School Improvement in Maryland
PRIMARY DOCUMENT ANALYSIS
    Introduction
    Template
    Lesson Plan
    Sample Student Response
Introduction
    This critical thinking skill is included because students will have to analyze and understand many historical documents in a government course. Have students practice frequently with the template using excerpts from the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, Supreme Court cases, or other historical writings.

    The lesson plan and sample student response sheet were developed to match:

    Government Core Learning Goal Indicator 1.1.1

    Students will analyze historic documents to determine the basic principles of United States government and apply them to real-world situations.

    Skills for Success Indicator 3.2.3

    Students will use reading skills and strategies to gather information and interpret written messages

    Below is the the First Amendment from the Bill of Rights that students will use in this lesson. Make an overhead transparency or individual student copies.

    Amendment 1, U.S. Constitution
     

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

     
Template

    Explanation

    Primary source documents are original materials that were written or created during the historical period under study. They were produced by eyewitnesses of, or participants in the historical events.

    Model for Analysis

      What is this document? When was it created?
       
       
      Who wrote the document? Give the background of the author if known.
       
       
      Who do you think was the intended audience?
       
       
      What is the purpose of this document?
       
       
      What words are not familiar to you? What do they mean?
       
       
      Is any part of the document unclear? Why?
       
       
      What is the most important information in this document?
       
       
      Why is this document important?
       
       
      Describe how you were able to analyze this document.
       
       
Lesson Plan
    Government Core Learning Goal Indicator 1.1.1

      Students will analyze historic documents to determine the basic principles of United States government and apply them to real-world situations.
       
    Skills for Success Indicator 3.2.3

      Students will use reading skills and strategies to gather information and interpret written messages.

    Lesson Objective: Students will be able to:

    • Analyze the major parts of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
    • Explain the importance of the First Amendment rights.

    Preparation/Motivation: Discuss this statement with the class:

    • A law should be passed to ban obscene rap music. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
       
    Lesson Procedures

    1. Distribute a copy of the First Amendment and the Primary Document Analysis Skill Sheet to students and allow them time to answer the questions. Discuss their responses. Encourage a student lead the discussion.Define demographics and factors that influence them (i.e. gender, age, race, religion and population).
    2. Have a student read aloud the entire First Amendment and have students list some real-world situations that relate to the First Amendment on the board. Some responses might include:
      • flag burning, protesting a war, wearing certain apparel, picketing
      • a private residence, worshipping demonic spirits, the internet, banning teens from malls,
      • demonstrations near schools, prayer in schools
      Ask students if any/all of these are protected under the First Amendment.
    3. Have students create a poster or draw a political cartoon reflecting the importance of one of the First Amendment rights today. Have students share their cartoons/posters.
       
    Summary/Assessment

    Ask students to write a brief essay titled “Life without the First Amendment Rights.” Use the Social Studies Rubric to assess their responses.
     

Sample Student Response
    Core Learning Goal Indicator 1.1.1

      Students will analyze historic documents to determine the basic principles of United States government and apply them to real-world situations.
       
    Model for Interpretation

    Amendment 1, U.S. Constitution
     

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    .
    What is this document? When was it created?
      The Bill of Rights - 1789
       
    Who wrote the document? Give the background of the author if known.
      James Madison, a delegate at the Constitutional Convention and member of the House of Representatives
       
    Who do you think was the intended audience?
      the legislatures and people in the thirteen states
       
    What is the purpose of this document?
      to satisfy the demand of several states when ratifying the Constitution
       
    What words are not familiar to you? What do they mean?
      amendment = a change or addition
      abridging = reducing, to shorten
      redress = set something right, to correct

       
    Is any part of the document unclear? Why?
      the “run-on” sentence style makes is hard to understand all of the parts
       
    What is the most important information in this document?
      It lists our rights: freedom of religion, free speech, free press, freedom to gather together, freedom to petition the government.
       
    Why is this document important?
      without it, who knows how we would have obtained these rights
       
    Describe how you were able to analyze this document.
      I looked up words that I did not know, and used the meanings to understand what freedoms this amendment gave us.
       

 
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