This lesson will begin with spy music playing and students wondering what you have in store for them. Students will then get into groups or work alone to decipher primary sources and form a story based upon what they see. By the end of class, students should have a written summary of what they believe happened. Each group will then read their summary while the teacher keeps track of correct points...winners receive a prize. The lesson can be followed up with an overview of Cornell’s website about the event or a more in depth research project.
Rationale for the lesson
This lesson is all about engagement. I can confidently say that I had all but two out of 108 students engaged in this lesson...the lesson takes a historical event and forces students to analyze primary sources and synthesize the connections between them. Many students asked if they were going to learn about the event afterwards, but the great part is that they do learn about the event as they decipher the primary sources, they just don’t realize they are learning because they are having fun trying to solve the mystery and working together or alone in a competitive format.
Prerequisite knowledge and skills
Absolutely none...my students had no prior knowledge prior to this lesson and everything worked out well. We did study big business and early 20th century immigration prior, but only for a few days. Similar to many of my lessons, if you have students who have some prior knowledge, simply ramp up the expectations in terms of the story they produce...with no prior knowledge the story doesn’t have to be extremely specific. With more advanced students, the story should be more specific.