Missing Persons in History

The Alice Paul Institute

I think about how much we owe to the women who went before us-legions of women, some known but many more unknown. I applaud the bravery and resilience of those who helped all of us – you and me – to be here today.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice

Grade: 6-8 / Duration: 2 class periods


  • Students will develop analytical research skills, work cooperatively, and practice positive presentation skills.
  • Students will learn about a diverse array of women’s rights activists and how they shaped the suffrage movement.


  • Craft supplies – construction paper and/or poster board, plain white paper, markers, glue, scissors, etc.
  • Computers with internet access for research
  • Missing Persons Report handout
  • List of activists (included) to assign students

PROCEDURE: After watching Alice at a Glance, debrief with students:

  • Who were the main historical figures presented in the DVD?
  • What did they contribute to their women’s suffrage movement?
  • What obstacles did they face, and how did they overcome them?
  • Was women’s suffrage achieved with the work of only these women, or did it take many different hands?

TASKS: In groups of two or three, students will each research a different activist who somehow played a role in women’s rights. While all of these activists are well known among historians for their contributions, most of us have never heard of them before. Each group will craft a creative “Missing Persons Report” on their historical figure (see assignment handout). They should include a bibliography of their sources used. Students should use the resources available at the school to conduct their research, including internet research databases and library materials. (Google searches should only be accepted as a last resort and information must be from reputable websites.) When students have completed their research (See handout for guidelines of relevant information) they should begin creating their Missing Persons Report. Encourage students to get creative. They may wish to bring in materials from home to complete their Missing Persons Report the following day. When all students have completed their Missing Persons Report, give students time to present their posters to the class. Students should present basic background information about their activist, highlight their contributions and briefly explain why they think this activist should be better known. Display the posters in the classroom or hallway to share students’ research about lesser-known women’s rights activists.

EVALUATION: Consider evaluating students’ learning for a grade based on their group participation, research bibliography, and finished product. Check in on student’s understanding as they research–they may need additional support with the research process or sorting through information about their activist.

ADAPTATIONS: A more extended project might involve the creation of a class book, group PowerPoint project, or a project using other media. Consider creating an interdisciplinary project on persuasion with a Language Arts class by asking students to use persuasive techniques in their final projects. Expectations of final products and analysis involved will vary with grade levels.


The following activists worked for women’s suffrage; even if students are familiar with some of the names, they often don’t know the activists’ contributions to women’s rights in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Here’s a chance for them to find out: Jane Addams; Ida Wells Barnett; Antoinette Brown Blackwell; Henry Blackwell; Harriot Stanton Blatch; Mary Ann Shadd Cary; Carrie Chapman Catt; Anne Clay Crenshaw; Paulina Wright Davis; Rheta Childe Dorr; Frederick Douglass; Lillian Feickert; Abigail Kelly Foster; Matilda Joslyn Gage; Angelica Emily Grimke; Sarah Moore Grimke; Ida Husted Harper; Julia Ward Howe; Alice Duer Miller; Esther Morris; Lucretia Mott; Parker Pillsbury; Robert Purvis; Jeanette Rankin; Caroline Severance; Anna Howard Shaw; Mary Church Terrell; Sojourner Truth; Victoria Woodhull; Maud Younger

Missing Persons Report

There are many activists (female and male) who made tremendous contributions to women’s rights. Most are well-known by historians, but many of us don’t recognize the names of people who had a major impact on women’s rights. As historical detectives, you will research one activist who fought for women’s right to vote. With your group, you will create a Missing Persons Report about your historical figure. Get creative with your report! Be sure to address:

  • Who your figure is (name)
  • When they lived
  • An image of the activist
  • Their major contributions to women’s rights
  • Why you think people should know about this activist
  • Consider including symbols of your activist’s work and life, quotes by or about your activist, or pictures of their work – anything that will show others who your activist was.

Broken Promises in the Middle East from the Institute for Curriculum Services

Institute for Curriculum Services

Editor’s Note: this lesson is retrievable from https://icsresources.org/curriculum/the-arab-israeli-conflict/

The Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS) is dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 education on Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the United States. They do this by developing standards-aligned curricula and training teachers around the country (www.icsresources.org). Steve Goldberg, a former President of the National Council for the Social Studies, is the New York regional trainer for (ICS).  In this lesson, students examine letters, agreements, and official statements that were written during World War I and shortly after it ended. These documents show how the British made conflicting promises to Jews and Arabs during this period. These are planned as a two-day lesson.


  • What role did the Allied Powers (especially the British Government) play in setting up conflicts in the region which persist today?
  • Why did the British Government make promises that conflicted with each other?

Learning Outcomes – Students will be able to:

  • Understand the connection between the broken promises made to Arabs and Jews during World War 1 and current challenges in the Middle East.
  • Situate a modern conflict in its historical, cultural, and geographical context.
  • Derive information from political maps.
  • Determine the central ideas or information from a primary text.
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases used in a text.

Materials: Broken Promises video and Primary Sources, Key Words, and Maps (available online)

Primary Sources

  • DOCUMENT 1: Hussein-McMahon Correspondence (1915) and Maps ?
  • DOCUMENT 2: The Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) and Map ?
  • DOCUMENT 3: The Balfour Declaration (1917) ?
  • DOCUMENT 4: The Feisal-Weizmann Agreement (1919) ?
  • DOCUMENT 5: The Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22 (1919)

Handouts: Tweet the Document Exercise; SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer; Exit Slip

Introduction: Ask the students to talk to their elbow partners about times when they’ve experienced promises being broken. Has a friend broken a promise? A parent or guardian? A family member? What did it feel like? Is there any way to make up for a broken promise? What do broken promises do to relationships? At this point, the teacher can segue into the topic of the class: What happens when nations make promises that they can’t or won’t keep?

Activities: Watch the film, “Broken Promises,” available online; if you didn’t do Lesson 1, watch the film, “Land Matters,” also online. Alternatively, you may introduce the topic with the following talking points:

  • To understand the Arab-Israeli conflict, it’s important to consider the broken promises that the British made to Arabs and Jews as they tried to secure allies in the Middle East during World War I.
  • During WWI, the geographic territory that now comprises the State of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, was known as “Greater Syria” and had been part of the Ottoman Empire for six centuries.
  • Because of its geographic location, this region is a land bridge connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe and was strategically important to the Allied Forces (Britain, France, Russia, and later the United States and Italy) in their fight against the Central Powers (primarily Germany and the Ottoman Empire).
  • Britain first engaged Arab leaders as allies during World War I by promising them independence at the end of the war (as seen in DOCUMENT 1: The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence).
  • Shortly after, Britain enlisted Jewish support in the war effort by promising to create a Jewish national home in the ancient Jewish homeland (as seen in the DOCUMENT 3: Balfour Declaration).
  • While some Arab and Jewish leaders recognized the benefits of the establishment and maintenance of respective territories within this region (as seen in the DOCUMENT 4: Faisal- Weizmann Agreement), the ruling powers (Britain and France) secretly made an agreement to exercise political control through spheres of influence (as seen in the DOCUMENT 2: Sykes-Picot Agreement).
  • Shortly after World War I ended, European nations formed the League of Nations as a way to settle international disputes and prevent future conflict. The DOCUMENT 5: Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22, provides the framework for what should be done with the colonies and territories that had controlled by the Central Powers before the war.

