Learning Plans & Activities
Kent State with Primary Sources

Using Kent State by Deborah Wiles and other resources, students will learn ways to identify and evaluate primary sources. If English and social studies teachers are co-teaching, reading the novel and analyzing sources could be split between the classes.


English, social studies, media literacy




English teachers, social studies teachers, technology teachers


Students will learn to identify primary sources, analyze their content, and place them in an historical context.


Kent State by Deborah Wiles (Scholastic 2020)

Mary Ann Vecchio photo, by John Paul Filo (http://100photos.time.com/photos/john-paul-filo-kent-state-shootings)

"The May 4 Shootings at Kent State University" by Jerry M. Lewis and Thomas R. Hensley (http://www.kent.edu/may-4-historical-accuracy)

May 4th Shooting worksheet:

Document Analysis worksheets from National Archives Educator Resources (http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets)

Kent State Shootings: Digital Archive (http://omeka.library.kent.edu/special-collections/kent-state-shootings-digital-archive)

Remembering Vietnam: Episode 9 (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/remembering-vietnam-online-exhibit-episodes-9-12)

Common Core Argumentative Rubric (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Db1bhlyqCKQE3Cq5nUj9qTh8io59R5Lk/view)

Gallery Walk Exit Ticket:


9–10 days


AASL Standards Framework for Learners

I.B.1. Using evidence to investigate questions.

I.C.1. Interacting with content presented by others.

III.B.2. Establishing connections with other learners to build on their own prior knowledge and create new knowledge.

IV.A.3. Making critical choices about information sources to use.

IV.B.3. Systematically questioning and assessing the validity and accuracy of information.

VI.A.3. Evaluating information for accuracy, validity, social and cultural context, and appropriateness for need.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Instructional Procedure

(Although breakdown by days are provided here, divide as necessary for online lesson length and need to consolidate/tabulate student responses. Procedure below includes online learning modification suggestions, noted with OL.)

Day 1

Warm up/pre-reading activity: Have students write a definition of primary and secondary sources. Discuss their responses and create a class definition of each term on chart paper to be referred to throughout this unit. Refer students to the "Working with Primary Sources" tips from ABC-CLIO (https://americanhistory.abc-clio.com/Tools/WorkingWithPrimSources) to help focus the discussion. Show them a copy of Kent State and ask them if it is a primary or secondary source. Have them answer using elements of the class definition. Project John Paul Filo's photograph and discuss whether it is a primary or secondary source. Add Kent State and the photograph as examples to the chart.

OL: Have students at home create their definitions on padlet (https://padlet.com/) or other online collaboration tool. Use Word Art (https://wordart.com/create) to create a Word Cloud of the responses. Students then use the World Cloud to refine their initial definitions. New definitions should be submitted as a Google doc. Create a poll, using the four or five best definitions and have students vote on the final definitions to be used for this class. Post Google slides of the front page of Kent State and of Filo's photograph and have students label each as a primary or secondary source.

Mini-lesson: Hand out the May 4th Shooting worksheet. Read the paragraph from "The May 4 Shootings at Kent State University." Discuss the facts the authors present. Ask students if the paragraph on the worksheet is a primary or secondary source. Preview the pages of the quotes on the worksheet. Read Chapter 1 out loud, assigning parts to the different voices. Discuss bias and point of view.

OL: Post the paragraph from the Lewis and Hensley article. Ask students if the paragraph is a primary or secondary source. Additional topics might include: Why do you think misinformation spreads? Why does it persist? Are these false statements important? Why or why not? Ask students to post/discuss the facts they present. Have students read or listen to Chapter 1. Ask them to post at least one example of bias and point of view (review these terms if necessary).

Exit ticket/homework: Is the last line in Chapter 1 true? Ask students to give one response from the point of view of a townsperson, one response from the point of view of a college student, and their own personal opinion.

Day 2

(If being co-taught with English and social studies techers, reading could happen in English, facts discussion in social studies). Read aloud Chapter 2, assigning/rotating parts, pausing to have students fill in the chart on the May 4th worksheet. Have table groups discuss the chart—which items do they agree on/disagree on? Have each table group decide which items most need verification.

OL: Create a Google form with the same questions on the worksheet. Have students read/listen to Chapter 2 and fill out the Google form on statements from the chapter. Post the result chart from the Google form and have students discuss the chart. Which items do they agree on/disagree on? Which items most need verification?

Day 3–5: Read Chapters 3 through end of the book. Have students note (on Padlet for OL) five to six statements in each chapter that need verification, then generate a class list of those statements and rank the top 10.

Day 6-7: Project or post "What are the Most Important Unanswered Questions about the May 4 Shootings?" section from the Lewis and Hensley article. Discuss the overlaps/omissions with the class list and decide if any new ranking needs to take place.

OL: Students should write two paragraphs addressing the following: Which of the 13 questions are most important to answer and which question (one of these 13 or others brought up) is impossible to answer? After reading student responses, post the most common questions addressed. Have students decide if the top 10 list needs to be amended.

Assign students in pairs to investigate a top 10 statement, using at least one primary and one secondary document. Refer students to the "Analyze a Written Document" worksheet from the National Archives Educator Resources.

Day 8: Students with the same topics will share their findings and create a poster of their findings, including an analysis of whether primary or secondary documents were most helpful for their question and why.

OL: Students can share their findings by creating a Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation for sharing, including an analysis of whether primary or secondary source documents were most helpful for their question and why.

Day 9: Gallery walk. Students will review at least 5 other topics and complete an exit ticket on the value of primary sources.

Final assessment of unit: Compare/contrast Kent State and Episode 9 of Remembering Vietnam in terms of effectiveness in teaching about the events at Kent State and anti-Vietnam protests. Consider issues such as impact at the time, lasting impact, presentation of facts, presentation of emotions, and impact on individuals.


Partners should be assigned heterogeneously so second language learners or others in need of differentiation have supportive partners. Top 10 topics should be assigned to students with consideration for their abilities. Advanced students can be tasked with researching the Jackson State shootings (see Additional Resources). For online learning, audiobooks and text are strongly recommended for second language learners.


Students will be formatively assessed through the worksheets and homework. Summative assessments will consist of the poster and final reflection. For online learning, summative assessments will consist of the top 10 research, slide presentations, and final reflection.

Additional Resources

Johnson, Jack R, "The Other Kent States: Did Black Lives Matter?" in North of the James Magazine, May 2019.

Robinson, Jocelyn, "Remembering What Happened At Jackson State College In 1970," WYSO radio documentary, May 15, 2014, https://www.wyso.org/post/remembering-what-happened-jackson-state-college-1970.

Get more ideas for teaching with this book in "Curriculum Connections for Kent State." You can also refer to "Exploring 'Fake News' with Kent State" for more lesson ideas.

Suzanne Libra

MLA Citation Libra, Suzanne. "Kent State with Primary Sources." School Library Connection, April 2020, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2245757?childId=2245759&topicCenterId=1955265.

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Entry ID: 2245759

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