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Lesson Plan 1: Understanding Change through Primary Sources

Written by Mariruth Leftwich
November 09, 2017

Materials and Resources Required:

  • Instructors should identify 10 – 15 primary sources that relate to the topic of the project that helps illustrate social change. Select sources that represent multiple perspectives.
  • Resource Appendix: Archival Document Analysis Framework
  • Resource Appendix: Photograph Quadrant Analysis Framework
  • Timeline drawn on whiteboard or large sheet of paper (The timeline will be used again in the project, so keep it posted or photograph the final product.)
  • Photocopies of the sources that will be taped to the large timeline
  • Tape/glue to place sources on the timeline
  • Markers for timeline annotation


  • Ask learners to share issues that they are concerned about today. Record responses in a Word document and upload to form a word cloud ( that highlights shared and varied concerns (used again in Activity 4).
  • Hook students with an understanding of the social change issue that you will be ‘remixing’ by selecting a historic image that documents the issue being discussed. In the case of the Green City Remix project, which focused on air quality, a ‘night scene’ image was used that shows the city at what appears to be nighttime, but was in fact a mid-day scene that was the result of air pollution (examples on Historic Pittsburgh). Explore the image with students asking them to identify the issues that they see represented in the image.


  • Introduce the timeline, which should include basic beginning, ending, and any key dates to the topic being discussed (i.e. key legislation, events, group actions, etc).
  • Begin the session by modeling the analysis of a document or image using the analysis frameworks listed in the resource section to answer the key question: how does this source document social change?
  • Divide students into groups and have them analyze 1-3 sources depending on the number of groups and sources available.
  • Each small group will present their sources to the whole group and place the source onto the collaborative timeline.
  • After all of the sources have been placed on the timeline, collectively go through and annotate the timeline to identify: issues, people/groups, actions, and strategies. Remember that these actions and strategies may either move an action forward, block an action, or be an action of resistance.
  • Conclude the activity by asking learners to identify the key components of social change that they see documented in the historic sources.

Open Resource — Analyzing a Photograph.pdf Open Resource — Analyzing Historic Document.pdf