Primary Source Analysis

Option 1: Working in small groups, students will analyze primary source documents using the social media platform, Twitter. This activity works best with Documents 1-3. Each group should have one Tweet the Document handout and one of the first three documents. Each group will do their own document analysis using the Tweet format (see handout). Explain that Twitter is an online news and social networking site where people communicate in short messages called Tweets. Using a maximum of 280 characters, the Tweeter’s ideas are explained in brief but meaningful phrases, promoting the focused and intentional use of language. Hashtags (#) are used to categorize Tweets so that they are part of a narrowed conversation and are easier to find in a Twitter search. They are also used to add extra emphasis to the Tweet, similar to bullet points.

Option 2: Students should form groups of four or five so that they will be able to work independentlyandtheninsmallgroupsevaluatefiveprimarysourcedocuments. Distribute the primary source documents so that each group receives a full set. If there are only four students in a group, they can skip either Document 4 or 5. Each student should read the introduction to the text to get a sense of authorship, audience, setting, time, and type of document. Then, each student will read the assigned primary source document, using the SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer to record pertinent details. Students will then present their findings to their small groups.

Variation: Students form groups of two (or three) and each pair will work on one text and fill out the SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer together. The small groups then present their findings to the class so that the whole class is exposed to the full set of documents. In order to make use of both types of primary source analysis, students may use the exercise for because they are shorter and more conducive to the Tweet format. Using the exercise for Documents 4-5 gives students the opportunity to focus on the more nuanced language in these sources, especially with regard to purpose and tone.

Option 3: In order to make use of both types of primary source analysis, students may use the exercise for because they are shorter and more conducive to the Tweet format. Using the exercise for Documents 4-5 gives students the opportunity to focus on the more nuanced language in these sources, especially with regard to purpose and tone.

Conclusion: Students can answer the questions on the Exit Slip, either as part of a class discussion or individually.


DOCUMENT 1: Hussein-McMahon Correspondence (1915)

BACKGROUND: Beginning in the summer of 1915, Sir Henry McMahon (1862-1949), British High Commissioner in Cairo, exchanged letters with Hussein Ibn Ali (1853/54-1931), the Sherif of Mecca. In these letters, which became known as “The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence,” McMahon agreed to support Hussein’s request for Arab independence in exchange for Arab support against the Ottoman Empire in World War I. NOTE: The maps that accompany this document were not part of the original correspondence; they represent the request that Hussein made and the response that McMahon provided. What precisely was promised later became the subject of great debate.

Source: The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict. W. Laqueur and B. Rubin, editors. New York: Penguin Books, 2008.

EXCERPT From Sir Henry McMahon, 24 October 1915

“I have received your letter of the 29th Shawal, 1333 [in the Islamic calendar], with much pleasure and your expressions of friendliness and sincerity have given me the greatest satisfaction.

“I regret that you should have received from my last letter the impression that I regarded the question of the limits and boundaries with coldness and hesitation; such was not the case . . .  I have realised, however . . . that you regard this question as one of vital and urgent importance. I have, therefore, lost no time in informing the Government of Great Britain of the contents of your letter, and it is with great pleasure that I communicate to you on their behalf the following statement, which I am confident you will receive with satisfaction.

“The two districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo cannot be said to be purely Arab, and should be excluded from the limits demanded. . . I am empowered in the name of the Government of Great Britain to give the following assurances and make the following reply to your letter:

1. Subject to the above modifications, Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca.

2. When the situation admits, Great Britain will give to the Arabs her advice and will assist them to establish what may appear to be the most suitable forms of government in those various territories.

3. On the other hand, it is understood that the Arabs have decided to seek the advice and guidance of Great Britain only, and that such European advisers and officials as may be required for the formation of a sound form of administration will be British . . .

“I am convinced that this declaration will assure you beyond all possible doubt of the sympathy of Great Britain towards the aspirations of her friends the Arabs and will result in a firm and lasting alliance, the immediate results of which will be the expulsion of the Turks from the Arab countries and the freeing of the Arab peoples from the Turkish yoke, which for so many years has pressed heavily upon them.”


Islamic calendar: lunar calendar with 12 months and 354 or 355 days; began in 622 CE (which became Year 1) to mark the year that Muhammad (whom Muslims view as the last prophet) migrated from Mecca to Medina with his followers and established the first Muslim community
Sherif of Mecca: leader responsible for overseeing the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the surrounding Hejaz (in what is today Saudi Arabia); traditional title given to descendants of Muhammad’s grandson, Hasan ibn Ali
Sheikh: an Arab leader; a title often given to a chief of a tribe or family
Turkish yoke: Ottoman rule

Hussein’s Request

The area with diagonal lines (ARABIA) represents what Hussein originally requested as territory for a future Arab state. See Schneer, Jonathan, Balfour Declaration the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict  (New York: Random House, 2012).

McMahon’s Response

In his letter, McMahon offers Hussein everything to the right of the thick dark line (which corresponds to Arabia on the map to the right, but was technically called the Villayet of Damascus because it was part of the Ottoman Empire). The area in the shaded region, McMahon said, was not properly Arab and could not be included.

DOCUMENT 2: Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) (EXCERPT)

Source: The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict. W. Laqueur and B. Rubin, editors. New York: Penguin Books, 2008.

BACKGROUND: On May 9, 1916, Great Britain and France reached a secret agreement, drafted by their representatives Mark Sykes and Francois George-Picot, respectively. As part of this agreement they outlined their spheres of influence in the Middle East, territory for an Arab state or confederation of Arab states, dividing most of the Ottoman Empire into areas of British and French control which would take effect at the end of World War I. This agreement became public in March 1917 (See accompanying map).

That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States (A) and (B) marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief.

That in area (A) France, and in area (B) Great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans.

