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In the Classroom > Unit Overview
Lessons: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15

The Third Turn, 1880-1920
Lesson 15: Becoming a Historian - Exploring 1880-1920

Unit Central Questions: In This Lesson:

What do primary and secondary sources teach us about the characteristics of "everyday life" of individuals living in Deerfield at the four turns of the centuries?

What do these characteristics reveal about changes in the town since its beginning as an English settlement?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas
Activity 1
Activity 2
Activity 3
Activity 4
Activity 5
Activity 6
Activity 7
Activity 8
Activity 9
Activity 10
Activity 11

Activity 12

Lesson Length

The time required for this lesson will vary depending on the interest of the students and teacher and the time available. Typically, a research project of this kind, including the presentation of the paper and the follow up, can last 8 weeks. Following is a rough schedule:

Activity 1 - 60 minutes
Activity 2 - 60 minutes
Activity 3 - 60 minutes
Activity 4 - 60 minutes to start and several days to complete
Activity 5 - 60 minutes and ongoing time
Activity 6 - 30 minutes and ongoing time
Activity 7 - 30 minutes for the initial session and ongoing time
Activity 8 - 30 minutes for the initial session and ongoing time
Activity 9 - ongoing
Activity 10 - ongoing
Activity 11 - ongoing
Activity 12 - several days

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

Teacher Note: The purpose of this lesson is to teach students the skills of the historian. Focusing on the topics and source materials drawn from this turn of the century (1880-1920), students will create individual research projects. They will develop and refine their research questions, collect, evaluate, and utilize primary and secondary sources to support the relevant areas of research. Students will then utilize the skills and understandings gained in previous lessons and apply these to their independent research. Each student will prepare a research paper and will present his/her research findings and supporting evidence to fellow students.

Primary source materials are items created during an historical time period by those living at that time. By reading them, one can experience their particular view of what was happening during that time period. Secondary source materials are items created later, based upon the primary sources. A primary or secondary source can be "read" for deeper meaning if one knows what to look for. Using background information and their own empirical skills, students will gain information and arrive at conclusions which are not, at first, obvious. Each type of primary source yields a particular type and amount of information. By combining information gleaned from various sources, students will create a more detailed picture of life in the past. This "picture" can be enhanced with the aid of old and modern secondary sources, including the World Wide Web.

For more information, read:
Teacher Background Essay: Deerfield at the Third Turn, 1880-1920

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand that:

1. In this period, there was rapid technological growth and increasing availability of consumer goods and leisure activities. These things changed daily life significantly.
2. Advertising became more pervasive during this period, and printed matter became increasingly available to a growing number of people.
3. As technology increased, industry and job opportunities grew, and there was a revolution in transportation with the growth of railroads, trolley lines, and ultimately, automobiles.
4. Farming remained a significant part of the Deerfield, Massachusetts economy.
5. The Colonial Revival was a strong movement in this period, accompanied by a revival of arts and crafts, and a general romanticizing of life in Colonial times. Deerfield mounted popular historical pageants memorializing and glorifying the town's past. The Allen sisters posed people in pseudo-Puritan costumes and photographed them doing period-type activities.
6. There had been and continued to be an influx of Irish immigrants to the country and to the region, fleeing famine and poverty in Ireland. Polish and Slavic peoples followed the Irish and all became successful farmers in the Connecticut Valley.
7. The Native American population is hidden within the records for various reasons including personal choice, choice of census takers and other officials, and intermarriage. The African American population in Franklin County was small.
8. This was a time of great social change. What is commonly thought of as the Victorian ideal concerning domesticity, gave way to an expanded view of the role of women. With better education, women became increasingly interested in issues of the larger world.

Students will be able to:

1. Students will acquire the ability to frame questions that can be answered by historical study and research.
2. Students will be able to identify a research question connected with this time period, create a web suggested by the question, design an outline, identify and use sources, take notes, write a paper, construct a bibliography, and give an oral presentation of their research to the student body.
3. If appropriate to the student's research area, students will be able to interview people who can provide oral histories of their ancestors.
4. Students will be able to collect, evaluate, and employ information from primary and secondary sources and to apply it in oral and written presentations.
5. Students will be able to utilize many kinds of evidence relevant to their research. The evidence may include: advertisements, newspaper articles, documents, photographs, biographies, paintings, objects, magazines, books, buildings, maps, oral histories, contemporary media sources, census data, monuments, or landscapes.
6. Students will be able to demonstrate expertise in a selected area of research for this particular period by teaching fellow students about their area of expertise.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read Teacher Background Essay: Deerfield at the Third Turn, 1880-1920
2. Download and copy source materials and assemble folders.
3. Copy topic list for students.
4. Research and compile list of website addresses for students.
5. Gather index cards and highlighters.

