How to Use TwHP Lightning Lessons

Mary Ann Shadd Cary lesson plan page one PDF
Mary Ann Shadd Cary House, the first lightning lesson plan
On this page you will find guidance, tips, and pedagogy for the Teaching with Historic Places Lightning Lesson Plans.

Teaching with Historic Places lesson plans can be done as a whole class, in small groups, or by individuals. Questions that accompany the materials may be answered by students verbally or written on paper. Lessons may also be provided to students as make-up work, homework, or extra credit.

All Teaching with Historic Places lesson plans contain teacher materials and student materials, organized in the following sections: Introduction, About This Lesson, Getting Started, Locating the Site, Determining the Facts, Visual Evidence, Putting It All Together, and References.

Lightning Lesson sections with teacher materials include an Introduction to describe the lesson's content and themes; an About This Lesson section with details about the historical eras and topics the lesson covers, how it connects to national standards, learning objectives that students can achieve and teachers can evaluate, and contact information for the historic site. It also includes a Putting It All Together section with optional activities, which provides instructions for post-lesson, project-centered work students can do to further their investigations. Finally, References provide citations for the lesson and possible resources to look for more information about the topic.

Sections with student materials are Getting Started (compelling or essential question + a question to explore how place may help answer the question), Locating the Site (maps), Determining the Facts (readings, documents, charts), and Visual Evidence (photographs and other graphic documents).


The lesson plan format was designed to allow flexibility but works best if the material in each lesson plan is presented to students as described below. For example, a photo investigation pulled from a lesson can stand alone, but the same investigation done after a reading exercise will offer greater insights into what evidence the photo offers.

1) Getting Started Prompt

Begin by presenting students with the compelling or essential question that accompanies each lesson plan. This question provides a framework for them to carry out their own investigations. Follow that question up with a prompt:

What historic place might you study to answer this question? Why?

The purpose of the exercise is to introduce students to an big or provocative historical question about the content and then to jumpstart their "inner historian" by asking them to theorize how historic places can help them solve the historical problem.

2) Locating the Site

The map in this section aims to familiarize students with the historic site's geographical features and where it fits into the larger context (state, region, nation, etc). The question set leads students to ask their own questions of the map, making connections between geography and the history or social studies topics they're studying.

Extended captions may be included to provide students with information necessary to answer the questions.

3) Determining the Facts

Student read and analyze textual evidence in this section, which will contain one or two primary and/or secondary sources. Provide students with copies of the materials included in Determining the Facts and their accompanying question set.

The series of questions that follows a reading is designed to ensure that students can 1) Recall information from the readings and 2) Apply higher order thinking to form their own interpretations and conclusions.

When the readings follow the map section, students will begin to scaffold knowledge from the earlier investigation. Students should use what they discovered in Locating the Site to help them support answers to questions in this section.

4) Visual Evidence

The Visual Evidence material can be printed, projected to the front of the classroom on a screen, or presented to students on a computer. Teaching with Historic Places provides materials from this section in the full lesson plan PDF, as well as individual JPG and TIF files.

Have the students examine the photographs and answer the related questions. Captions may be included to provide students with important information that is missing from the images but necessary to complete the assignment.

Note: The images in this section are not decorations or meant to illustrate the readings; they are documents that play an integral role in helping students achieve the lesson's objectives. To assist students in learning how to "read" visual materials, you may want to begin this section by having them complete the Photo Analysis Worksheet for one or more of the photos. The worksheet is appropriate for analyzing both historical and modern photographs and will help students develop a valuable skill.

5) Putting It All Together

Once students investigate the geographical, textual, and visual evidence, and answer questions about them, they are prepared to tackle one or more of the suggested activities in Putting it All Together. Each optional activity in this section is designed to further students' investigations into a facet of the lesson, either going deep or going broad.

These activities engage students in a variety of creative exercises and offer opportunities ot build skills like public speaking, teamwork, independent research, and citizenship, that help them synthesize the information they have learned and formulate conclusions.

At least one activity in each lesson plan leads students to look for places in their community that relate to the topic of the lesson. In this way, students learn to make connections between their community and the broader themes of American history they encounter in their studies.

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