choose an item from your list that you believe to be either a) the most provocative/interesting or b) the most important for your students or central to their mastery of the Curriculum Frameworks.

3.Re-state the declarative statement or topic above as a research or discussion question.  This question will shape your choice of primary sources and the structure of your activity/lesson although you may refine or alter its language as you work through the steps here. (NOTE: this question, or some version of it, will become your “Argument”-level question within the “guiding questions” scheme).

II. Identify, Analyze and Select Content-Related Primary Sources

1. Make a list of the secondary sources/lecture points that helped you identify, frame, support or develop your topic and which will/could provide you (or your students) with the necessary information or context to investigate the topic or answer the question. You might want to quote certain passages, or make note of important page numbers.

2. Look closely and carefully at the primary sources provided in your packet. Think about the topics/issues each speaks to and the questions about Vietnam each could help answer. Choose at least 2 that you would want to provide to students in order for them to investigate and answer the question you developed in Part I, Step 3. Make a note of why you chose each source (e.g. What information/perspective does it offer?; What question does it raise?; What challenge does it pose to established ideas?; What important or specific word/phrase/detail appears in it?)

3. Consider and discuss the following: What conclusion(s) do you expect your students to come to given the materials you have provided?; What additional or alternative conclusions might they come to with the same material?; Do you want to focus their interpretations/conclusions to match the conclusions you had in mind? Why or why not?

III. Guiding Questions and the Instructional Cycle

1. Consider and discuss the following: What source details will your guiding questions and lesson activities need to highlight in order to ensure that your students come to the conclusion(s) you have in mind? (Note: this is important to think through regardless of whether or not you want all students to come to the same conclusion)

2. Consider and discuss the following: What background or contextual information would students need to have to interpret the sources in the way best suited for answering your question? What will your guiding questions and lesson activities need to look like to ensure that students have/recall this contextual information? Where will this information come from?

3. Consider and discuss the following: Where in the instructional cycle might these sources work best (At beginning of lesson to provoke?; As the central portion of the lesson?; as an independent research/homework activity?; as part of an assessment?; At more than one point?); Do you think the sources would work best examined alone, all together, or in smaller groupings?  Make sure you can explain “why” for your answers to these questions.

IV. Putting it all Together: The Lesson/Activity

1. With your question from Part I, Step 3 in mind (feel free to refine it if need be), your primary sources in hand, and a clear sense of your answers to the questions above, try drafting a classroom lesson or activity, making sure that the primary sources chosen and lesson activities planned will, together, allow students to adequately answer the question you set forth.  Make sure that your lesson is inquiry-based and driven by source analysis in the form of guiding questions and related student investigation.


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