Student Lessons 2010/11

Primary Source Lessons Using Resources from the Library of Congress

Are you looking for ways to actively engage students in analyzing primary sources while addressing important historical topics? Using and analyzing primary sources not only builds historical content knowledge, but also cultivates historical and critical thinking skills that will enable students to become thoughtful individuals and competent citizens. The lessons below engage students in analyzing, interpreting, and drawing inferences from primary sources. These lessons draw several primary sources from digital collections housed at the Library of Congress.

These lesson plans were created by students in a special course, Professional Collaboration, Inquiry & the Library of Congress' (LOC) Digital Collections (GIGENRL 494/694), offered by Dr. James Hartwick in the Spring of 2011 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Special funding to support the course was obtained from the Midwestern Center for Teaching with Primary Sources.If you are interested in using these primary source lessons in your classroom, this website provides you several complete lessons. Please use and modify these as you see fit.

The Great Plains Buffalo

The Near Extinction of the Great Plain's Buffalo and the Effect on Native Americans

The near extinction of the North American buffalo has been widely studied; this lesson is a more unique approach to discovering how integral the buffalo was to the Native American population of the Great Plains. The students will explore how the buffalo was utilized and revered by the Native American tribes versus how the buffalo was harvested by the trading companies. This harvesting was sponsored by the United States government in an effort to decimate the buffalo, and subsequently the Native American tribes. This lesson will encourage the students to work in a group while examining both primary and secondary sources in order to answer the essential questions; How was the buffalo used by the Native American tribesmen of the Great Plains, What caused the downfall of the buffalo, and What was the effect on the Native American tribes that relied on the buffalo?- Created by Micah Loomer


On May 4, 1886, labor movement protestors clashed with Chicago police resulting in the death of seven officers, an untold number of protestors, and eventual murder convictions of eight radical labor leaders.  The protest was one of many springing-up around the nation as labor unrest grew in response to  difficult working conditions and economic depression.  Seven years later, Chicago Mayor Altgeld pardoned those protest leaders who were still alive.  This lesson plan employs a variation of the INQUIRY INSTRUCTIONAL MODEL for exploring some of the issues surrounding the Haymarket Riot.  It is intended to guide students through the process of inquiry as though it were a game of "Clue".  The material is presented as a role-play game to motivate young learners and ease them into what is, perhaps, their first inquiry-based learning experience in a Social Studies classroom.- Created by Lori Hoyt with the guidance of Timothy Babcock (Cooperating Teacher)
Margaret Sanger being arrested.

Women's Fight for Equality

This unit on women in US History examines gender roles, gender stereotypes, and interpretations of significant events in women's history.   This leads students to discover gender roles in contemporary society.- Created by Scott Gudgel with the guidance of Katy Mullen (Cooperating Teacher)
The Hetch-Hetchy Valley

How was the Hetch-Hetchy Valley Flooded?

This lesson is designed to engage students in the Hetch-Hetchy controversy from early in the last century by utilizing primary sources found at the Library of Congress's website. Students will analyze and evaluate the primary sources one at a time with the ultimate goal being to conclude which of these events was the primary cause of the eventual damming of the Hetch-Hetchy Valley by the O'Shaugnessy Dam. By engaging in the actual relics of the era, students will gain a more complete understanding of both the particular events of the Hetch-Hetchy controversy and also gain a solid understanding of the Progressive Era itself. Students will gain skills in research, primary source analysis, hypothesis writing and analyzing people and events to make historical judgments about this particular era and event.- Created by Matthew Bright
For President: Abram Lincoln. For Vice President: Hannibal Hamlin.

