Student Lessons 2009/10

Inquiry Lessons

Are you looking for a new ways 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.

"I want YOU for U.S. Army" poster

Why did the United States Enter World War I?

While the sinking of the Lusitania is the most common excuse for why America finally decided to enter World War I, there were a number of other factors that pushed America into the war. Economic ties, political beliefs, and an intercepted telegram made staying out of the war nearly impossible for the United States. Analyzing the reasons why America entered the war is crucial to understanding why countries decided to go to war. In this inquiry, students will examine why America decided to enter World War I. They will examine various data sets from The Library of Congress and other sources to create hypotheses on why the United States entered the war. Students will then discuss which reason is most logical using the information from the data sets to support their claims. In the end, students will be able to develop a strong argument for why America entered the war and have the ability to think critically about complex moments in history.

-Created by Ben Irwin

The Great Chicago Fire Tragedy

What Caused the Great Chicago Fire Tragedy to Occur?

In 1871, the city of Chicago endured one of its most tragic events ever recorded. On the night of Sunday, October 8th, a fire ignited in the downtown Chicago area and remained inflamed until Tuesday, October 10th. The fire left at least 300 people dead, another 100,000 homeless, and cost the city more than $200 million worth in damages. This event has come to be known as the Great Chicago Fire. Through the years there have been many different rumors pertaining to the cause of the fire; however the exact reason has never truly been identified by authorities...until now! Featuring several primary and secondary sources from the Library of Congress website, students will engage in an inquiry lesson the requires them to investigate and interpret nine different sources in order to try and answer the question, "What caused the Great Chicago Fire tragedy to occur?"

-Created by David Huss

Why did the British Lose the Battle of Saratoga?

Why did the British Lose the Battle of Saratoga?

The Battle of Saratoga is a defining moment in United States history. How could the world's superpower at the time lose such an important battle to a seemingly weak opponent? Was it a bad strategy? Was it miscommunication? Or was it the heroics of one of the most controversial men in United States' history? With this Inquiry Lesson the students will evaluate, analyze and interpret primary and secondary sources in order to form reasoned, well supported hypotheses on how the British lost the Battle of Saratoga. This lesson draws from the Library of Congress Digital Collections for several data sets.

-Created by Mike Kruis

Who Shot President John F Kennedy?

Who Shot President John F. Kennedy?

At 12:30 p.m. on November 22 of 1963, one of the biggest tragedies in American History occurred in Dallas, Texas. While in riding in a convertible in a motorcade, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by an unknown assailant. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination, but he was killed two days later by Jack Ruby before he could be put on trial. Was the CIA behind the murder? Fidel Castro? The Mafia? The FBI? LBJ? The Russians? Martians? This inquiry requires students to think critically about an important and controversial time in American history. This lesson explores the values and what it means to be a citizen of a student's town, state, and country and the drastic measures that some may take when those values collide This lesson uses the Library of Congress Digital Collections for several data sets. This lesson uses the Library of Congress Digital Collections for several data sets.

-Created by Tim Baldry

What Caused the Holocaust?

What Caused the Holocaust?

Genocide has happened many times in history. The most infamous in modern history is the Holocaust. Nearly 11 million people, the majority being of Jewish descent, were systematically murdered because they did not meet the requirements for being an ideal Aryan. Hitler was able to manipulate millions of people into believing in his empire and his idea of a superior race. Through this inquiry students will answer the question, what caused the Holocaust. They will examine, interpret, and analyze primary and secondary sources from a variety of places, including the Library of Congress (American Memory) and come to a reasoned conclusion as to what ultimately led to the Holocaust, as well as take a look at anti-Semitism in today's world.

-Created by Meda Chapman

What Caused the Colonists of Roanoke to Disappear?

What Caused the Colonists of Roanoke to Disappear?

When explorers set off to start colonies in the New World, they faced many difficult situations. One of these colonies was the colony of Roanoke led by Sir Walter Raleigh. The story of what happened to the colonists of Roanoke is one of history's greatest mysteries. Since there were no traces of the colonists left behind, historians have only been able to come up with likely hypotheses about what happens, but the question still remains: What caused the colonists of Roanoke to disappear? The goal of this inquiry lesson is to engage students in critical thinking by having them use questioning and hypothesis building in order to come to a tentative conclusion about a topic that is still debated about hundreds of years after it happened using multiple sources including sources from the Library of Congress web site.

-Created by Cassandra Stock

The Lusitania

Is There Ever a Justifiable Reason to Declare War?

(Click here for corresponding datasets)

This inquiry lesson explores whether or not the sinking of the Lusitania was a justifiable reason for the United States to enter WWI. Using news articles gathered from the Library of Congress web sites, among others, the students will explore the historic "facts" of the Lusitania sinking as they were presented to the American public at that time. This lesson allows students to investigate how propaganda is used to sway public opinion. They will also address the essential question: "Is there ever a justifiable reason to declare war?"

-Created by Ann Joerndt