That in area (A) France, and in area (B) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States.

That in the blue area France, and in the red area Great Britain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think fit to arrange with the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States.

That in the brown area [yellow on the map] there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of the Shereef [alternative spelling for Sherif] of Mecca.  


confederation: association, partnership
functionaries: officials, employees
right of enterprise: the right to control their own business interests
spheres of influence: areas where British and French interests would have priority over local governments
suzerainty: a situation in which the Arabs could be in charge of their own internal affairs but where Great Britain or France, as the dominant states, would still control foreign affairs

DOCUMENT 3: The Balfour Declaration (1917)

BACKGROUND: On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930) wrote a letter, endorsing the British Government’s establishment of a Jewish national home in the geographic territory of Palestine. Lord Rothschild, to whom the letter was addressed, was the unofficial leader of the British Jewish community. Source: Balfour Declaration November 2, 1917. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School.

Foreign Office, November 2nd, 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild, I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.   “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”   I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.  
Yours sincerely,
Arthur James Balfour

KEYWORD: Zionist Federation: group founded in 1899 to advocate for a permanent homeland for the Jewish people

DOCUMENT 4: Feisal-Weizmann Agreement (1919) (EXCERPT)

Source: The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict. W. Laqueur and B. Rubin, editors. New York: Penguin, 2008.

BACKGROUND: On January 3, 1919, Emir Feisal (1885-1933), son of Hussein ibn-Ali and an Arab leader and military commander, and Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), President of the Zionist Organization, entered into an agreement with each other to formalize the national aspirations of both the Jews and the Arabs with the aim of establishing independent states for both peoples. Note: In this agreement, the term Palestine referred to a Jewish state.

His Royal Highness the Emir Feisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hedjaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organisation, mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people . . . have agreed upon the following Articles:

  • Article I: The Arab State and Palestine [Jewish State] in all their relations and undertakings shall be controlled by the most cordial goodwill and understanding . . . .
  • Article II: The definite boundaries between the Arab State and Palestine shall be determined by a Commission to be agreed upon by the parties hereto.
  • Article III: Measures shall be adopted . . . or carrying into effect the British Government’s Declaration of the 2nd of November, 1917 [the Balfour Declaration].
  • Article IV: All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale . . . In taking such measures the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development.
  • Article V: No regulation or law shall be made prohibiting or interfering in any way with the free exercise of religion . . .
  • Article VI: The Mohammedan Holy Places shall be under Mohammedan control.
  • Article VII: The Zionist Organization will use its best efforts to assist the Arab State in providing the means for developing the natural resources and economic possibilities thereof.

Reservation by the Emir Feisal: If the Arabs are established as I have asked in my manifesto of 4 January, addressed to the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I will carry out what is written in this agreement. If changes are made, I cannot be answerable for failing to carry out this agreement.


answerable: responsible; blamed for
cordial: warm, friendly
Emir: commander, prince, or ruler
free exercise of religion: the right to choose and practice a religion
hereto: to this document
measures: systems, procedures
Mohammedan: old-fashioned term for Muslim; not used today
reservation: stipulation; a condition that must be met
thereof: the thing that has just been mentioned; in this case, the Arab State

DOCUMENT 5: Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22 (1919) (EXCERPT)

Source: The Covenant of the League of Nations, 1919. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School.

BACKGROUND: As World War I was coming to a close, many of the European powers sought to form an international organization to settle disputes between nations. Member nations would agree to defend each other if attacked and would not declare war without the consent of the others. The Covenant of the League of Nations is the document which created the League of Nations and defined its mission. The League of Nations formally came into being in 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference. This section of the Covenant talks about what should be done with the colonies and territories controlled by the Central Powers before World War I.

To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant . . . 

The tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League.

The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.

Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire [Ottoman Empire] have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defense of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other Members of the League . . . 

The degree of authority, control, or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the Members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.

Source: The Covenant of the League of Nations, 1919. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. Web.


arms traffic: illegal buying or selling of weapons
covenant: agreement, contract
Council of the League of Nations: one of the central units within the League of Nations
mandate: a region or territory assigned to one of the Allied Powers by the League of Nations
mandatories: countries assigned to administer or govern a region
provisionally: for the time being, temporarily
strenuous: demanding, difficult tutelage: instruction, guidance


Tweet the Document Exercise: Twitter is an online news and social networking site where people communicate in short messages called Tweets. Tweets are limited to 280 characters. Hashtags (#) are used to categorize Tweets so that they are easier to find in a Twitter search. Hash tags are also used to add extra emphasis to the Tweet, similar to bullet points. Tweet the central message(s) of your document using the Twitter format.

SOAPSTone – Graphic Organizer

 Close ReadingHow do you know?
SPEAKERWho is the speaker? What can you tell or what do you know about the speaker that helps you understand the point of view expressed? 
OCCASIONWhat is the time and place of the piece? What is the current situation (that prompted the writing)? Is this a political event, a celebration, an observation, or a critique? Identify the context of the text. 
AUDIENCEWho are the readers to whom this piece is directed? It may be one person or a specific group. Does the speaker specify an audience? What assumptions exist in the text about the intended audience? 
PURPOSEWhat is the purpose behind the text? (Why did the author write it? What is his goal?) What is the message? How does the speaker convey this message? 
SUBJECTWhat topic, content, and ideas are included in the text? State the subject in a few words or a short phrase. 
TONEWhat is the attitude of the author? Is the author emotional, objective, neutral, or biased about this topic? What types of diction (choice of words), syntax (sentence structure), and imagery (metaphors, similes, and other types of figurative language) help reflect the tone? 


1. What promises did the British make during World War I?

2. Why did the British make conflicting promises? Which promises did they break?

3. What kind of agreement did Faisal and Weizmann make with each other?

4. What do you think happened in the region after World War I because of broken promises?

From Lesson to Assessment: What are the First Amendment Rights of Assembly and Petition?

From Lesson to Assessment: What are the First Amendment rights of assembly and petition?

Do Now: According to the First Amendment to the Constitution – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This cartoon is from 1909. The photograph is from 1917.


  1. Who do the two people in the cartoon represent?
  2. Based on the photograph and the year, what change do you think the petitioner is demanding?
  1. The women are assembled in front of the White House. In your opinion, is this a constitutionally protected assembly? Explain.
  2. This campaign started in 1848 with a woman’s rights convention. In your opinion, why did this campaign take so long to achieve success?

A. Should there be limits on assembly? Did New York State violate Nicole Carty’s constitutional rights?

Disorderly Conduct in New York, Penal Law 240.20: A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof:

  • He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or
  • He makes unreasonable noise; or
  • In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
  • Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or
  • He obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
  • He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or
  • He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose. Disorderly conduct is a violation.

