Enlightenment! Camera! Passion!: Bringing Jefferson’s Passion for Education to a BIG Screen Near You!

Lesson Plan


Grade Level

Middle School

Author Info

Glenn Gougler, NBCT, MTI – Barringer Fellow
West Mifflin Area Middle School
81 Commonwealth Ave.
West Mifflin, PA 15122

Type of Lesson



1-3 Periods

Interdisciplinary Connections

Language Arts



Students will be able to:

  • investigate, interpret, and convey Thomas Jefferson's passion for education and its effect on the future for himself, his family, his state, and his country.
  • plan and develop a story in the form of a movie trailer that has an introduction, progressive story development, and a conclusion.
  • utilize the functions of an iPad and iMovie trailer. 


Prior Knowledge

Prior knowledge of Thomas Jefferson or assigning research prior will speed up the process by eliminating or reducing in class research time. Prior knowledge of iPad use and iMovie trailer is helpful but not necessary.

State Standards

Virginia Standards and Common Core Standards

Virginia State Standards:

  • CE.1 – The student will develop the social studies skills responsible citizenship requires, including the ability to: a) examine and interpret primary and secondary source documents, d) distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, e) review informatiaon for accuracy, separating fact from opinion, g) formulate an informed, carefully reasoned position on a community issue.
  • CE.4 – The student will demonstrate knowledge of personal character traits that facilitate thoughtful and effective participation in civic life by: c) practicing responsibility, accountability, and self-reliance.

Common Core Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1 – Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 – Determine the central ideas or iinformation of a primary or secondary source; provide an accuarate summary of the source distinct from prior knowlwedge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 – Determine the meaning of words and pharases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 – Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, vidoes, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes

  1. To have students conduct relevant and conclusive research.
  2. To have students comprehend the impact of Jefferson's passion for education on so many different lives and levels.
  3. To have students be able to visually storytell.

Technology Connections/outcomes

This activity should help students to connect the importance of education to the shaping of the future lives of those who pursue it with passion.

Additional Learning Outcomes

The outcome of this activity should be the production of a clear, factually based video that sends a clear message addressing Jefferson's passion for education and its impact on our nation.

Essential Questions

  1. Why did Jefferson think that education was important for himself and what facts do you have to support this?
  2. Why did Jefferson think that education was important for all of society and what facts do you have to support this?
  3. Where do you think Jefferson's passion for education came from?


  1. 1 Period

    Students will research Jefferson's passionate views on the importance of education for himself and for the future of our new country. Students should start by investigating these views by using Jefferson's own words. His quotes on education can be found here:

    **It is important that students copy several of these quotes, they will be needed in the creation of the iMovie Trailer.

    Students could also access"The Age of Jefferson" MOOC(Massive Open Online Course) with Peter Onuf at the University of Virginia, Week 6. It can be found through iTunes University.

    *NOTE: Classtime spent on research can be reduced or eliminated by assigning the research portion in advance.

  2. 10-15 Minutes

    Students will begin creation of their iMovie trailer by picking one of the available trailer templates. If you would prefer to see them plan out their trailer first, storyboard planners can be found at:

    Students should start work on their trailer by replacing the text on the storyboard page that allows them to outline and tell the story they want to get across regarding Jefferson's passion for education. (With the text storyline in place, it will guide students through their picture research and help them organize the use of these pictures.)

  3. 15-30 Minutes

    Students will next research photos that help show Jefferson's passion and belief in the importance of education. Teacher can vary the requirements for the photos (i.e. time period requirements) if they'd like. How students should save these photos to the iPad to allow them to be used will depend on the configuration of their iPads.

    An example can be found at:

  4. A Note About the Quote!
    Students are required to include at least one Jefferson quote relating to education in their iMovie trailer. They can either type it into one of the text areas or they may find a picture with a quote on it and include their quote that way.
  5. As time permits…
    View trailers of other students, groups, classes. If activity was completed invidividually, it would be better to choose winners in a few categories and show similar to the Academy Awards. This is especially important with large classes to eliminate watching a lot of similar videos all at once.

Technology Needs

iPad with iMovie installed, internet access



If research is assigned prior to class to save time, research should be assessed for accuracy, relevance, and amount.


Assessment will vary according to the teacher's instructional goals and decision about whether this activity is to be done individually, with a partner, or with a group. The iMovie trailer could be used as a reward activity if the teacher's emphasis is on research. If the trailer is to be assessed, the teacher should focus on the following questions:

  1. Did the trailer clearly convey Jefferson's passion for education?
  2. Were the photos chosen relevant and relate facts of Jefferson's life and provide examples of his impact on education today?
  3. Was the trailer creative?

Teachers may also want to include a self-reflection prompt and/or group member evaluation if relevant.


Accommodations – Students with Special Needs

The teacher could choose a specific trailer and create a handout with text already created for the students to follow so that they only have to research pictures to use.

Accommodations – Advanced Learners

Choose a specific trailer template that you think would be a bit harder to connect to education.

Require different background music to be chosen by the student.

Require students to research and use the names of specific individuals who helped to educate Jefferson at some point in his life in the end credits.

Using the storyboard planning outlines referenced in this lesson, have students compose brief justifications for each picture that they used.