For this installment of HISTORY DETECTIVE, students will review the mysterious death of famed explorer and American hero, Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark)
. This is an engaging and creative take on DBQs, with a heavy focus on SOURCING and CONTEXTUALIZING as your students think like historians (and detectives) to piece together the mystery. (Note: There is no "real" answer-- so students can't google the answer-- scientists and historians still don't know the truth about why Lewis died, or if in fact, he was murdered.)
The year was 1809. Lewis and his partner Clark were national heroes after having returned from the most famous American exploration to date. Thomas Jefferson appointed Lewis as Governor of the Louisiana Territory, a job which required a relocation out west. To Americans, Lewis seemed to have it all- fame, success, power, connections, and a promising future. His notes and research about the Louisiana Territory was so meticulous, a lucrative book deal was in the works with the U.S. Government. But deep down, Lewis had bouts with depression, dangerous political rivals, and a haunting medical history. One fateful evening in October of 1809, Lewis stopped at an Inn as he passed through Tennessee en route to Washington DC. In the middle of the night, gunshots were fired in Lewis' room, and the next day Meriwether Lewis died.
In 1809 the cause of death was deemed suicide. He was exhumed in 1848, the coroner deemed it murder. But who, or what, was behind Lewis' death? Your students can help solve the mystery in this installment of HISTORY DETECTIVE!!
Document Packet includes:
- EVIDENCE: Nine Sources total-- six are primary sources, three are secondary sources, all are accommodated and adjusted to be suitable for middle school reading level. All documents have been shortened, some language adjusted for Lexiles of 700-1100. (PDF only)
- DETECTIVE NOTEBOOK: Space on each page for your detectives to annotate the documents and take notes on each source.
- BRAINSTORM: Detectives will be prompted to pause and reflect after the first 5 sources so you, as the teacher, can track their thinking.
- BRIEFING ROOM PRESENTATION: After analyzing each source, Detectives will have to write a briefing room presentation, just like a real detective. In this presentation, students will have to make a claim, then defend their claim using evidence from the text. This Briefing Room Presentation is their extended response (essay response) and must include evidence from the documents to support their claim.
Fun tips to make this lesson even more engaging for students:
1. Call yourself the "Head Detective" and tell your students they are your employees, assigned to this case because of their historical thinking skills. You need their help to solve the mystery.
2. During the lesson, refer to your students as "Detective (last name)" as they discuss clues from various documents.
3. Get yellow "CAUTION" tape from Home Depot and hang it around your classroom so it looks like a real crime scene when students enter ($5-$10 a roll). This will also peek their interest and serve as a hook into the lesson.
4. Keep fun sized Hundred Grand bars handy as "payment" for your detectives if they have excellent claim and text support in their "Briefing Room Presentation" at the end of the lesson.
I hope your students like this lesson format as much as my 8th graders do!!
Check out these other great Historical Thinking lessons:
Women in Civil War: Close Read of Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Women in Civil War: Station Rotation study of Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Student Letters to their Senator- Writing Project
History Detective: Who Killed President Zachary Taylor?
History Judge: Was Trail of Tears an Abuse of Presidential Power?
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