People v. Carty (Nicole) 2016: Defendant was convicted, after a nonjury trial, of two counts of disorderly conduct, arising from her participation in an “Occupy Wall Street” protest. Defendant’s present arguments relating to the legal sufficiency of the evidence, to the extent preserved for appellate review, are lacking in merit. Nor was the verdict against the weight of the evidence. The People’s proof established that defendant obstructed pedestrian traffic (see Penal Law § 240.20) by laying down on a busy Wall Street sidewalk at 4:00 PM on a trading day, side-by-side with other “Occupy” protestors, and refused to comply with a lawful police order to disperse.

B. Did the Gag Rule violate the United States Constitution? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gag_rule#United_States )

  • In 1834 the American Anti-Slavery Society began an antislavery petition drive. Over the next few years the number of petitions sent to Congress increased sharply. In 1837—38, for example, abolitionists sent more than 130,000 petitions to Congress asking for the abolition of slavery in Washington, DC. As antislavery opponents became more insistent, Southern members of Congress were increasingly adamant in their defense of slavery. In May of 1836 the House passed a resolution that automatically “tabled,” or postponed action on all petitions relating to slavery without hearing them. Stricter versions of this gag rule passed in succeeding Congresses. At first, only a small group of congressmen, led by Representative John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, opposed the rule. Adams used a variety of parliamentary tactics to try to read slavery petitions on the floor of the House, but each time he fell victim to the rule. Gradually, as antislavery sentiment in the North grew, more Northern congressmen supported Adams’s argument that, whatever one’s view on slavery, stifling the right to petition was wrong. In 1844 the House rescinded the gag rule on a motion made by John Quincy Adams.

Exit Ticket: In your opinion, what limits, if any, should be placed on the rights of assembly and petition?

The photograph below was taken in front of the White House in 1917.

What were the women demanding?

  1. The women in the picture were campaigning for independence from Great Britain.
  2. The women were demanding an end to slavery in the United States.
  3. The women were demanding the right to join a labor union.
  4. The women were demanding the right to vote.

Why were the women criticized for these protests?

  1. No women had this right anywhere in the United States.
  2. They were criticized because the federal government had already agreed to approve this right.
  3. They were criticized as disloyal because the United States was engaged in World War I.
  4. They weren’t criticized and President Wilson joined their protests.

In 1834 the American Anti-Slavery Society began an antislavery petition drive. Over the next few years the number of petitions sent to Congress increased sharply. In 1837—38, for example, abolitionists sent more than 130,000 petitions to Congress asking for the abolition of slavery in Washington, DC. As antislavery opponents became more insistent, Southern members of Congress were increasingly adamant in their defense of slavery. In May of 1836 the House passed a “gag rule” that automatically “tabled,” or postponed action on all petitions relating to slavery without hearing them. Representative John Quincy Adams, a former President of the United States, argued that whatever one’s view on slavery, stifling the right to petition was wrong.

What was the “gag rule”?

  1. Northern abolitionists wanted to prevent speeches in Congress by Southern supporters of slavery.
  2. Southern supporters of slavery wanted to block anti-slavery petitions from being read in Congress.
  3. When he was President, John Quincy Adams stopped all Congressional debate over slavery.
  4. A bill to end slavery in the United States and prevent a Civil War.

What Constitutional grounds could Adams use to challenge the Congressional gag rule?

  1. The 5thAmendment to the Constitution ensures all people due legal process.
  2. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution ensures the citizen rights of all Americans.
  3. The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery in the United States.
  4. The 1st Amendment protects the right of Americans to petition the government.

Examine documents A and B and then write a persuasive essay of approximately 250-words where you take a position on whether there should be limits on the right to assembly. Refer to at least two, either hypothetical or actual incidents, to support your position.

  1. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
  • Defendant was convicted, after a non-jury trial, of two counts of disorderly conduct, arising from her participation in an “Occupy Wall Street” protest. Defendant’s present arguments relating to the legal sufficiency of the evidence, to the extent preserved for appellate review, are lacking in merit. Nor was the verdict against the weight of the evidence. The People’s proof established that defendant obstructed pedestrian traffic (Penal Law § 240.20) by laying down on a busy Wall Street sidewalk at 4:00 PM on a trading day, side-by-side with other “Occupy” protestors, and refused to comply with a lawful police order to disperse.

Due Process on Campus

The FIRE Student Network

Editor’s Note: The entirety of this teacher’s guide is retrievable at https://www.thefire.org/research/publications/fire-guides/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwjOrtBRCcARIsAEq4rW5nV-s7ioI5LvIaZ1_p0WRDFfU0CwEWwxE91-pGgD3-nZNmz97_SkIaAssHEALw_wcB

FIRE’s work to protect fundamental rights on campus concentrates on four areas: freedom of speech and expression; religious liberty and freedom of association; freedom of conscience; and due process and legal equality on campus. Ultimately, FIRE seeks to end the debilitating fatalism that paralyzes students and faculty by bringing public attention to the issue while providing protection to those who are now helpless in the face of abuses of power on campuses across the nation.

The right to due process means that fair procedures must be followed before someone accused of wrongdoing is found responsible and punished. This primer outlines rights that students should have within campus disciplinary proceedings and details a handful of warning signs that Student Due Process Rights May Be At Risk. For a more thorough analysis of due process rights on campus, consult FIRE’s Guide to Due Process and Campus Justice.

Procedural Due Process Rights Guaranteed at Public Institutions under the Fourteenth Amendment

Notice and an Opportunity to be Heard

If you face suspension or expulsion from a public university, you have a right to hear the evidence against you and to have an opportunity to rebut it. This right was first recognized by the Supreme Court in Goss v. Lopez (1975), which held that “[a]t the very minimum … students facing suspension and the consequent interference with a protected property interest must be given some kind of notice and afforded some kind of hearing.” The Court in Goss held that the opportunity to be heard includes the right to both “an explanation of the evidence the authorities have and an opportunity to present his side of the story.” Although the right to be heard does not, in the school setting, guarantee the right to a right to a formal hearing, some circumstances “may require more formal procedures.” Goss holds that the more serious the potential punishment, the more due process protections are required.

The Right to Be Present at a Formal Hearing

As established in Goss, you have the right to hear for yourself “an explanation of the evidence” against you before you present your defense. As a result, if your public university uses a formal hearing to decide your case, you have the right, even where potential punishments are minimal, to be present at all of the hearing in order to hear the evidence being used against you.

