One of history’s enduring questions is, “How do we remember or commemorate an event.” Textbooks give the necessary background, but the examination of primary source documents and artifacts humanizes the experience for students. These items were held and used by someone connect to the event. Some were intimates of Lincoln, like Clara Barton. Some connect to the event in a professional way, like the Philadelphia police officer. Some stand at the edges of the story with only a penny and passing train as proof they were there. By analyzing these objects, students will gain an insight into the experience and grief of those who were there in April 1865.

This lesson could serve as an introductory or concluding lesson on the Lincoln Assassination. It also can be a stand-alone lesson exploring both primary sources as well as research. Either way, this lesson asks the students to be historians rather than consumers of history. It gives them a task (analyze a primary source) and asks them to make sense of it within a general historical framework and the larger context of how these individuals connect to the assassination and the Civil War.

Guiding Questions

  • How can artifacts tell us more than secondary sources?
  • How does one analyze physical artifacts?


  • Understand how to analyze artifacts and documents
  • Know how a primary source connects to a historically significant event
  • Model collaborative work habits
  • Analyze a primary source document connected to the death of Abraham Lincoln
  • Connect individual responses to the Lincoln assassination to the larger national event
  • Work collaboratively while analyzing the object



Lesson Activity One: Artifact Analysis
Lesson Activity Two: Group Sharing
Lesson Activity Three: In-Depth Research
Lesson Activity Four: Final Reports

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External Resources

  • Grade Level

    6 to 8

  • Timeframe

    1 classes (45 min/period)

  • Class Subject


  • Skills

    Collaboration, Material Analysis, Synthesis and Research

  • Teacher Information

    Dave McIntire

    The Independent School, Wichita, KS

    7, 8


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