The Early Federal Period Documents Lesson
I divided the class up into four stations. At each station I placed one to three documents for students to examine. The documents focused on four themes/branches of the period and have a concrete activity the students must perform that accompanies each station. The purpose of the accompanying activities is to direct students' thinking regarding the theme/purpose of the station as well as the documents.
The four stations are as follows:
This lesson should be prefaced with a discussion of bias as well as deliberate versus ephemeral evidence.
Teacher's Notes: Although I had intended for each station to last for about ten minutes, the students needed more time to digest and analyze each work, which contained fairly complicated arguments. It really helped too when I joined several groups and modeled how such a discussion should take place. In many cases, as in Station One, the documents needed to be examined holistically and line by line. Taking notes from each station was a must and this also slowed the students down. The discussion at each station seemed to be particularly valuable. In hindsight, I might accompany each station with specific questions to be answered and discussed by the group, although I believe this would depend on the age level. While such a support would be necessary for some more concrete learners, at the AP level for which this lesson was designed, this lesson became an important experience at individual analysis. The use of direct questions at that level might inhibit the students' abilities to critically take apart historical documents and analyze/interpret them on their own. In this case, modeling appropriate discussions of the documents seemed to be most successful. Assessment of the students abilities to examine these documents was done both through moving around and listening to their discussions and thinking as well as the accompanying activities for each station, which served to direct their thinking as well as to have them personalize the arguments/themes.