NEH Landmarks of American History
“Who owns History?”
This lesson is designed for an 8th grade American History class. It is designed to be used at the beginning of the school year to train students in the historical thinking skills that they will need for the class. Students will examine historical objects, historical documents, document reproductions, and modern-appropriated historical images. They will then use a classification system to organize their objects and provide a written justification for their decisions.
Kansas State Standards:
History Standard: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of significant individuals, groups, ideas, events, eras, and developments in the history of Kansas, the United States, and the world, utilizing essential analytical and research skills.
Benchmark 4: The student engages in historical thinking skills.
Indicators: 2. (A) examines a variety of different types of primary sources in
United States history and analyzes them in terms of credibility, purpose, and point of view (e.g., census records, diaries, photographs, letters, government documents).
3. (A) uses at least three primary sources to interpret a person or event from United States history to develop a historical narrative.
4.▲(A) compares contrasting descriptions of the same event in United
States history to understand how people differ in their interpretations of historical events.
Brick from Lincoln’s House
Minie ball from Petersburg
Reproduction of Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby
Reproduction of Lincoln’s State Legislature Payment Voucher
Lincoln ipod T-shirt
John Brown T-shirt
Reproduction pieces of eight
John Brown Jayhawk Photo
John Brown Fly Fishing Logo
John Brown Opera.
Day 1: Break students into groups of 2 or 3. Give each group one or two objects. Have students discuss in their group what they have and what is the historical signifigence of the objects. Have students report out and share with the class. Lead a class discussion about which of the objects is important and why. Which of the objects should be preserved, which aren’t useful for study. Have students create a list of criteria for what is an important object. Assign students to go home and collect 4 objects from their house that meet the criteria (i.e. if a historian was studying your family, what would be four objects that they should have?) Have students write a description of each object and its significance in their history journal to share in class. (They can bring the object to class if it fits in a shoebox and has no cash value.)
Day 2: Have students share some of their finds and objects. Have a class discussion about how historians make these kind of decisions all the time, and how historians many times only get to work with what they have, and that some of the most historical significant objects are not preserved. Also include in the discussion, popular culture’s appropriation of historical figures and objects. Using the Lincoln Ipod t-shirt talk about how Lincoln’s image has changed overtime and what that shirt might tell future historians about our generations interpretation of Lincoln.
Students will receive points for completing the described journaling activity from the procedure.