Documents for Exploration and Discussion
Suggestions for use (for Teachers)
Each set of documents below can be the basis for discussion. Ask your students to read each group of documents or explore the websites the week before a discussion session. Ask them to formulate two or three questions based on the documents. When the class meets, break the students into groups, have them read their questions to each other in their groups, choose a few of the questions and talk them over for about twenty or twenty-five minutes. Each group should select a volunteer to act as a spokesperson. Each spokesperson can then present the group's findings to the whole class.
Formulating Discussion Questions (for Students)
What is a discussion question? Well, it can't be answered by either "yes" or "no." When you write your questions, try to think about how to get your classmates to talk about the importance of the documents; what letters, pictures, articles and speeches can tell us about how people lived and thought; what they loved or feared; or what they believed. In any case, ask yourself if your question is significant--that is, does it contribute to the analysis or interpretation of America's past?
The End of the Civil War
The first three links will lead you to individual documents and the fourth link will take you to a group of documents. As you read them and formulate your discussion questions you might think about what defeat meant to the Confederacy and freedom to the slaves.
You might think about what various groups expected from Reconstruction as you read these documents.
Living in a Segregated World
Your discussion of these two documents might be about issues of racism and control.
Industry and Frontier
The links will take you to two sets of photographs. How can photographs be used to interpret the past? Is it possible to make comparisons about the experience of people in the east and in the west by looking at pictures?
America is a nation of immigrants, but its citizens spend little time thinking about the experiences of their ancestors. Can you develop some questions that will make use of the photographs and the New York Times article to illuminate that experience?
The Progressive Era
You might think about how eras get their names. Do these documents allow you to prove or disprove the validity of the name "The Progressive Era?"
Americans were reluctant imperialists in the late nineteenth century. What sort of questions based on these documents might allow you to analyze their eventual acceptance of a wider imperial role for the United States in the colonial world?
World War I
The first document (plus readings from your text about u-boat activity in the Atlantic) might foster discussion about cause and effect. The second two sites could lead you to explore the nature of propaganda and what these posters can tell you about the hopes and fears of Europeans and Americans during the Great War.
Propaganda Posters from the Great War (American)
Propaganda Posters from the Great War (European)
The Roaring Twenties
The first and third links will take you to two large sites about the 1920s. The first is a list of important events. You might want to take a look just at "People and Trends" in the third link for the purposes of discussion. The second link contains photographs of an object that would become more and more important to Americans as the 1930s approached.
World War II
These sites could generate discussion on the contributions expected from citizens by the state during times of war or perhaps the suspension of values and principles during times of crisis.
Cold War Documents
These three documents could foster a discussion about the use of differing points of view to create a more balanced historical interpretation of an event.
Middle Class America Discovers Crab-Grass!
What sorts of questions could this site be used to answer? You might think about conformity, "white flight," and prosperity.