Series: Reading Like a Historian

ELA.RH.11-12.6

Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RH:  Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 6: 
    Evaluate authors' differing points of view on the
    same historical event or issue by assessing the
    authors'\x80\x99 claims, reasoning, and evidence.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

|
ELA.RH.11-12.9

Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RH:  Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-\x80\x9312
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 9: 
    Integrate information from diverse sources,
    both primary and secondary, into a coherent
    understanding of an idea or event, noting
    discrepancies among sources.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Reading Like a Historian: Sourcing
Lesson Objective: Analyze the source of documents about the Gulf of Tonkin
Grades 9-12 / History / Analysis
ELA.RH.11-12.6 | ELA.RH.11-12.9

Thought starters

  1. Why is sourcing an essential skill?
  2. What makes each component important?
  3. How does Ms. Ziegler encourage students to use contextualization?
  4. What criteria did Ms. Ziegler use when selecting the documents for this lesson?
12 Comments
This video shows the importance about sourcing documents to lead students into quickly finding answers before having to read an entire document. I like that she is there to asking questions to steer students to where they should be. Giving the students documents that come from both sides (if war was intended or not) to keep the students focused and paying close attention.
Recommended (0)
To reiterate what most have already pointed out, I love tools that students should use to source each primary source they read. I have used handouts (that are meant to be kept for the year in their binders) and posters. My biggest problem is I forget to use them every time and for different types of primary sources- video, pictures, etc..
Recommended (0)
I really like the document that she used to have students evaluate the document. I might have to borrow that.
Recommended (0)
I really like using a document analysis chart to help students source a document, because having those questions right next to them while they are reading a document is especially helpful so they know exactly what they're looking for. I also really like that every document has the potential to prove both arguments, and students have to pull examples directly from the text in order to prove their argument.
Recommended (0)
I really liked this lesson plan. Ms. Ziegler gets at the heart of how historians use thoughtful analysis to extract meaning from what might otherwise appear to students to be just dry, uninteresting documents. I especially liked the way she pointed out the fact that the key events being covered were transpiring in an election year...a factor that is extremely important, yet often overlooked when examining momentous decisions throughout American history.
Recommended (0)

Transcripts

  • Reading Like A Historian: Sourcing
    Program Transcript

    Valerie Ziegler (Interveiw):
    Most lessons are structured the same way, in that you pose

    Reading Like A Historian: Sourcing
    Program Transcript

    Valerie Ziegler (Interveiw):
    Most lessons are structured the same way, in that you pose a question to the class for the day. That’s, sort of, the grabber: this is why we’re here today. Then in posing that question, there’s usually a set of historical documents that you’re reading. For some lessons, there might only be two documents; for some, there could be as many as five. Then you being using the skills of Reading Like A Historian, so we always begin with sourcing it: trying to understand who wrote this document and what was their intent in it.

    Ziegler:
    Today we’re going to talk about something called the Gulf of Tonkin. And most historians point to this as, sort of, the U.S.’s formal entry into the Vietnam War. And we’re going to ask ourselves today, with our question—is that, “Was the U.S. planning to go to war before the Gulf of Tonkin incident, or was this really the beginning of the U.S.’s entry into Vietnam?” So what happens at the Gulf of Tonkin incident? You’ll notice on your timeline, it shows both August 2nd and 4th of 1964, North Vietnamese attack two U.S. destroyers in international waters, which became known as the Gulf of Tonkin. And I’ll show you that on a map. So what’s happening there that something is destroyed—well, there is a U.S. ship there, the U.S.S. Maddox, and it was a destroyer, and it was basically using electronic spying techniques, and they were trying to figure out, “What’s going on?” Historians debate what really happened on these two dates, but there was incidence of firing on the Maddox on August 2nd. August 4th, sometimes historians disagree as to what really happened, but we know that it happens on August 2nd, and as a result, President Johnson asks Congress to take action.

    Valerie Ziegler (Interview):
    The question for that day was, “Was the U.S. planning to go to war before the Gulf of Tonkin incident?” And the intent with that lesson was to introduce Vietnam, in the sense that I wanted students to already start grappling, “Wow we’re in a war? How did we get there, and why are we there? And people were questioning that?” And so the intent was to use documents to analyze that question.

    Ziegler:
    And we’re going to begin with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. That’s going to be our first document. And I am going to source and close read it for you. Alright, on your timeline, I’d like you to write today’s question, so we make sure we’re constantly coming back to this as we look at it. And the question is: “Was the U.S. planning to go to war with Vietnam before the Gulf of Tonkin?” What’s the first thing that I’m going to do?

