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School of Education, Health and Human Behavior
School of Education

What's In Your Wallet? Lesson Plan

8 th grade social studies

Date: July 24, 2008

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

NEH Workshop: Lincoln and the Forging of America

Grade Level: Middle School/High School Instructional Level

Subject: Social Studies/Language Arts

Time Frame: 1 hour instruction session

Number of Students: 28 in groups of four


Students will be able to place a series of primary sources into categories of social, political, economic, and historical importance by using the artifacts found in Abraham Lincoln's wallet on the night he was assassinated.

Understanding the Goals of the Lesson Using Primary Documents:

  1. Students will summarize and analyze the main points of the primary documents found in the wallet of Abraham Lincoln at the time of his death.
  2. Students will be challenged to think critically using higher thinking skills through small group activities while discussing cultural items of Abraham Lincoln's life.

State Learning Standards

This lesson will fit into any state standard course of studies. Here are our standards.

North Carolina Social Studies Competency Goals for 8 th grade

Goal 4

The learner will examine the causes, course, and character of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and their impact on North Carolina and the nation.

Objective 4.04

Evaluate the importance of the roles played by individuals at the state and national levels during the Civil War and Reconstruction Period.

North Carolina Language Arts Competency Goals for 8 th grade

Goal 1

The learner will use language to express individual perspectives through analysis of personal, social, cultural, and historical issues.

Goal 2

The learner will use and evaluate information from a variety of sources.

Goal 4

The learner will continue to refine critical thinking skills and create criteria to evaluate print and non-print materials

Illinois Learning Standards (Essential Knowledge and Skills)

Goal 16 - Understand events, trends, individuals and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States, and other nations. History encompasses the whole of human experience, from the earliest times to the present. As such, it provides perspectives on how the forces of continuity and change have shaped human life, both our own and others'. The study of history involves more than knowing the basic names, dates, and places associated with an event or episode. This knowledge is an essential first step to historical interpretation of the past, but historical study also moves on to a methodology that develops a deeper understanding within an individual.

Young students should gain knowledge of basic skills of historical interpretation that will enable them to:

· Recognize the importance of the past;

· Provide examples of significant events and people in the past;

· Understand the geographic, social, economic, and political relationships in history; and

· Recognize the contributions of significant people and events in the past to their present world.

As students progress through the stages, historical knowledge will enable them to:

· Explain differences and similarities in major historical eras;

· Use historical skills and sources to further interpret and understand past events, ideas, and people;

· Examine differing perspectives on significant events, ideas, and people; and

· Relate the past to their present world.

Student application and evaluation of these historical skills will include:

· Synthesizing history with the other social sciences;

· Evaluating the causes and effects of major developments in history;

· Predicting the impact of continuity and change across time; and

· Understanding the many viewpoints and perspectives which history incorporates across cultures and eras.

Ultimately, as students grow in these skills of historical analysis, they will demonstrate an understanding of the profound significance that the past has in their lives and the lives of others.


Students who meet the standard can understand the roles and influences of individuals and interest groups in the political systems of Illinois, the United States, and other nations.


Students who meet the standard can understand the development of United States political ideas and traditions.


Students who meet the standard can apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.


Students who meet the standard understand the development of significant political events.


  1. Pencils
  2. Paper
  3. Activity Sheet
  4. Copies of the contents of Pres. Abraham Lincoln's wallet


Axelrod, Alan. (2005). Lincoln 's Last Night: Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, and the Last 36 Hours Before the Assassination. New York: Chamberlain Brothers, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

**** When purchasing, please make sure that you order not just the book but the portfolio of the contents of Lincoln's wallet that goes together as a package. ****

Background Information

Students will have had instruction on the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination

Preparation of Learning Environment

  1. The students will be organized into groups of four to discuss and analyze the assigned primary document before sharing with the class. Each group will need a leader and a recorder.
  2. The lesson could also be accomplished by using the Jigsaw technique where students leave their groups and go to others to teach about their artifact...

Essential Questions:

1. Why did Pres. Lincoln carry certain artifacts in his wallet and what significance did they have for him? What can we learn about Lincoln?

2. What does the contents of our wallets say about us?

Essential Vocabulary: primary document, artifact, replica

Lesson Content

1. Pass out the Discussion and Activity Sheet.

2. Ask: What's in your wallet, pockets, or purse? Discuss how this can say a lot about who we are and what's important to us.

3. The teacher will demonstrate what is in his/her wallet and why it is of importance. Then students may share.

4. Pass out a copy of a primary document/artifact to each group and have them read and analyze to determine the purpose of the document.

5. Students will write the information they have collected on their own paper.

6. Give the students approximately 30 minutes to draw conclusions and answer critical thinking questions.

7. After the small group activity, the class will come together to share the artifact and discuss its importance with the entire class.

Closure: Wrap the discussion up by asking what we have learned about ourselves and Pres. Lincoln by using primary documents.

What's in Your Wallet?

Discussion and Activity Sheet

Most people carry money in their wallet. They may also stick money in their pockets or carry it their purse. But what else is in there? A photograph? Glasses? Cell phone? Make up? What we carry with us can provide incite into what's important to us and who we are. We are going to stop now and look at "what's in our wallets?" I'll share mine and then you will share with your group.

Now we are ready to investigate what's in the wallet of a famous American that we recently studied. He is President Abraham Lincoln and we will inspect the contents of his wallet the night of his assassination. As the investigation of his murder progressed, part of the evidence included the contents of his pockets. Items included two pair of eyeglasses, a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a linen handkerchief, a watch fob, and a brown leather wallet. Inside the wallet were a playbill, a Confederate $5 bill, a copy of the Gettysburg Address, and eight newspaper articles.

Each group will receive a replica of an artifact discovered in Pres. Lincoln's wallet to examine and analyze. Follow these directions.

1. In your group read, examine, and discuss the artifact.

2. On your own paper, write down the title or name of the artifact.

3. Then summarize or describe the artifact. Write down the important points. Also, look to see if you can determine the author or place from which the artifact came. For what type of audience was the artifact intended?

4. Why does the group think Pres. Lincoln carried this particular object with him in his wallet? What meaning did it have for him? What events around him might have caused him to be attached to it?

5. What kind of artifacts might have been found in Pres. Lincoln's wallet had we looked there four years earlier in April 1861?

6. What questions does your group still have?

7. Are there any ideas you have that might improve or add depth to the lesson?

Each group will have thirty minutes to work on their artifact. You may use your

knowledge of the time period to aid in your writing or use your notes, textbook, or computer.

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