When the Founding generation talked about the pursuit of happiness they had specific ideas in mind– a tranquility or contentment–the ability to look back on one’s life and feel satisfied with one’s decisions and behavior. To that generation, living a virtuous life was key to human happiness.
Kelley Brown, The Pursuit of Happiness:
Organizing a rich text set of primary sources requires that students analyze and make sense of several sources on a topic. In this case, they seek to answer a focused guiding question. Students sort through about a dozen images, letters, forms, and political cartoon. In practice, a teacher could offer fewer sources, though it is a valuable sometimes to require students to choose among sources. The primary sources are also give context by a secondary source narrative from the Veterans Administration.
The Question Formulation Technique (QFT) developed by the Right Question Institute is both a simple, practical teaching technique and a philosophy of learning that empowers ALL learners to discover questions for themselves.
A Tool to Help Correct Misconceptions
The point of the RAN Chart (RAN stands for "Read and Analyze Non-fiction") is for students to research and confirm or correct their ideas for themselves! (Thus the RAN Chart improves on the old "Know-Wonder-Learned / KWL" chart.)
Step 1: Draw the RAN Chart on a whiteboard or smart board, or arrange note cards or post-its on a RAN Chart template. Ideally, leave the RAN Chart up through throughout an investigation. Create categories to help categorize the important ideas and information of the topic.
Prior to investigating a source, students examine the variety of people and groups that would interpret the source differently. Members of the class brainstorm to arrive at a list of all the different viewpoints, then one by one speak from the perspective of the varying stakeholders. This thinking routine, published by the Visible Thinking project at Project Zero, helps students consider the social and historical context for a primary source.
The Stripling Inquiry Model represents the inquiry process graphically to help students make sense of the inquiry process. The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program has helped to popularize the model. Find an in-depth discussion of inquiry and links to additional models and resources at Emerging America's Inquiry Strategies page.
Using familiar imagery of trains, young students can begin to make foundational connections to geography and history using primary sources. Kindergarten students will make a first exploration of local history through early railroad maps from the Library of Congress. This lesson addresses Kindergarten Common Core State Standards and several Massachusetts Social Studies standards and skills. centered around maps. The culminating activity has students create and modify their own town maps to include symbols, cardinal directions, labels, a key, etc.
Kelley McDermott, History teacher in a Massachusetts Department of Youth Services facility developed this lesson to attract her 8th grade students interest in research and public policy. Historically, students with disabilities are disproportionally caught up in the juvenile justice system. The lesson employs many strategies and tools for accessibility from Emerging America's Accessing Inquiry course. These include a focus vocabulary analysis and Universal Design for Learning plan.
Emerging America's lesson plan template features a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) grid borrowed from Social Studies & Exceptional Learners (see below). It is designed to support teaching of Social Studies. Three columns call for strategies that support the UDL instructional framework (see description in Accessing Inquiry clearinghouse).