Evaluating Eyewitness Reports

This lesson offers students experience in drawing historical meaning from eyewitness accounts that present a range of different perspectives. This is an excellent lesson plan that leads students through several primary and secondary sources about two major historical events (the Chicago Fire and the Civil War) giving multiple points of view.  Students then write their own accounts of these events.  The lesson addresses reading and writing strategies.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and...
CLE 3003.1.4
Consider language as a reflection of its time and culture.
CLE 3003.4.2
Gather relevant information from a variety of print and electronic sources, as well as from direct observation, interviews, and surveys.
CLE 3003.4.3
Make distinctions about the credibility, reliability, consistency, strengths, and limitations of resources, including information gathered from websites.
CLE 3003.8.3
Recognize the conventions of various literary genres and understand how they articulate the writers vision.
CLE 3005.4.2
Gather relevant information from a variety of print and electronic sources, as well as from direct observation, interviews, and surveys.
CLE 3005.4.4
Write an extended research paper, using primary and secondary sources and technology and graphics, as appropriate.
Use advanced searches effectively, assessing the credibility and effectiveness of sources in answering a research question; integrate relevant and...
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

When students have completed this lesson they will have:

  • Gained experience in working with eyewitness accounts of historical events.
  • Gained experience in the evaluation of historical evidence.
  • Become familiar with some of the uses of historical evidence within different kinds of history.
  • Recognize that historical evidence may raise questions rather than provide answers about a past event.
Essential and guiding questions: 
  • How can we evaluate eyewitness accounts of historical events and periods, and what historical meanings can be drawn from them?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Though unique in this lesson plan, the diary of Alice Williamson is part of an extensive literature of recollections written by Confederate women after the Civil War. For additional examples, go to the Documenting the American South website on EDSITEment, click "First Person Narratives of the American South," then click "Collection of Electronic Texts" and select:

  • Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865
  • Myrta Lockett Avary, Myrta Lockett, A Virginia Girl in the Civil War 1861-1865
  • Dolly Sumner Lunt Burge, A Woman's Wartime Journal: an Account of the Passage over Georgia's Plantation of Sherman's Army on the March to the Sea
  • Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie
  • Sarah Morgan Dawson, A Confederate Girl's Diary