Analyzing Presidential Campaign Propaganda

Throughout the political history of the United States, campaign propaganda and techniques have changed as new forms of media developed.  Through the use of a primary source analysis tool provided by the Library of Congress, students will examine and interpret various presidential commercial ads and political cartoons from 1952 to 2008 and analyze how different strategies shape public opinion today.  Through their analysis students will describe, reflect, and question various media tactics. Furthermore, students will summarize their findings and provide examples to the question: "Through the use of presidential commercial ads and political cartoons, what strategies are used in influencing public opinion in the United States during campaigns and elections?"-Created by Danny Cochran
The Vietnam Wall

Why is the Vietnam War so Controversial?

The United States was in the early years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Ho Chi Minh had quickly gained power and popularity in the country of Vietnam for his efforts to gain the country's independence from France. The United States was not ready to go to war with Ho Chi Minh.  However, with the Truman Doctrine being written the United States would shortly find themselves involved.  The involvement started to a basic alliance with France by giving them supplies and weapons, but quickly escalated into U.S. presence in a full out war.  Perhaps the steps taken to start the war are one reason the Vietnam War has become known as one of the most controversial wars in history, but what specific things contributed to this horrible war?  It is important for students to have good, solid knowledge about what the Vietnam War was and why is occurred, but it can be argued that it is just as important for students to understand and analyze the importance behind the events of the war that make it such a controversial time in world history.- Created by Rachel Armbrust

Darfur: A Plan of Action

The research topic for this lesson plan is the issue occurring in Darfur, a region located in Sudan, Africa.  The research for this lesson plan was conducted and demonstrated at Fort Atkinson High School in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.  The overall intent of this poster is to demonstrate how this lesson uses the Library of Congress to promote inquiry-based skills.  By locating primary and secondary sources from Library of Congress, students were able to work on a plan of action, or solution, to the issues in Darfur (based from the viewpoint of the specific group that they were assigned to; how was the group involved in the issue, what was their viewpoint, what do they value?).  Students then made a presentation to the class, explaining their solution and what they had found to support this.- Created by Kaleigh Lueker with the guidance of Todd Carter (Cooperating Teacher)
Age of Exploration map

The Age of Exploration

The Age of Exploration was an instrumental time in World History. The Renaissance & Age of Enlightenment was making impacts on virtually every person, rich or poor, throughout Europe. Mankind craved to know what more there could be in the world. The beginnings of a worldwide economy started to appear. Knowledge was gained and spread though trade & exploration. Students will investigate maps, documents and pictures to draw conclusions and find the inter-relationships of map making, treaties, explorations, trade routes, an economics on a new, changing, and ever-increasing world.- Created by Steve Steinke

Analyzing Political Cartoons: Preparing for the AP US Government and Politics Exam

As students prepare for the Adavanced Placement US Government and Politics Exam, use this lesson to help with reading and interpreting political cartoons.- Created by Katy Mullen
Declaration of Independence

Developing Historical Analysis Skills through Early American Documents

The main objectives of the following activities are to understand the process of creating a plan for government and debate the balance between national, state and individual rights. The lessons for this unit emphasize using primary sources to examine the challenges faced in creating a government in the United States. Lessons one and two focus on a study of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and provides access to primary source documents from the Library of Congress. Lesson three investigates important issues which confronted the first Congress when deciding which ideas to include in a Bill of Rights.- Created by Bill Plant
Val Crofts


This is a unit that will add to high school students' understanding of D-Day, as well as the events that led up to it, the personalities involved in it, and the historical significance of it. I have drawn on a variety of primary sources to enhance the lesson, and I believe students will enjoy the weeklong unit. I also supplement videos with this lesson, and it could take two weeks to complete with additional resources and videos, which, if you have time would enhance the learning experience further. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at Created by Val Crofts
The Cuban flag

Cuban Missile Crises

Speech Questions - Created by Marisa Piper-Zahn

Japanese Internment

- Created by Marisa Piper-Zahn
Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's Assassination

- Created by Marisa Piper-Zahn
John Brown

John Brown

- Created by Marisa Piper-Zahn
A World War II vehicle

Kids, Propaganda, and World War II Primary Resource Analysis

- Created by Marisa Piper-Zahn