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

1. Teacher Background Essay: Deerfield at the Third Turn, 1880-1920
2. Digital Collection at the PVMA website.
3. Selection of a few primary sources for each topic (listed below) downloaded and printed from the Digital Collection and placed in folders. [Note to teacher: make multiple folders for each topic so that when students choose their research topics they can be given a corresponding folder.]
4. List of possible research topics:

  • Agriculture
  • Colonial Revival (including Arts and Crafts)
  • Immigrants
  • Occupations/Trades
  • Transportation
  • Leisure/Clothing/Customs

5. Student Background Essay: Reading Primary Sources.


1. Folders for source materials
2. Highlighters
3. Notebooks
4. Index Cards
5. "Reading Primary Sources Guiding Questions" packet

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Activities Materials in Context

Activity 1: Research Topic Selection

Note to the Teacher: As students work independently, be sure to meet with them individually on a regularly scheduled basis to assess progress, assist them in overcoming hurdles, etc.

1. Review previous "Turns" and the ways students learned about daily life through primary sources. Inform students that for the 1880-1920 turn, they will be researching individual topics.
2. Distribute topic list. Discuss the meaning of the topics. Instruct each child to select a topic from the list (or other topics identified by the teacher for which there are source materials).
3. Distribute appropriate research folders to students. These should contain a few copies of primary and secondary source materials taken from the PVMA website digital library or other sources. Student will add to this folder as research progresses.
4. Tell the students that they will be using the PVMA website to find more primary source materials and will use that website and others, along with books, to do their research.

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Activity 2. Learning To Make a Web

1. Using a sample topic not selected by students, model the web for them. Instruct students to take notes on this process.

  • Place topic title in the center of the blackboard, or on overhead screen page.
  • Brainstorm a subset of most important topics related to the research topic.
  • In a concentric circle around the topic title, write the subset of secondary topics.
  • Draw lines from each secondary topic to the topic title in the center.
  • As related concepts arise in the discussion, connect them in relevant places on the web.

2. Break students into groups of 4. Instruct students to continue brainstorming and expanding the web model and continue taking notes.
3. Reconvene class. Ask each group to present their models to the class by having one spokesperson describe the way the group organized their web.
4. As a class, discuss the completed webs, evaluating the effectiveness of each in describing what students learned about the topic.
5. Ask students to define the main question(s) that a paper written about this model topic could answer. Discuss various possibilities.

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Activity 3: Establishing the Research Parameters

1. Model the organizational structure of the research paper (See below). Instruct students to take notes in their notebooks:

  • Set-up of Title Page
  • Outline Page including title, research question, and outline
  • Introduction
  • Body of Paper, including text, illustrations, and captions
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

2. Remind students of the note taking they have done so far, particularly in Lesson 12 when they took notes about the history of schools in Deerfield, Massachusetts.
3. Explain to students that note-taking requires that they restate what is in the original source, but that they may not copy it word-for-word unless the text is quoted and quotation marks used around the words copied from the original.
4. Explain the concept of plagiarism. Discuss with students the difference between presenting their own ideas and plagiarizing source materials.

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Activity 4: Beginning The Research

1. Instruct students to read through their research material folders to develop a preliminary sense of materials and a research topic.
2. Instruct students to formulate a research question. The question should help them narrow down the topic.

Note to the teacher: Two students studying agriculture, for example, will not necessarily be researching the same aspect of that topic. One may be studying the life of a Polish farmer in 1900 and another the technology and crops of the period. The research questions will define the research field.

3. Instruct students to develop concept webs for their own research topics, placing their questions in the center of their webs (rather than the overall topic). This will be an ongoing process, with students filling in webs and deleting sections that are not relevant, as they work.
4. Ask students to submit their concept webs and research questions to you for assessment and feedback.
5. Review the meaning of primary source and secondary source. Discuss these with students. Make 4 columns on the board with these headings: primary sources; location; secondary sources; location. Ask students for examples of primary and secondary sources, and write these on the corresponding lists. (Don't forget the less obvious examples of sources, like objects.) Then discuss where students might locate some of these materials, and write this on the location lists. Ask students to copy these lists into their notebooks.
6. Instruct students to explore the digital library, books in the classroom or school library, and other websites to find more information relevant to their research topic and question. Remind them to make copies of their sources and to write on each one what it is and where they found it. Have students put these in their folders.

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Activity 5: Taking notes on source documents and background readings

Note to the teacher: This note-taking technique is for prose documents only. All other research documents will be "read" and analyzed by using a directed questions technique presented in Activity 6.

1. Go over the note-taking process:

  • Have each student select a paragraph from one of the written source documents s/he will be using.
  • Read the paragraph without taking notes.
  • Reread the paragraph, underlining or highlighting key ideas.
  • Write down the key ideas in their own words on one side of an index card or on 8.5x11 paper. Instruct students to include bibliographic citations for notes either on the back of the 3x5 cards or on the 8.5x11 sheet of paper.

