Inquiry in Teaching & Learning

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Below are important links to resources that contain inquiry-based lesson plans that utilize primary source material. Sites listed here were chosen based on accessibility and completeness of lesson plan packages.

Featured lessons from:

  • 2013 National Council for the Social Studies conference Gateway to the Core of Learning
  • 2013 Western History Association conference Methodologies for Teaching Frontiers, Borderlands, and Imagined Places

Click here for lesson plans
One possible way for students to work with various documents and photographs is to create a “museum” style exhibit. This activity introduces the concept of public history by posing the questions “How do we tell a story? Whose story do we decide to tell?” This exercise incorporates Common Core skills by deciphering important information and citing evidence to support an opinion.

This lesson plan accompanies the "Migrants, Mothers, and Museums" powerpoint above. It is important for students to know history is interpretive and a historian’s perspective can change over time. Conversations about various facts emphasized or conclusions reached allow the teacher a chance to visit the concept of historiography. Same facts; different accounts. Students tend to read secondary accounts as authoritative and do not question them. This activity helps students see that historical narratives are claims and arguments that may be disputed or modified.

The goal of this lesson is for students to understand the causes, course, and consequence of increasing anti-Chinese sentiments in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands from the 1850s through the 1930s, to note the changes and trends within this topic, and to account for the factors that caused these changes. Additionally, students will compare and contrast the anti-Chinese movements in the U.S. and Mexico, seeking to understand the similarities and to account for the differences. 

In this lesson, students will consider the primary sources they are leaving behind and how these sources would give future historians insight into a student’s life today. The basic idea for the lesson is to encourage students to think of themselves as having “a history” and to reflect on how the sources created in the present will aid historians in the future. Through this reflection, students will consider the historian’s craft—finding, analyzing, and interpreting extant sources to reconstruct meaning including the motivations of people involved and the significance of the actions of people of the past.