Every Coin has Two Sides

Lesson Plan


Grade Level

Middle School

Author Info

Emily Rourke
Twin Falls Middle School
46910 SE Middle Fork Rd
North Bend, WA 98045

Type of Lesson

Document Analysis


100 minutes



In this lesson students will develop an understanding of historical perspective. The students will use the nickel as a metaphor for gaining an understaning to the paradox of Thomas Jefferson and slavery.  The goal is for students to understand that as historians we need to be careful to not let bias or preconceived ideas shape the way in which we view the accomplishments of historical figures through analysis of Thomas Jefferson's quotes, images of Monticello, dialogue with a partner & whole class and reflections of their interpretation of the information.

Prior Knowledge

  • Students must already have learned about the drafting and ratification of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Suggested readings for teacher and students: "History and Knowing Who We Are" by David McCullough
  • Suggested viewing for teacher and students:"1776", the musical
  • Suggested viewing for teacher and students:"The duality of Thomas Jefferson" (YouTube)
  • Suggested viewing for teacher and students: "The Age of Jefferson", Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), with Peter Onuf at the University of Virginia, Week Three. Specifically, watch "Overview of Monticello", Lecture Two and Lecture Three. This may be found oniTunes University.
  • Suggested teacher and student exploration of and

State Standards

Virginia State Standards

The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis and responsible citizenship, including the ability to

VS.1 The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis and responsible citizenship, including the ability to:

a) identify and interpret artifacts and primary and secondary source documents to understand events in history

b) draw conclusions and make generalizations;

e) make connections between past and present;

h) evaluate and discuss issues orally and in writing

VS.4 The student will demonstrate knowledge of life in the Virginia colony by:

a) explaining the importance of agriculture and its influence on the institution of slavery

Common Core Standards

CCSS RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

CCCS RH.6-8.8 Distinguish among fact, opinion and reasoned judgment in a text

WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational text to support analysis reflection, and research.

WHST.6-8.10 Write routinely over shorter time frame for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes

  • Students willbegin tounderstanding life for slaves at Monticello through analysis of artists' interpretations, photographs, primary documents and artifacts.
  • Students will develop historical perspective ofThomas Jefferson and slavery through discussions & analysis of artists' interpretations, photographs, primary documents and artifacts.
  • Students who are not native to Virginia, will develop a visual understanding of the geography of colonial Virginia.

Essential Questions

1. How does geography influence lifestyle and point of view?

2. How does geography, climate and natural resources affect the way people live and work?

3. What are the roles and responsibilities of citizens and government in a democratic society?

4. How do economic systems affect the lives of individuals and groups of people?


  1. Pre-Lesson:

    1. Pre-read all of the steps to thestudent handout"Every Coin Has Two Sides".
    2. Prepareto show students Thomas Jefferson's"Quotations on Slavery and Emancipation" may opt to make handouts forstudents if personal devices, or projection of the quotes is not an option.
    3. Preview the three slideshows: 1) "Putting Thomas Jefferson Into Perspective" 2) "Interpreting Slave Life at Monticello" and 3) "Slavery at Monticello"
    4. Make individual copies of the "Every Coin Has Two Sides" handout for each student.
    5. Prepare the instructor's computer to project an image of both sides of a United States nickel with Thomas Jefferson and Monticello, and the quotes & slideshows mentioned above.
    6. It is recommended that students are sitting next to a partner (mixed ability pairs is ideal).
    7. All images can be found on if further needed.
  2. Begin Lesson:

    1. Hand out copies of "Every Coin Has Two Sides"
    2. Project an image of both sides of a United States nickel with Thomas Jefferson and Monticello on the screen for students to see.
    3. Read the overview and directions aloud with the students.
  3. 10 minutes

    "Every Coin Has Two Sides", Step One:

    1. Read the step's directions and give students time to answer the two questions individually.
    2. When students are done, they may discuss their answers with the person next to them.
    3. After a1-2 minutes of discussion, call on a few individual students to share the thoughtsthey expressed.
  4. 10 minutes

    "Every Coin Has Two Sides", Step Two:

    1. If students have their own devices, allow them to go to, "Quotations on Slavery and Emancipation".
    2. Read the step's directions, and allow students time to study the quotes and complete tasks 1-3.
    3. Call on students to share their a a few examples of quotes, and call on students to share general statements about Thomas Jefferson. It is possible some of the statements will show conflicting ideas.
    4. Accommodations: The instructor may want to make a handout of at least five quotes from multiple decades. The instructor may also highlight the important words/phrases of the longer quotes for special ed. students or English language learners
  5. 10 minutes

    "Every Coin Has Two Sides", Step Three:

    1. Project the slideshow "Putting Thomas Jefferson into Perspective" (8 slides).
    2. Read of the slides to the students as they are shown the slide show and take time to elaborate when needed (ex: social hierarchy in the various colonies, sources of income, importance of geography when establishing farms/plantations).
    3. Give students time to answer the questions. Call on students to share a a few responses when they're done writing.


  6. 15-20 minutes

    "Every Coin Has Two Sides", Step Four:

    1. Project the slideshow "Interpreting Slave Life at Monticello"(6 slides)
    2. Read the first slide with the students (they have the same questions in front of them).
    3. Allow the class a minute, give or take, to study each image. The instructor may need to explain who is doing what in some of the images.
    4. Give the students time to answer the questions.
    5. For question 3, instructor may need to prompt the students to consider how an artist would know what happened in the house (ex: diaries, oral tradition).
    6. BIG IDEA:By only showing scenes oflife in and nearthe house, how arewe supposed to understand what washappening on the plantation? Instructor should prompt students to think critically and considerwhat we see on the tail of the nickel.
  7. 30 minutes

    "Every Coin Has Two Sides", Step Five:

    1. Project the slideshow "Slavery at Monticello" (15 slides)
    2. Read the first slide with the class. Discuss with numbers with the class.
    3. Regularly ask if the information changes anybody's perception of Thomas Jefferson as the slides are shared.
  8. 30 minutes

    "Every Coin Has Two Sides", Step Six:

    1. Preview the questions with the students.Instructors may need to give guidance to kids to prompt them with getting started.
    2. Modifications: Instructors may opt to do one or the other- the questions or nickel activity- based student and class needs.

Related Assets

Handouts and Downloads


Materials Needed

Technology Needs

  1. Instructorswill need to project images onto a screen for the whole class to see.
  2. It is an option for students to use their personal devices, such as phones, tablets or laptops to view the pages link to and the lesson itself at in order to follow along with the instructor.


Accommodations – Students with Special Needs

Suggestons have been made in the different steps.