Composition of the Hearing Panel

Hearing boards in university disciplinary cases must be free from unreasonable bias. If you believe that the tribunal charged with hearing your case is biased, you should object in writing before the panel considers your case or as soon as possible.

Procedural Safeguards Granted By Institutional Policies or Legislation

In addition to the constitutional rights students at public institutions enjoy, students at both public and private institutions may be afforded additional procedural safeguards through school policies or state legislation. For this reason, it’s important to know and understand your university’s disciplinary policies and procedures. For example, the law does not require colleges and universities to offer a full and formal judicial hearing, but many institutions offer a more robust hearing to students accused of misconduct. Federal law does not guarantee that attorneys hired by students can actively participate in proceedings, but some universities have provisions that allow for such participation, and some states have enacted laws guaranteeing students the right to active assistance of counsel. Similarly, although federal law does not require campus tribunals to permit cross-examination of witnesses in all cases, some universities have policies specifically granting students that opportunity. When a school offers more than the law requires, it has a moral and often contractual obligation to live up to its promises. Courts in some jurisdictions will compel both public and private institutions to give you all of the procedural protections that they have promised you. If your college or university fails to follow its own rules, do your best to document everything and contact FIRE for help.

Due Process Red Flags to Watch For

Due process rights may be infringed not only by unfair or unclear disciplinary procedures, but also policies that are vague, overbroad, or unfair.

Vague Rules

Rules must be written with enough clarity that individuals have fair warning about prohibited conduct. The courts do not demand perfect precision in the formulation of rules, but they can find a law “void for vagueness” if people would have to guess at its meaning or would easily disagree about its application. For the courts, how much clarity is required depends on the extent to which constitutional rights are implicated. For instance, rules restricting free expression must be wholly clear to avoid “chilling” free speech.

Overbroad Rules

Laws are said to be overbroad if, in addition to whatever else they prohibit, they restrict protected First Amendment freedoms. The overbreadth doctrine has its roots in the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly, and press. When a provision of a law violates the First Amendment, it is possible to salvage the rest of the law by removing the o ending section.

Unfair Rules

Public universities possess significant authority to prevent disruptions of the educational process. However, this does not give them the authority to enact rules that are arbitrary or grossly unfair, violate the First Amendment or other constitutional rights, or intrude unnecessarily upon the rights of privacy or conscience.

Why did some New Yorker’s show support for slavery? 4th Grade NYS and Slavery Inquiry

Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum

by April Francis Taylor

Editors Note: This is the second day of a multi-day lesson in a three-lesson sequence designed for fourth grade on slavery and New York developed by April Francis Taylor  for the Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum. Lesson 3 will be included in a future issue of Teaching Social Studies. Lesson 1 addresses the compelling question “What were the experiences of enslaved African Americans in New York State?”

Compelling Question: Why did New Yorkers have differing views of American slavery in the 1800s?

  • NYS Social Studies Framework: 4.5a: There were slaves in New York State. People worked to fight against slavery and for change. Students will examine life for enslaved people in New York State.

NYS Social Studies Practices

  • Gathering, Interpreting, and Using Evidence; Comparison and Contextualization; Economics and Economic Systems; Civic Participation
  • NYS Next Gen. ELA Standards: 4R6: In informational texts, compare and contrast a primary and secondary source on the same event or topic. (RI); 4R8: Explain how claims in a text are supported by relevant reasons and evidence. (RI&RL); 4W5: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to respond and support analysis, reflection, and research by applying grade 4 reading standards.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; Examine reasons why some New Yorker’s would support the slavery system; Organize various sources into categories; Develop ways to effectively work in a group setting; Formulate a persuasive letter using various sources

Suggested Timeframe: 1.5 days (90 mins.)


  • Source 1- “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948” adapted excerpt
  • Source 2 -Newspaper advertisements
  • Source 3- Inventory List
  • Source 4- “Why did some New Yorkers support slavery?” (reading)
  • Source 5- NYS Slave Codes

Graphic Organizer, Video on Human Rights: humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/videos/born-free-and-equal.html

Formative Task: Pretend you are a human rights advocate, write a persuasive letter to a supporter of slavery stating why it violates human rights.

Lesson Narrative & Procedure

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948” document that highlights reasons slave systems are inhumane. Additionally, students will analyze various documents that demonstrate reasons (economic and social) why some New Yorkers supported the slave system between the 1600s to the mid-1800s as a Northern state. As a culminating activity, students will role play as Human Rights Advocates and write a letter to supporters of slavery informing them of the reasons why slavery is inhumane.

Preparation for Day 1: Make copies of Source 1 and the “Graphic Organizer” Smart board to project documents 2-3 sets of printed (enlarged if possible) copies of Source 2a, 2b, 3, 4, 5 for a classroom gallery walk.

gallery walk.

Day 1 Engage (15 mins.) Note: Suggested strategy- using the “Talking Circle” strategy from the “Let’s Talk” booklet.

  1. The teacher should begin the lesson by asking students, “What do you think is a human right?” The teacher should have students share their ideas and give examples.
  • Next, the teacher should state, “Did you know in 1948, most of the countries in the world created a document called the Universal Human Rights Declaration, do you want to know what the first human right they listed was? Let’s watch this video to see.” Teacher should queue video “United for Human Rights.” (1 min.) – So what was the first human right they listed? Why do you think that was the first one?” (have students share)
  • Next, the teacher should distribute Source 1: Universal Human Rights Declaration, display it on the smartboard, and state “Let’s review some other Human Rights they listed.” The teacher can then have a whole class read aloud. During the read aloud, the teacher can include annotation or close-read strategies. After the reading the document, the teacher can ask the following questions:
  • Who created this Declaration? (UN) Does anyone know where they met? (NY)
  • Why do you think they created it? (if students mention it was after World War II- the teacher can choose to briefly share about the Holocaust and how millions of European Jews were killed based on prejudice and discrimination by the Nazi government in Germany in the 1930s-1940s)?
  • What is one right that stands out to you in this document? Why? (varies)
  • Based on what we have already learned about NYS and the slave system, do you believe they had laws like these in the 1600s-1800s? Why or why not? (This question can be a lead into the activity- Why did some New Yorkers show support for slavery? – there were no laws against it then.)
  • The teacher can transition by stating, “Well, today we are going to examine ‘Why did some New Yorkers support the system of slavery?’ And then we will think of what we would tell them today based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Laws.”
  • Next, the teacher can inform students that they are going to participate in a “Gallery Walk” to explore the supporting question. The teacher should distribute the Graphic Organizer to each student. Suggested arrangement of the gallery walk could be placing students into groups of three or four. The teacher should model how students can use the graphic organizer by using Source 1 as a practice. (see Graphic Organizer worksheet). Alternative activity: Teachers can choose to have students work in groups, each student can receive a different document and then participate in a “Think-Pair-Share” with their group.

