Who Are We? A Mini-Lesson on Assimilation through Education

Chiricahua_Apaches_as_they_arrived_at_Carlisle_from_Fort_Marion_Florida(1) Chiricahua_Apaches_four_months_after_arriving_at_Carlisle(1)

 A lesson in corroboration for 8th grade students

by Christy Thomas

In this lesson, students compare two John Choate photographs from 1886, Chiricahua Apaches as they arrive at Carlisle from Fort Marion, Florida & Chiricahua Apaches four months after arriving at Carlisle. Using the quotations from Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher, students are asked to examine two contrasting pieces of information to learn how Native Americans and the Euro-Americans disagreed on assimilation through education.

“If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans; in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in the sight of the Great Spirit. It is not necessary, that eagles should be crows.”

–Sitting Bull (Teton Sioux)

“The common schools are the stomachs of the country in which all people that come to us are assimilated within a generation. When a lion eats an ox, the lion does not become an ox but the ox becomes a lion.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

Background Information: From the 1879 to 1918, the Carlisle School trained Native American children in academics and trade skills. The school operated on a deserted military base in Central Pennsylvania.

Question 1: As you compare the children in these photographs, what are some of the major changes that took place?

Question 2:  Do you believe Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher felt similarly about assimilation? What factors would have caused Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher to view assimilation differently? How do the two messages differ?

Creating a mini-lesson based on historical thinking skills was a great exercise in thinking outside the box. I found it challenging to adjust my thinking from simple recall to more analytical questions. In this lesson, I hope to step outside of a lecture mode and let students take ownership of their learning process. I see emphasizing historical thinking skills as a great way to help students connect the past to the present lives.

I enjoyed working with my classmates to fine tune the mini-lessons. It was nice to work together to improve our final products and discuss the best way to engage students.


Images from the Library of Congress Primary Source sets: http://1.usa.gov/1msgsaM

Quotations taken from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School history: http://bit.ly/1msheVi

Dr. Seuss on Domestic Security

A mini-lesson on WWII cartoons by
Kristi Anne McKenzie
Historical Content: World War II (home front)
Historical Skills: Contextualization, sourcing
Intended Grades: 9-12


Use the source information, your knowledge of history, and the video and political cartoons to answer the questions below.


Document A is an animated short film written by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and P.D. Eastman and produced by Warner Bros. for the War Department as part of the U.S. Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit. Documents B, C and D are political cartoons created by Dr. Seuss for PM, a New York City daily newspaper.



Document A:  Private SNAFU in Rumors


Question 1: When was the film produced?

Question 2: Which two of the facts below might help explain why the author wrote this screenplay?


  1. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Seuss, like many Americans, developed a concern for national security and a fear of foreign enemies.
  2. Private SNAFU cartoons were only shown on military bases; they were not allowed to be shown to the general public. As they were a product for the use of the War Department, the films did not have to comply with standard censorship regulations in regards to decency or colorful language.
  3. In order to keep the animation studios open during the war, companies like Warner Bros. had to produce military training films.
  4. The goal of the Private SNAFU films was to teach lessons on secrecy, military protocols, and disease prevention to soldiers with poor reading skills.


Question 3. Now compare the film “Rumors” with the three political cartoons. How is the intended audience similar and different? How is the intended message similar and different?


Document B: War Monuments No. 3, published January 8, 1942



Document C:  Waiting for the Signal from Home, published February 13, 1942



Document D:  Funny… Some People Never Learn to Keep Their Barn Doors Locked, published February 16, 1942


Lesson Goals: Students should be able to situate the film and the political cartoons on a timeline of World War II events, primarily around the bombing of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) and President Roosevelt’s issuance of Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942). Students should recognize the difference between making an animated film for enlisted men in the military and drawing political cartoons for the general public. They should also note that the message of the cartoons and the film are quite similar, but the difference in the intended audience has an effect on the context.


Possible extension activity: Compare and contrast Carlos Mencia’s 2002 stand-up routine for Comedy Central Presents with Dr. Seuss’ cartoon “Waiting for the Signal From Home.” What themes emerge?


Reflection:  This was a fun project. It seemed to me that it should have been a more difficult task to assemble a lesson on primary sources using a medium that was new to me (Google Presentation), but the Stanford History Education Group’s assessment model was so clear that this lesson came to together almost effortlessly. In fact, it came together so well I thought I must have done it incorrectly, or left something out. My thanks to Sam for thoroughly examining my first draft and offering his insight and support. This is the kind of lesson that makes me feel like I am doing what I am meant to be doing, and moving in the right direction.



