This is a two-part activity using a letter from Stephen F. Austin to James F. Perry written in 1834 while Austin was in jail in Mexico City. The two activities are “stand alone” which allows one or both to be used depending on the needs of your students and available time. Both activities can be completed within a forty-minute class period.
Part One – Document Analysis-HIPPO
Students will briefly examine and discuss three sections of Austin’s letter using the document analysis acronym “HIPPO.” The excerpts and the accompanying student questions are placed on separate pages so that the excerpts might be reused or laminated, if desired. A teacher copy of the discussion questions with possible answers is included.
Students will each draw a diagram of Austin’s jail cell based in the description he provided in his letter. It is interesting to see how each diagram differs. This activity offers a valuable lesson that while primary sources are the best place to obtain information, they might sometimes be interpreted in different ways. The assignment page promises that the best diagram will receive a prize. Since there is no way to know which diagram is the most accurate (which is the lesson), I give any student who participates a small prize.