Explore & Explain (25 mins.)

1. Students will explore each station, using the guiding questions to help them analyze the documents. After reviewing the document for 5-7 mins., students should fill in the area on their chart that coincides with the document they are examining, each student should fill in their own chart.

2. Students should repeat step 1 for each document station. (total 5 stations)

Elaborate (15 mins.)

1. After students have completed each station, the teacher can ask students to return to their seats, and have a whole class share and discussion on the information they wrote on their charts. The teacher can clarify any information shared

2. The teacher should record student answers on large chart paper or the smart board for a visual for all students.

3. The teacher should bring student attention back to Source 1 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” and ask students, “Would the reasons for support of slavery in NYS be in violation of the Universal Human Rights Declaration today? Why?” (Students should all answer yes, they would be in violation- and share various reasons.)

Evaluate (20 mins.)

1. After students share their answers, the teacher can have students begin the Formative Task


a. Pretend you are a human rights advocate (a person who publicly supports a cause) and write a persuasive letter to a supporter of slavery stating why it violates human rights. [Note: This task may need additional time to complete, depending on individual student needs.]

Source 1: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the original version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, to safeguard all people from inhumane (cruel) treatment. Below is an excerpt from the adapted version:

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has stated in clear and simple terms the rights which belong equally to every person. 1 When children are born, they are free and each should be treated in the same way. They have reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a friendly manner . . .   3 You have the right to live, and to live in freedom and safety. 4 Nobody has the right to treat you as his or her slave and you should not make anyone your slave. 5 Nobody has the right to torture you. 6 You should be legally protected in the same way everywhere, and like everyone else. 7 The law is the same for everyone; it should be applied in the same way to all . . .   Source: www.tolerance.org
2a: NY Slave Auction Advertisement
2b: NY Runaway Advertisement

Source: New-York Gazette; or, the Weekly Post- Boy, October 27, 1763


Source 3: Inventory from the Will of Frederick Philipse II (1749)

From “New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance” Social Science Docket V. 5 N. 2

Vocabulary: Will- distributes a person’s possessions to people they choose upon their death.

Inventory- list of items, goods, products of a building

Men: Ceaser Dimond Sampson Keiser Flip Tom VentureMen not fit for work: James Charles Billy  Boys: Tom abt 9 years old Charles 9 Do Sam 8 Do Dimond 7 Do Hendrick 5 Do Ceaser 2 Do Harry 1 & 4 monthsWomen: Susan Abigal Massy Dina Sue Betty 3 years old a girl  
2 Silver Tankards 1 Do Mugg 6 New Silver Spoons 6 old Ditto 1 Silver Teapott 6 Silver forks 1 Do pepper box(In the Garrett) April 19th 1750 6 flax Spinning wheels 2 Woll . . . Do 1 old gun Some wool & Tow a Miners pick Ax 4 Siths & 2 handles a flax Reel a pr of old scales and weights Some old baskets and old Cask a tin Cullender

Source 3: Guiding Questions

  1. What is an “inventriy?”
  2. Whose “will” does this inventory belong to?
  3. Where does this person live?
  4. What “goods” are described in this inventory? Does this surprise you?

Source 4: Why did some New Yorkers support slavery?

Vocabulary: clergyman- religious leaders

1. It was said that in New York City the rich merchants, politicians, and clergymen were completely tied into the economic system of [using slave] labor for profit. The sugar [factory] businesses first based in Manhattan and then in Brooklyn relied on those crops grown by slaves. The New York merchants provided the money and operated the Southern cotton trade:  “Cotton production by slaves in the South was a major source of profits and employment for shipping, banking, insurance, and textile (cloth) industries that were based in New York.”  
2. Roman Catholic Archbishop John Hughes in a sermon at the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral “cited passages from the Gospel (Bible) . . . to justify slavery, comparing the slave master to the father of a family. Hughes claimed to recognize “slavery as an evil” but declared that it was “not an absolute . . . evil” because it brought Africans to Christianity.

Source: “New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance” Social Science Docket V5 N2

Source 4: Guiding Questions

  1. According to the document, what did the sugar factory business rely on from enslaved Africans?
  2. What other economic areas relied on enslaved people’s labor?
  3. What did Archbishop John Hughes use to justify the slave system?
  4. Why do you think supporters of the slave system would use the Christian Bible to justify slavery?

Source 5: New York’s first slave code (1702):

Slave codes are laws to limit the rights of enslaved people. Below is an excerpt from the New York General Assembly (lawmakers).

REGULATING OF SLAVES IT ENACTED BY HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR AND COUNCIL AND REPRESENTATIVES convened [gathered] in General Assembly, and by authority of the same, That no Person or Persons hereafter throughout this [colony], do presume to trade with any [enslaved person] either in buying or selling, without…consent of the Master or Mistress [slave owners], [if they do they would have to pay] triple the value of the thing traded for… to the Master or Mistress of such slave . . .

AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the authority, That [now] it shall…be lawful for any Master or Mistress of slaves to punish their slaves for their Crimes and offences at Discretion, not exceeding to life.

Source: “New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance” Social Science Docket V. 5 N. 2

Source 5: Guiding Questions

  1. What are slave codes?
  2. When were New York’s first slave codes adopted?
  3. Why do you think they needed to create laws to:
    1. Not allow traders to trade with enslaved people without their owners knowing?
    1. Allow slave owners to punish their enslaved people?

Graphic Organizer: Why did some New Yorkers support slavery?

Directions: Use this chart to organize your information when you review each document.

DocumentPrimary or SecondaryHow does it support the slave system?Evidence
1- Universal HR   

Formative Task Activity: Pretend you are a Human Rights Advocate. Write a persuasive letter to the 1702 NYS General Assembly of New York, making the claim that slavery violates the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” In your letter include evidence from at least two documents from the Gallery Walk to support your claim.

New York State’s Mohawk Code Talkers

During World War II American Indians from 33 tribal groups were recruited by the United States Army as Code Talkers. These soldiers sent send secret messages in codes based on their native languages so that enemy forces could not understand communications between American troops. The word for “turtle” might be used for tank.