Document A, Private SNAFU in “Rumors,” is now in the public domain. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGP7GebzO_E

Document B: War Monuments No. 3, published by PM Magazine on January 8, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library. http://libraries.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dswenttowar/#ark:bb76459366

Document C: Waiting for the signal from home…, published by PM Magazine on February 13, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library. http://libraries.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dswenttowar/#ark:bb5222708w

Document D: Funny… Some people never learn to keep their barn doors locked., published by PM Magazine on February 16, 1942, Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library. http://libraries.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dswenttowar/#ark:bb5700525j

American Adobo: The Fight for the Philippines

Lesson design by Samuel Kimerling

Eighth grade students will be asked to evaluate the evidence of historical documents as a means of deepening their understanding of the Philippine War. They will use the historical thinking skills of sourcing, corroboration, and contextualization. 


photos credit: US Dept of State Office of the Historian


Use the document below and your knowledge of history to answer the questions that follow.


An excerpt from President Theodore Roosevelt’s introduction to a special report by Secretary of War Howard Taft regarding the accomplishments of the U.S. Army in the Philippines from 1898-1908.

roosevelt zoom

photo credit: Library of Congress

Source text (excerpt):

“It is a subject for just national gratification that such a report as this can be made. No great civilized power has ever managed with such wisdom and disinterestedness the affairs of a people committed by the accident of war to its hands. If we had followed the advice of the misguided persons who wished us to turn the islands loose and let them suffer whatever fate might befall them, they would have already passed through a period of complete and bloody chaos, and would now undoubtedly be the possession of some other power which there is every reason to believe would not have done as we have done; that is, would not have striven to teach them how to govern themselves or to have developed them, as we have developed them, primarily in their own interests.”

Question 1: Explain why a historian might question why Roosevelt’s praise for the military outcome in the Philippines may not be a “subject of just national gratification”?

Students will need to understand that there was major debate over imperialism during this time. Students will use the skills of sourcing and contextualization.

Question 2: Three documents are listed below.  Explain whether each document supports or conflicts with the President’s view on the military success of the Philippine War.

Students will see the various facets of the for and anti-imperialist sentiment. Students will use skills of sourcing and corroboration.

a. 1901 Petition to the Senate and House of Representatives from the Philanthropic Committee of the Religious Society of Friends which advocates for making peace with the Filipino insurgents and granting their independence.

Source text (excerpt): “The Filipino people, we feel, have a right to look to this Republic not only as an example of free government, but for effective aid and support in the establishment and maintenance of institutions of their own, freely chosen by them, and adapted, in their judgement, to their circumstances and conditions. This the American people long ago claimed for themselves, and have never heretofore denied to others.”


photo credit: Society of Friends

b. Mark Twain’s essay, “To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” delivered to the New York Anti-Imperialist League in 1901.

Source text (excerpt):“True we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn’t it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty…”


Published May 5, 1902 New York Journal “Kill Everyone Over Ten-Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took The Philippines”

c. Republican Senator Albert Beveridge’s “March of the Flag” campaign speech of September 16,1898.

“The Opposition tells us that we ought not to govern a people without their consent. I answer, The rule of liberty that all just government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, applies only to those who are capable of self-government. We govern the Indians without their consent, we govern our territories without their consent, we govern our children without their consent. How do they know that our government would be without their consent? Would not the people of the Philippines prefer the just, humane, civilizing government of this Republic to the savage, bloody rule of pillage and extortion from which we have rescued them?”


Minneapolis Tribune 1902

photo credit: Philippines 1900

Self Reflection



This project challenged us to design a lesson that encouraged students to think like a historian. Designing a lesson like this proved challenging to me as I am used to simply conveying information in a lesson.  This model relies less on the transfer of information and more on the thought process. It was helpful to have the SHEG resources as a scaffold to help figure out what a good lesson looked like.  I ended up spending a lot of time searching for primary sources and trying to figure out the best way to make them fit together to make a coherent question set.  By the time I was done searching I had discovered and bookmarked some great sources for original documents.  I would definitely give this type of project a try in the classroom, as I think making the student the historian is key to getting them to understand why history is important, and why we study it in school.  Historical thinking is critical thinking which can be applied across disciplines and prove useful in life outside the classroom.  Moving the classroom experience away from the transfer of information, and towards the acquisition of thinking skills, not only engages the student more, but prepares them better for the future.