Student Lessons 2012/13

Primary Source Lessons Using Resources from the Library of Congress

Are you looking for a new way to actively engage students in examining important historical questions? Listed below are abstracts and links to lesson plans following the "Inquiry" model. An Inquiry lesson asks students to generate hypotheses addressing an important, but debatable, historical question, and then presents students with relevant data to support or undermine potential hypotheses. Ultimately, students ferret through the evidence and generate a well supported conclusion or answer to the historical question. The inquiry lessons identified below ask students to analyze and interpret the primary and secondary sources, including sources obtained from the Library of Congress' Digital Collections.

These lesson plans were created by students in Dr. James Hartwick's Methods of Teaching Social Studies course at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. If you are interested in using inquiry in your classroom, this website provides you several complete inquiry lessons! Please use and modify these lessons as you see fit.

Image of Woodrow Wilson

What led the United States to enter into World War One?

July 28, 1914 the First World War began with the declaration of war on Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In short order, the European alliance system compelled the continent's nations to join the fray, and on August 4, with Britain's declaration of war on Germany, all the Great Powers of the world were involved in what would become the deadliest conflict in human history to that point - all but one that is. Also on August 4, United States President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress with a declaration of neutrality, a position favored by the majority of the American population. His address recognized the cultural connection the people of the nation had to both sides in the conflict, and he warned against partisanship, that "every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality." Yet the United States would not be able to maintain its neutrality. After two and a half years of pressures to join the war, Wilson sought a declaration of war from Congress which was granted April 6, 1917. Historians still debate the primary reason behind the president's decision. Thus, students will review primary and secondary documents that cover many of the perceived motives for the declaration of war in order to form a conclusion to the central question: What led the United States to enter into World War One?- Created by Andrew Fletcher
famous picture of a female student yelling over dead body

What was the cause of the Kent State Shooting?

The Vietnam Era is arguably one of the most controversial periods of American history. The country was divided and political unrest was rampant across the country. Students had taken on the role of activist, and nowhere was that more apparent than college campuses. This political unrest came to a head on May 4, 1970 in Kent, Ohio. On this day a shooting at Kent State University took 4 lives and injured nine others. Not only did this event lead to a student strike that closed hundreds of high schools and universities but it further divided public opinion and highlighted the severe strain that the Vietnam War was taking on all Americans. Today, more than 40 years later there is still conflict over what happened. The question that so many are still trying to answer is: What was the cause of the Kent State shooting? The following inquiry lesson is designed to engage students in higher order thinking, deep knowledge, and substantive conversation with their peers. Inquiry based instruction is important in the classroom because it helps keep lessons authentic, and provides students more freedom and creativity in developing content knowledge while reinforcing basic and advanced skills.- Created by Stacie Sheppard
American soldiers carrying a wounded man down a stream

Why was the Vietnam War so Controversial?

In March of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the first U.S. combat troops into South Vietnam to fight the spread of Communism from North. The casualties of this long war, from both sides, were extensive and brutal due to guerilla warfare and the use of chemical weapons. This information was televised in detail, sparking anti-war movements and weakening the morale of Americans fighting in Vietnam. Also known as "America's Longest War," U.S. involvement in Vietnam War did not end until 1973. Although the United States won the war in a numerical sense, having far less casualties than North Vietnam, the U.S. did not accomplish what they had set out to do. The Communist North took control of South Vietnam. Students will critically analyze the primary and secondary sources provided in order to generate hypotheses and formulate and support a conclusion to the inquiry question: Why was the Vietnam War so controversial?- Created by Kimberly Gombosi
Woman stepping on to a train

How did women attain suffrage?

Throughout United State history women have worked to gain freedom and equality. Through this evolution of women's rights a defining moment, most often recognized as the first step in the right path towards equality, took place when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920. This amendment prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote based on sex. What is more interesting than just the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment were the trials and tribulations women went through to officially gain the right to vote in the United State of America. Through this journey how did women finally gain the right to vote in the United States of America?- Created by Stephanie Mayer
Image showing conflict between citizens and guards

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

World War I was one of the most terrible and deadly wars in human history. The collapse of old international treaties as well as the obligations of some of those treaties would bring many non-warring nations into the fight. Intended for an upperclassmen history course, this inquiry lesson engages students in hypothesizing, evaluating, and generating a tentative conclusion on the causes of WWI.-Created by Flannery Crain
Image depicting the 1967 Riot

What caused the riots of 1967 in Detroit?

The racial conflict of the 1960s caused tensions between both whites and African American peoples in the United States that have lasted into the current affairs in cities like Detroit, Michigan. This inquiry designed for a senior level civics course would look at the effect of social unrest and unintentional of the modern city and the access to resources and job information. It will have students looking into the question of "What caused the riots of 1967 in Detroit?"- Created by Samantha Peterson

Structured Academic Controversy (SAC)

The Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) model is a well-established cooperative group discussion procedure designed to help students explore the major arguments for and against the controversial public issue being addressed. Through this process, students have the opportunity to work in small groups to examine and present both sides of an argument, allowing for the thorough exploration of the issue. By engaging in a SAC lesson, students learn to thoughtfully analyze and respectfully discuss both sides of an issue. They also practice listening and talking with their peers to generate consensus on something on which they can all can agree. Students grappling with important controversial public issues and practicing collaborative citizenship skills prepares them to be thoughtful individuals who work for the common good.David Johnson and Roger Johnson, Creative Controversy: Intellectual Conflict in the Classroom (3rd ed.) (Edina, MN: Interaction, 1995).

Baseball Stadium

Publicly Funded Sports Stadiums

Over the past three decades, the debate about whether professional sports stadiums has been highly controversial issue within communities around the country. Intended for an upper level civics course, this lesson allows students to compare opposite viewpoints, analyze, and construct their own conclusion on the issue of publicly financed stadiums.- Created by Lance Scholze