    Students:
    Source.
    Ziegler:
    I’m going to source it.

    Valerie Ziegler (Interview):
    For the sourcing, I give them a handout, and they place it next to them. And say the first question is “Who wrote it?” Easy, we can answer that together. “When was it written? Why was it written? And I would say in the beginning I model that.

    Ziegler:
    So, what’s the first thing I’m going to do when I source it?

    Student:
    Who wrote it?

    Ziegler:
    Who wrote it. Okay. So, here’s my ‘who.’ It says, “The 88th Congress of the United States of America.” So the author, literally in the case, is Congress. So we know that Congress passes laws, and a resolution looks a lot like a law, right? This is their statement. According to your timeline, what year is this? August… what?

    Student:
    Seven.

    Ziegler:
    …7, 1964. Okay? So this is when this happens, right? What do I know has already happened when they pass this resolution?

    Student:
    The incident.

    Ziegler:
    The incident! The Gulf of Tonkin incident. So, again, as I’m thinking about this—this context, right?—it’s after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Is there anything else that I would want to pull from the sourcing here? Marcel?

    Student:
    At the second session?

    Ziegler:
    Yeah, the second session. So that does tell me that—this part here means it’s the second part of Congress, and actually, what’s interesting that a lot of people don’t think about this, is again we’re talking about sessions of Congress: this is going into an election year when this takes place. Why does that matter, there’s going to be an election?

    Student:
    Every party’s trying to get their guy in.

    Ziegler:
    Everybody’s trying to get—so members of Congress are trying to get elected. And who else is trying to get elected?

    Student:
    The president.

    Ziegler:
    The president! And so that asks the question, Who’s the president at the time?

    Student:
    A white guy.

    Ziegler:
    A white guy, yes. [students laugh] Who’s the one that was questioning in that domino theory?

    Student:
    LBJ.

    Ziegler:
    LBJ. So, at this time, LBJ is the president, right? And we know it’s an election year. And so, I’m thinking, as a historian, “Hmm, does that mean that they’re going to pass this because this is what the American people want, so they can get elected? Because, ‘Oh, they fired on our ships, we must go to war!’ Or are they doing this to make things seem better?”

    Valerie Ziegler (Interview):
    So the idea was that I wanted them to look at the documents, in that every document could answer the question both ways: every document could say, ‘yes, they were planning to go to war,’ and every document you could say ‘no.’ And so the intent was, “I can take the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and say, ‘this is proof they were planning to go to war,’ or ‘this is proof they were not planning to go to war.’” And so that was the focus: to really get the kids to think about the sourcing of that document and the document itself.

    Student:
    So we know that this is a memorandum. And the person who wrote it is an advisor from Foreign Affairs.

    Ziegler:
    So, what did you notice about this, Estaphani?

    Student:
    That it was before the Gulf of Tonkin was attacked.

    Ziegler:
    Okay. So, what does that make you think, before you even start reading it? Do you think it means they wanted to go to war, or they hadn’t planned on it?

    Student:
    They hadn’t planned on it.

    Ziegler:
    Okay. Why do you think that?

    Student:
    Because the incident, like, it didn’t occur yet.

    Ziegler:
    Okay.

    Student:
    It’s not like—not even the Gulf of Tonkin has happened yet, and it’s already saying to use military force against Vietnam. I think that this whole document’s going to be about going to war.

    Student:
    But I would say “without,” so that would be a “not.”

    Student:
    “…that without a decision to resort to military action if necessary, the present prospect is not hopeful.” They don’t want to use military force, but they might have to.

    Student:
    I think—that was just an excuse.

    Ziegler:
    What’s some evidence from the sourcing that they were? Look at the bottom of the source. What kind of document is this?

    Student:
    Top secret.

    Ziegler:
    Super top secret—it was, like, somebody drafted it, somebody cleared it, and somebody approved it. So what does that make us think before we read it? Did they want anybody to see this?
    Student:
    No.

    Ziegler:
    No. So, I think we can make the case that this is probably ‘we’re going to go to war,’ based on that.

    Valerie Ziegler (Interview):
    The use of documents obviously is fundamental to Reading Like A Historian. I like to use a variety of documents so—the text documents that I often use: a speech, a testimony, a journal entry, a newspaper article, historians’ writing–– those are all different types. But I also love to use images, because they are, you know, a source of history, or a video, or a song. And the importance of that to me is that all of those things come together to tell the story.

    #####

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Lincoln (Abraham) High School
2162 24th Avenue
San Francisco CA 94116
Population: 2027

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