The best known Code Talkers were members of the Navajo Nation from the Southwestern United States. There were also Mohawk Code Talkers from the St. Regis reservation in New York State. Mohawk Code Talkers served in New Guinea, the Philippines and the South Pacific. In 2008 Congress passed the Code Talker Recognition Act to commemorate the achievements of all of the Code Talkers.

The St. Regis reservation is known in the Mohawk language as Akwesasne. It is located along both the American and Canadian sides of the St. Lawrence River. Most of Akwesasne and the area with the largest population are located in New York. The Mohawk Nation is one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. They are the “People of the Flint.” The Iroquois Confederacy includes the Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora Nations.

Kanien’kéha, the Mohawk language, is a living language. Several Kanien’kéha words and phrases along with English translations are included below. There is an online Mohawk Dictionary at www.kanienkeha.net/ and a spelling and pronunciation guide at www.native-languages.org/mohawk_guide.htm. There is a video with Mohawk pronunciations at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPRaVOd-UrQ.

Kanien’kéha word or phraseEnglish Translation
Oh nahò:ten iesá:iats?What is your name?
Tó: na’tesohseriià:kon?How old are you?
Sátien tánon tesatská:honSit down and eat
Orhen’kè:ne í:ieks / Énkie / Okara’snéha i:ieksBreakfast / Lunch / Dinner
Ahserí:ie tanon kenenio’kón:niSpaghetti and meat balls
Ka’serehkówa Ratórie’s Ka’serehkowa Iotórie’sTruck Driver (male) Truck Driver (female)
Shakorihonnién:ni Iakorihonnién:niTeacher (male) Teacher (female)
Skén:nen / Karihwakweniénhtshera /Kanoronhkwáhtshera / Atenró:seraPeace / Respect / Love / Friendship
Sekon / Ó:nenHello / Goodbye
Ista / Raké:niMother / Father

Empowering Students to Tackle Fake News

by Michael Catelli and John O’Leary

In today’s global society we are bombarded with sources of information from thousands of different outlets with varying degrees of expertise and knowledge. All consumers of media have heard the term fake news as a catch all term to describe information that is falsified or misrepresented, but not many know what to do about it.  When people have a question, the first step most take is to input the question into Google or to check out social media for a list of relevant links that friends have shared. A study of the 2016 presidential election determined that 62% of adults obtained some of their news through social media (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017). With the rise of the internet comes easier access to established news sources, but also easier access to unverified information. In a 21st-century classroom, our students need to examine fake news in all its forms which must be integrated through a robust media literacy lens.

One of the difficulties in discussing methods to teach fake news is that the term itself is fluid and ever changing.  In the past, the term fake news was generally used to describe fabricated news, but recently the term has also been used to refer to other types of news typically targeting opinions. To break down some of these complexities for educators, we will divide fake news into two types: falsified news and biased news.

The most obvious use of the term fake news is news that is completely made up, or fabricated news. It could be fabricated to target a specific issue or it may be fabricated based on a rumor that was not validated by a source. The reasons for creating fabricated news may be as varied as the fake news itself. It may be for political motives, for profit, or an author provoking responses for their own amusement. It is important to note that there is a difference between fabricated news and news that was reported, but turned out to be wrong—rather, fabricated news refers to news that is intentionally falsified. What’s more, the term fake news is frequently thrown around as a means of discrediting opposing viewpoints, making the term even more convoluted.  In today’s social media landscape, many fake news sources start as Facebook or Twitter posts, but students must learn essential media literacy skills to test the validity of sources like this and how to confirm information to determine if something is true.

Biased news, or articles that clearly state an opinion, is a more nuanced category that may be labeled fake news by some. It is not inherently false information, but may be called fake by a person with an opposing point of view. Opinion pieces are clear examples of this, as they express a viewpoint which can be disagreed with, the reader’s bias often plays a large role regarding how they view these types of sources. This category can also be applied to more subtle issues, such as news that is trying to change the focus of an issue to distract from debatable points on the topic at hand. These types of articles may attempt to redirect the topic away from relevant facts to focus on a different issue. Critics of an opinion may refer to it as fake news in an effort to bring up a new idea that they want to discuss since the initial opinion may not be favorable to them. Students cannot simply check if a fact is true to assess this type of information, but rather need to examine an author’s voice and argument.

Teachers and schools cannot hide from discussing the concept of fake news because they feel it could be a politically heated. Media literacy, or the ability to interpret and evaluate information from news sources, is an essential 21st-century skill, but this skill has become far more complicated and is ever-changing. Schools cannot simply block fake news websites on their servers or provide a simple list of credible versus non-credible publications—after all, students can still access them outside of school. Also, these strategies fail to teach students how to deal with the issue when they encounter it in their daily lives. Some school districts have approached this topic with their media specialist, but fake news has become more nuanced over time and all teachers need to accept responsibility to teach this topic.  Social Studies educators must make sure students are equipped with the necessary critical reading and thinking skills that will help them evaluate what is credible within the news source. Educators must make sure students are comfortable using strategies outside of the classroom, this is the only way to create real change.

There are many ways to help students be successful with these skills in the classroom. The best way to address fake news is for educators to push their students to make an argument for why they do or do not support a point of view based on credible facts, not just opinion. Educators must work with students to examine how critically they are examining a source, but students must also learn to think about their own confirmation bias (Nickerson, 1998)—in other words, are students giving more weight to an article because it confirms something they want to believe? Students also need to understand the dangers of a filter bubble (Flaxman, Goel, & Rao, 2016) and examine multiple sources of news. If students are only taking in information from sources that support their opinions, they may be stuck in a filter bubble. It can be difficult for students to gauge if they are only getting one perspective, since it can seem like a person in a filter bubble is taking in a lot of information. Staying in touch with news that is different, even counter, to one’s opinion can help them to understand multiple perspectives on an issue. Over multiple days, students can collect information on what media sources and websites they see news from, then create a word cloud using sites like wordle.com to visualize their information sources.

As mentioned previously, a person’s inherent beliefs or bias can play a large role in how they view a particular topic. This can be even more troubling when viewing fake news, since the difficulty of deciphering what is credible increases exponentially. The first hurdle that one must approach with students is making them more self-aware of their own implicit biases. Implicit biases refers to the idea that we all have positive and negative beliefs that affect the way we view certain issues, people, and events. Since we all have these inherit beliefs, the natural reaction for most people is to find information to reinforce what they already believe. Confirmation bias helps explain this idea of why we gravitate towards information that confirms our thoughts and opinions. Social media outlets and search engine filters have made it convenient for consumers to omit information and stories that do not coincide with their opinions and instead selectively choose stories that reinforce their current beliefs and biases.

