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Reading & Writing in the Disciplines

Identifying Evidence from Multiple Sources

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Jesse Gore teaches students how to analyze evidence from primary and secondary sources in order to defend ideas.

Teacher: Jesse Gore

School: Dillard Drive Middle School, Raleigh, NC

Grade: 7

Discipline: History

Lesson Topic: Napoleon Bonaparte: A hero or a tyrant?

Lesson Month: November

Number of Students: 28

Featured Lesson’s Student Goals:

  • Content objectives – Learn some of the positive and negative aspects of Napoleon’s tenure; analyze whether the people of France felt that Napoleon was a hero or a tyrant; prove answers and show evidence for reasoning
  • Literacy/language objectives – Use primary and secondary sources to present and defend findings
  • Engagement/interaction objectives – Collaborate with peers to determine whether Napoleon was a hero or a tyrant

Standards Addressed:

North Carolina Essential Standards

  • 7.H.1.3
    Use primary and secondary sources to interpret various historical perspectives.
  • 7.C&G.1.1
    Summarize the ideas that have shaped political thought in various societies and regions.
  • 7.C&G.1.4
    Compare the sources of power and government authority in various societies.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts 

    Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
    Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Instruction Details:

The Unit
The focus of this two-week unit was the age of revolution. Students studied the American Revolution and the French Revolution, then moved onto a unit about the Industrial Revolution. This unit was taught in November, halfway through the second quarter.

Before the Video
Students had just learned about the French Revolution and had analyzed reasons why the people revolted against their government. They had already begun to learn about Napoleon Bonaparte and his time as leader in France.

During the Video
The focus of the lesson was Napoleon Bonaparte’s leadership and how the people of France viewed Napoleon. The essential question of the day was, Is Napoleon a hero or a tyrant? To begin, students needed to understand the meaning of the words “hero” and “tyrant.” Mr. Gore asked students to brainstorm characteristics of the two words individually; as students shared, he wrote their ideas on the Smart Board and discussed them with the class.

Students worked in small groups to annotate a poster with text and images, looking for evidence to help answer the essential question. Mr. Gore projected the same text and images on a screen for the class and invited students to annotate it (as they did in their small groups) to model how they proved their findings. He noted that some things were interpreted as both heroic and tyrannical. Students returned to small-group work to corroborate their evidence. They considered their evidence and the evidence of fellow students to determine, individually, their final answer to the question. Mr. Gore took a class vote, which revealed that most students felt that Napoleon was somewhere in between a hero and a tyrant—he was doing things that seemed heroic, but they wanted to question his motives. To end the class, Mr. Gore gave students two essay questions.

After the Video
After this lesson, Mr. Gore had students create videos (in the form of a skit, claymation, paper slide, or music video) to “teach” the class about either the American or the French Revolution. Students wrote scripts and were required to incorporate information on the cause of the revolution as well as what happened during and after. Students then moved into a unit on the Industrial Revolution, where they simulated life on an assembly line and discussed the conditions of working in factories. Mr. Gore connected the two units by discussing a common cause for revolution—wanting to create change. He explained that revolutions are not always against the government, but are sometimes based on the introduction of new innovations and systems to help create that change.

Teacher Prep
To prepare for this lesson, Mr. Gore met with his professional learning teams to coordinate the content focus and student expectations before writing his lesson plan. (He first met with other social studies teachers and then with his cross-discipline team, which included a language arts teacher, science teacher, and math teacher.)

Prior Knowledge
To participate in this lesson, students needed to know how to annotate, prove their work, and give explanations for their findings.

Differentiated Instruction
Mr. Gore wrote students’ definitions of the words “hero” and “tyrant” on the Smart Board so that they could be referenced throughout the class. He also posted a “word wall” with relevant vocabulary to help students engage in class discussions. Mr. Gore grouped students of different levels together, so that those at a higher level could help direct their peers. He helped students make personal connections to the topic by connecting it to current day events.

Group Interaction
Students worked in small groups of three to four to find evidence and share ideas and opinions and then shared and discussed as a large group. After returning to their small groups to finalize their individual answers to the essential question, students participated in a full-class vote. Mr. Gore had students work in groups for this lesson because he felt that questions and possible disagreement from peers would encourage students to cite evidence for their opinions (and provide a more well-rounded picture of the evidence). Mr. Gore grouped students heterogeneously so that students could benefit from working with peers at different levels and with different backgrounds and experiences. He observed small-group conversation and asked questions to bring the discussions to higher levels.

Resources and Tools

  • Primary and secondary source text and images
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: A Hero or a Tyrant? Case Study
  • Fact sheet on Napoleon
  • Smart Board
  • Dry erase markers


Mr. Gore walked around to see if students were on task, participating, and engaging in small-group discussions. He checked their work and asked questions to assess their understanding. In the large group, Mr. Gore called on a variety of students to present their information to the class.

Student Self-Assessment
Mr. Gore presented the objectives to students at the beginning of class. At the end of class, he took a vote to see if students felt that they had met their objectives for the day.

Summative Assessment
This was the final lesson in the unit. Students made videos about either the American or French revolution, focusing on the causes that led to the revolution and the positive and negative effects of the outcome.

Series Directory

Reading & Writing in the Disciplines


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation. 2015.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-906-4