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60-90 minutes
  • Civil Rights
  • Elections
  • Journalism
  • Women's Rights
  • 6-12

  1. Ask your students to answer a warmup discussion prompt: Think about a major event in your life (moving, starting at a new school, the arrival of a sibling, etc.). How was your life different before and after this event?
  2. Tell students they are going to use primary sources to gather evidence about how major historic events changed society. Using the information they can find in front-page news stories, they are going to hypothesize (make their best guess) how major events changed the lives of the people who lived through them. They should consider big changes and small changes. For example, the 9/11 attacks prompted the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan (big change), and it also led to “God Bless America” being played at ballparks (smaller change).
  3. Hand out the Analyzing Turning Points in History worksheet. To reduce the time required for this activity, you may assign one or two events (rather than all four) to each student. Using the front pages on this poster, give students 20 to 40 minutes to work individually or in small groups to make their hypotheses about the changes these events set in motion (left column of chart) and give their evidence/reason for each (right column of chart).
  4. If students are focusing on one or two events, have them confer with students who focused on the other events to fill in the rest of their chart.
  5. Give students 10 to 20 minutes to respond to the prompt in step 2 on the worksheet, evaluating how these events continue to affect our lives today.
  6. As a class, use the Newseum’s online Today’s Front Pages exhibit to look at front pages from across the nation and around the world. Look for headlines that show the lasting impact of these events. (Possible ideas: response to current economic challenges, the war on terror, continuing civil rights battles, etc.)
  7. Use the post-activity discussion prompts to begin a class discussion about the changes major events can set in motion, changing the course of history in big and small ways.

  1. What were some of the big changes you found evidence to support? What were some of the smaller changes?
  2. What type of evidence/reasons did you use to make your hypotheses about changes?
  3. Sort the changes you hypothesized into categories. Possible categories: predictable versus unpredictable; positive versus negative; political versus personal, etc.
  4. Which event do you think had the biggest impact, resulting in the most significant changes? Why?

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