The cornerstone to helping students understand and decipher fake news can be found in a set of skills often used in the Social Studies classroom: sourcing, close reading, contextualizing, and corroborating. Sourcing asks students to think about who produced the document in order to determine the author’s viewpoint and intentions. Close reading asks students to analyze the language within the text and think about what is said and how it is said. Contextualizing then focuses on when and where the event took place. This helps students place the document into a broader context of what they are reading. Lastly, corroborating allows students to determine points of agreement and disagreement and to compare these points across multiple documents (Whelan & Leon, 2016). This also helps with biased news because students can utilize these skills to see how different pieces of information can create a narrative across different sources.

Once you have established a set of skills necessary for the analysis of informational text like close reading and contextualizing students will be in a more comfortable position to discuss some of the nuances that appear when analyzing fake news. A good way to introduce the topic of fake news is to play a modified version of the game telephone. This game is fun and familiar to students and is a simple way to pull them into the complexity of the topic. In this version of telephone the only difference is prior to the game starting secretly place a student in a location to tell them to spread a false message regardless of what they are told. At the end of the game you can debrief with students to discuss how misinformation can spread so easily either unintentionally or intentionally through fake news sources. This introduction helps enforce the idea with students that just because they hear information for a source doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true, their job as consumers is to know how to decipher who is telling the truth versus who is trying to manipulate their thoughts or opinions.

The next step in teaching fake news is to equip students with a set of strategies they can use to determine whether or not a source they are viewing is a credible news source or falsified in some manner. We would recommend that students use four basic steps laid out in Mike Caulfield’s (2017) Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers. These are simple strategies to pick up and apply since they leverage the power of the internet to help with the investigation. The first step in this approach asks students to check already established fact checking sites like the ones listed in the appendix section of this article, to see if another source has already analyzed the source in question. The next step students take in this investigative process is to use the power of search engines like Google to find the original origin of the source they are analyzing. Once students have found the source the last step research what others say about aspects of the source such as author and publisher to determine if the source should be deemed trustworthy. If at any point students run into roadblocks, have them return to the original source and search a different aspect of the article to help find the original source (Caulfield, 2017). Once an investigation method has been established it is helpful to practice these new skills with students. A fun and engaging way to do this is by playing a game where students need to detect the fake news story and what makes it fake. If possible, arrange students into teams and share various fake news sources with them electronically. It helps to have a mixture of absurd sources to those that are only slightly biased so students can understand the different iterations of fake news. After each source review with students what makes the source fake or false. It is recommended that you pick some sources that deal with important issues. This is important for debriefing with students at the end of the activity. Picking issues of significance helps students understand the dangers and influence articles and news sources like the ones presented in the attached lesson can have on individuals and communities. 

Common questions that students should ask when analyzing a news source for perspective and bias are: What are the motives or intentions of the author? Why is the reporter’s information credible? Who is the intended audience? What other relevant stories or events have recently taken place? Having students ask these questions about fake news sources will help them start to realize that rarely is any news source completely unbiased. Often the author has their own opinion on the subject, or they may be motivated to get the reader to buy a certain product. By using historical thinking and close reading with news and current events teachers can make a process students often see as tedious feel more connected.

Covering fake news in a classroom will vary depending on time available, objectives, and the level of the students in the class. Using the lesson described above and partnering with your media specialist to discuss the resources and goals you have in mind when having students analyze fake news is a great place to start. Due to the complexity of the topic, the approach that one may take will be influenced by grade level and ability. A media specialist can provide you with school resources you may not know about. If time is a constraint and devoting a full lesson to analysis of fake news is not possible, there are still ways to incorporate the same analysis strategies into other places within the curriculum. Handout One is a tool that can be used either as homework or in class activity to analyze sources that are found online. This could be incorporated into a multitude of different subjects including early explorers. One suggestion would be to show students various new sources regarding who discovered America and have them determine what sources are credible or false.

Lastly, since biased news is so nuanced, a teacher may wish to approach the topic with a long-term assignment. Many politicians and pundits now use various social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to reach their followers. Have students track the links and language used by these various figures and answer questions about the intent behind their posts. Students could even compare various figures and see how they discuss similar events, or start a Twitter account themselves where they play the role of fact-checkers and correct mistakes or fabrications by these individuals.

Our primary goal as social studies educators is not simply to transfer facts of history, but to help students develop necessary civic discourse and civic engagement skills that will make them productive citizens. Fake news has created an obstacle that our students must overcome if they wish to effectively be part of true civic discourse. Addressing fake news is a complicated task for a social studies educator. It is a multi-layered issues that requires multi-layered approaches to be able to tackle in a classroom. The risks, however, of not addressing it in classrooms are too great. Students will come across falsified news or extremely biased news when they are not in school, and they must be equipped with the tools to be able to address that situation.


Allcott, H. & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211 – 236.

Caulfield, M. (2017).Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. (n.p.) Author

Flaxman, S., Goel, S., & Rao, J. M. (2016). Filter bubbles, echo chambers, and online news consumption. Public Opinion Quarterly 80(Special Issue), 298 – 320.

Nickerson, R. (1998). Confirmation bias: a ubiquitous phenomenon, many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2(2), 175 – 220.

Whelan, S. & Leon S. (2008). Model of historical thinking. Loudon County Public Schools. www.chnm.gmu.edu/tah-loudoun/wp-content/guidelines/historical-thinking.pdf

Appendix A: Teacher Resources

1.  Media Bias/Fact Check: A website that looks at the bias of various news sources- https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/

2.  Lead Stories: a website that debunks fake news stories using international fact checking sites- https://leadstories.com/

3.  FactCheck: a website that fact checks mostly political news stories- https://www.factcheck.org/fake-news/

4.  Snopes– A fact checking website that looks at a verity of topics- https://www.snopes.com/

5.  Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers- a book that provides helpful tips on how students can become fact checkers- https://webliteracy.pressbooks.com/

6.  William Paterson University Library– Tips from media specialist on how to determine the validity of a source- https://guides.wpunj.edu/fakenews

7.  Pace University Library- Tips from media specialist on how to determine the difference fake and real news- https://libguides.pace.edu/fakenews

8.  Politifact- Fact checking website that looks at the truthfulness of political news stories- https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/

9.  PBS News Hour: Contains lessons regarding the topic of fake news and how analyze the news. Includes lessons for grades 7-12. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/tag/fake-news/

10.  TedEd Damon Brown: A short video that gives helpful hints regarding how to approach the news and tips to ensure that you are being a smart consumer of information. https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-to-choose-your-news-damon-brown#watch