2. Instruct students to use colored markers to color code the main topic areas on their webs.
3. Ask students to organize the materials in their folders by main topic areas. The same color-coding should be used on students' note cards or papers and on the primary source materials in their folders. They should make piles of materials connected to each topic and clip each pile together with a note card indicating the color code of that topic clipped to the top of the pile.
4. Ask students to begin taking notes on their color-coded papers or cards by paraphrasing the main ideas that they have underlined in their source materials.

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Activity 6: "Reading" and analyzing primary sources

1. Distribute Student Background Essay: Reading Primary Sources
2. Review the worksheets with students.
3. Instruct students to use the questions on the worksheets to analyze their primary and secondary sources for their research. Write the answers to the questions on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper or on index cards. Color code the answers (See Activity 5, above), clip to the corresponding source and place in the folder.

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Student Background Essay: Reading Primary Sources

Activity 7: Web Revision

1. Instruct students to review their webs and research questions.
2. Ask students to revise their webs based on the amount or availability of relevant materials, refined scopes of topics, or the student's skill levels.
3. Have students revise their research questions as needed.

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Activity 8: Outlining the Paper

1. Discuss with students that as they take notes and write they will also be organizing the order of topics within their papers.
2. Instruct students to create a draft outline based on their web, listing each major area next to a Roman numeral in an order which makes sense. As the writing process progresses, have students revise the order and edit the content of the outline as well. The outline will become a table of contents for the research paper.

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Activity 9: Writing as an Organic Process

1. Discuss that the actual writing of the paper is not a linear process. It is perfectly acceptable to begin writing about an area of immediate interest.
2. Ask students to write down the area they are particularly interested in at present.
3. Once the area has been identified, ask students to select relevant notes and primary source materials from their folders.
4. Once materials have been selected, ask students to begin writing about the topic as if they were telling a story.
5. As students write, they should be organizing topics in a reasonable order (adapting the outline as necessary).
6. Instruct students to continue the writing process, conferring with the teacher as needed, until the body of the paper has been drafted.
7. Instruct students to write an introduction (which grabs the reader's interest and gives an overall view of the topic being addressed) and a conclusion (which summarizes the paper and encapsulates the answer to the research question).
8. Throughout the research, note taking, and writing process, students should confer with the teacher on a regular basis.

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Activity 10: Completing the paper

1. Review, revise, and rewrite the paper.
2. Assemble and write the bibliography.
3. Create a cover.
4. Assemble final product.

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Activity 11: Preparing to present

1. Explain to students that each will participate as a historian on a panel of peers (other students in the class), and each will also present his/her research to an audience (rest of school and parents). Presentations will be 3-5 minutes long.
2. Instruct students to start by reading their papers aloud while timing themselves. If the paper is too long, it will need editing.
3. Discuss how to adapt and shorten the paper so that it will be most interesting to the audience. For example, explain that a list of statistics is boring to listeners.
4. Ask students to shorten presentations to the appropriate length and assemble illustrations that will enhance the presentation.
5. Instruct students to use index cards on which to write either the main ideas or the whole speech. These will be used for the presentations.
6. Allow students to work with each other to practice their presentations. Use peer review as the process develops.
7. Discuss and practice good presentation techniques, including poise, timing, transitions, articulation, and expression.
8. Practice, practice, practice.
9. Present.

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Activity 12: A seminar of historians - assimilating knowledge

1. List the following topics on the board: manners and morals; religion; work; leisure; clothing; housing; education; changing economy and developing technology; transportation; immigration.
2. Explain that a seminar is a meeting to pool information and explore ideas and that students will participate in a seminar. Two will be organized, and half the students will participate in each, depending on the relevance of their research topic and their areas of interest.
3. Divide the topics into two groups of four. Group one: manners and morals, clothing, leisure, education, housing. Group two: work, changing economy and developing technology, transportation, religion, immigration.
4. Ask students to self-select into the two groups according to the relevance of their research and interest. Negotiate so that the groups are roughly equal in size.
5. Seat groups in two concentric circles, one inside the other. Students in the inner circle will be the seminar discussants, and students in the outer circle will be observers and questioners. After one seminar group is finished, the groups will switch.
6. The teacher will act as the discussion facilitator. The observers will take notes on important points made by the students.

7. Ask the students to:

  • Think about the differences in life from the third turn of the century to the first and second turns. What was unique to the third turn in the areas of their expertise?
  • Discuss whether the changes evident at the third turn made the quality of life better or worse for the people living in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Tell them to support their answer with evidence from their research.
  • Think about the word "community" and to discuss what kind of community Deerfield, Massachusetts had become by the third turn of the century.

8. After discussion, open the floor to questions from the observers.
9. After a reasonable amount of time, have the students write summaries in their notebooks about the discussion.
10. At a later time, reverse the groups and proceed as above.

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Use student webs, research questions, research reports, presentations and summary notes from the "seminars" to assess the degree to which individual students have achieved the intended learning outcomes.


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