This lesson covers five basic objectives:
- To teach students the difference between primary and secondary sources.
- To introduce analysis of numerical data as a historian's tool.
- To teach note-taking methods and research organizational skills.
- To provide an example of how primary and secondary sources can be combined and organized
into an historical narrative.
- To provide content knowledge pertaining to the Rural Electrification Administration's
role in wiring rural Minnesota.
This lesson requires access to the Internet in an environment that students can easily see
the computer monitor. This typically means that each small group of students will
have a monitor or that the teacher can display the computer screen
through an overhead projector.
Some of the teacher material in this lesson is presented in a PDF (Portable Document
Format) file format. PDF files can be viewed or printed using your
Web browser and Adobe's Acrobat Reader software. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader
currently installed on your computer, Adobe provides
downloading instructions for
the free Acrobat Reader for Macintosh and Windows.
The materials for the quantitative activity (data set, blank graph and completed graph) may be printed and
photo-copied for each student in advance of conducting the lesson (and then handed out at the
appropriate point during instruction). Alternatively, teachers may have students analyze the
data online during the activity portion of the lesson. There are links to the printable
versions of the data set and graphs on the main Teacher Material
This lesson is designed for History Day students in grades six and up. It is flexible enough
to be used as an in-class lesson in which the teacher leads the class through the activity
(see "Suggested Steps for In-class Use" below), or
as an individual assignment in which students individually navigate the lesson.
Since the lesson focuses
on building skills that are usefull in developing History Day entries, it is desirable to use this
lesson shortly after students have been introduced to the History Day program and are preparing to
begin researching their topics. However, students in the midst of their research may be
directed to certain portions of this lesson to help them organize their research and projects.
The assessment tools included with this lesson are divided into the Junior (6th through
8th grade) and Senior (9th through 12th grade) sections. These age-appropriate tools
may be used to evaluate student retention and the lesson's effectiveness.
The REA lesson consists of three basic components: a two-phased activty; a narrative with links
to sources, bibliography cards and note cards; and a history mystery which provides the
opportunity for individual students or classes to solve a history mystery based on the lesson.
Additional assessment tools are also provided in the teacher material section of the lesson.
The following chart illustrates the lesson organization:
- Student Activity
- The Historian's Tools - "Learning About Sources"
- History by the Numbers - "Analyzing Numerical Data"
- REA Narrative - "Bringing Power to the People"
- Sources Behind the Story
- Note Cards
- Bibliography Cards
- Annotated Bibliography
- History Mystery
- History Mystery Question
- Online Response Form
Suggested Steps for In-class Use:
Whether using this lesson as an individual assignment or as an in-class activity, it is strongly
suggested that the teacher review the steps listed below and run through the activity before
assigning or presenting it to the class. The list below represents one suggestion for using this
activity as an in-class activity over several class periods. Feel free to alter the approach or
supplement it, but remember to let us know how you implemented this lesson in your
classroom through our online teacher feedback form located on the main
Teacher Materials page.
Student Activity: "Learning About Sources"
- Introduce the Lesson and run through the process with students by reviewing
the introductory screen.
- Enter the Activity section as a class and discuss the difference between primary
and secondary sources.
- Enter the Primary Source section relating to "Charles Lindbergh and his flight to Paris,"
and review the sample sources. Have the class come to a consensus on each source before choosing
if its primary or secondary.
- Enter the Secondary Source section relating to "The American Women's Suffrage Movement: Getting
the Right to Vote," and review the sample sources. Have the class come to a consensus on each
source before choosing if its primary or secondary.
Student Activity: "Analyzing Numerical Data"
- Discuss the value of quantitative
analysis as a tool historians use to evaluate numeric primary source data. Explain that the data
set provided illustrates the percentage of rural homes with electricity compared to all homes with
electricity from 1920 to 1956.
- Provide students with a hard-copy data set and blank graph and have them plot the information.
- With completed graphs in hand, discuss with students what the graph is telling them (use the online
completed graph to illustrate the data).
- Once students have a good idea of what the graph is telling them (and why it is more clear when
plotted on a graph than it was in the table or data set), continue with the activity.
- The activity will take you through a series of four questions relating to aspects of the graph.
Each question is followed by a screen illustrating a primary source that provides hints. Discuss
what the source is telling them and enter a possible answer in the space provided before accessing
the "Here is one possible conclusion" text box.
- Emphasize how multiple primary sources are being brought together to explain aspects of how
electricity was made assessable to rural America.
REA Narrative: "Bringing Power to the People"
- Enter the Read the Story section of the lesson. Read the narrative as a class and
then go back and re-read each section while linking to the primary and secondary sources behind the story.
- Students may be divided into groups and assigned a source section to investigate in detail and present an overview
to the class.
- Emphasize how multiple secondary sources are used to build context and a variety of primary
sources are used to expand and enhance the interpretation of the event.
- For each source, review the bibliography card and note card and discuss with students methods
for researching their History Day projects and the benefits of keeping sources and notes neatly
- Enter the History Mystery section and present students with the graph of kerosene
usage in the United States between 1920 and 1960.
- Have students refer to their electricity graphs (links are provided to the data-set and blank
graphs if needed), and compare it to the kerosene information.
- Discuss possible answers to History Mystery and come to a class consensus. Fill out the online
form and submit you answer. You will receive a response to the e-mail address you enter on the
Assessment and Teacher Feedback
- Provide students with the appropriate assessment tool provided or distribute your own assessment
activity to gauge student retention and lesson effectiveness.
- Complete the teacher feedback form (located in the Teacher Resource section of the lesson).
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