Thomas Jefferson’s Expectations: Jefferson’s Point of View on the Importance of Education

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan Template

Title:  Thomas Jefferson’s Expectations
Descriptive Subtitle: Thomas Jefferson’s Point of View on the Importance of Education
Grade level: high school (9-12)
Topic/subject: Primary Documents & Jefferson Writings

Author Information:

Name: Samantha Westerdale
School: Rangeview High School, Aurora CO
School Address (opt): 17599 E Iliff Avenue
City: Aurora
State: CO

Duration: 58 minutes

Overview:  Students will begin their first week of learning the voices of Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton while teaching them how to use and evaluate primary and secondary sources; a skill used throughout the year. This lesson will be the last in this mini-unit of learning, focusing on the importance of education and why we need to value education today. The goal of the lesson is to motivate students into being constant learners, and how that value has never really faded away from history.

Prior knowledge: Students have not reviewed Colonial history since the 8th grade, and this course is for 10th grade focusing on the Civil War through the early 2000’s. There is prior knowledge of the first presidents, The Constitution, and The Declaration of Independence, but students could use a refresher on Founding Fathers.

Colorado Academic Standards:

Standard 1: Use the historical method of inquiry to ask questions, evaluate primary and secondary sources, critically analyze and interpret data, and develop interpretations defended by evidence.

Evidence Outcome: Evaluate a historical source for point of view and historical context (Depth Of Knowledge 2-3)


  • Students will understand that Thomas Jefferson held high expectations for the nation.
  • Learner Outcome: Students will be able to evaluate primary sources for point of view in order to create a CEA (Claim, Evidence, & Argument) statement on why Thomas Jefferson held such high expectations for citizens and their education.
  • Students will know the political and social expectations of Jefferson in regards to education and how we hold these standards to the American Dream today .


Anticipatory Set (How to begin the lesson – 10 minutes)

a) Display Learner Outcome and question below to students on board. Each student has a notebook that they write down the learner outcome each day. (4 minutes)

  • Students will write down Learner Outcome and their response to the question, “Why do you go to school?”
  • Let students talk in their groups/partners with Give One, Get One.
  • Ask for 2 volunteers to share out.
  • Explain to students how they’ll research quotes from the past to help them explain their future in regards to education.

b) Students will use a Google Form where they are to select 3 quotes which feel the most like them in regards to their education. If students don’t feel like any of the quotes feel like them, have them pick 3 quotes they want to know more about. (6 minutes)

  • Once students take the poll, they are to discuss in groups with 2 other students about their choices.
  • Teacher will display poll results, and have 1 person from each group share out why they picked what they did.
  • Students will discuss in groups with Think, Pair, Share: Are there any similarities or differences in his words vs. yours from earlier? What?
  • Teacher will explain how these are some of the ideals of Thomas Jefferson and education and how education has been a huge motivation for this nation’s success.

Middle (What is the meat of the lesson? – 30 minutes, 5 extra minutes if need be)

a) Students will be given 2 handouts, one with primary sources by Jefferson letters along with a graphic organizer. (modified available) Primary sources include excerpt from a bill and 2 letters. Other handout is a graphic organizer. (5 minutes)

  • Students will already be familiar with the graphic organizer. They are to work alone and can later pick one person in their group to work with if they need it. – 5 minutes after working alone.
  • Teacher does whole class check in to see if there are any words or phrases that may be challenging to comprehend. Students should begin working on Source 2.

b) Students will continue to work on their graphic organizer with another individual. (12 minutes)

  • Teacher will check in with each group to answer clarifying questions, pose new questions, ask how they are feeling about Jefferson’s ideals while students work. They will write down responses to the question on their organizer, “What is Jefferson’s Point of View on education?”
  • Teacher will pull a small group if needed. Students will share out to whole class what they’re working on so far and also be asked, “What is Jefferson’s Point of View on education based off of your research?”


c) Teacher will work with whole class by displaying Source 3 on the board and work together as a group to analyze. (5 minutes)

  1. Teacher will pose questions after reading aloud, have students then read aloud and help out with analyzing source.
  2. Students will then finish analyzing letter independently.

d) Students will share with A/B partners (8 minutes)

  • A students answer “What quote stood out to you most?“ while B listens. B students answer “What source do you like more and why? “ while A listens.
  • Hear from at least 3 students who have not spoken yet on what Jefferson specifically wanted and why he wanted it.
  • Ask students, “What does education get you?” Then show John Green video: (4 minutes)
  • At tables do small group discussion and then whole class discussion on: What similarities do you see with Jefferson’s Point of View for education and John Green’s? Differences? What are Jefferson’s and Green’s Points of View on education?

Close (How will you close the lesson – 10 minutes)

a) Students will begin their assessment by creating a Claim, Evidence & Argument to the prompt: Why did Thomas Jefferson hold such high expectations for citizens and their education?

  1. Optional Advanced. Instead of the prompt above, students have a choice to make a Claim, Evidence, Argument answering: “How do you think the nation is doing with education today in regards to Jefferson’s Point of View?”

*As an option/spare time – Show the importance of education to history with John Hemings letter to Septimia Randolph.


Materials: list any primary sources, images, handouts, videos, websites, technology needs, etc. for your lesson (include any attachments needed with final lesson plan)

  • Google Form Quotes and Primary Sources Information
  • Jefferson Primary Sources
  • Modified Jefferson Primary Sources
  • Document Tool Analysis Organizer
  • Youtube video by John Green:
  • Microsoft PowerPoint with lesson objective, standard, directions, rubric and images.

Assessment(s): consider diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment strategies

Formative: Think Pair Share, Give One Get One, Teacher checking in with each group, teacher pulling small group if needed, A/B partner discussion, Whole Group Discussion.

Summative: 1) Student handout of evaluating primary sources 2)Claim, Evidence, Argument on prompt.

Assessment Criteria (rubric, checklist, etc.):

1) Organizer completely filled out with quotes and analysis.

2) Claim, Evidence, Argument Rubric

  Proficient  (B) Partially Proficient    (C ) Unsatisfactory  ( D )
Claim Restates the prompt with response related to content. Restates prompt with response that does not relate to content. No restating, rather “I agree/disagree” I think, etc.
Evidence  Quotes text and has correct citations (Jefferson, year, source info ) Quotes text, but incorrect citations. No quote, no evidence.
Argument Uses academic language (Based off of this quote, Jefferson’s POV is…) Limited academic language, simple argument. No academic language, use of 1st person.

Advanced  (A): Scores all of Proficient using Prompt 2 instead of Prompt 1.

Accommodations: list suggestions for adapting the materials, procedures, and assessments included in this lesson for students with varying learning styles and abilities

  • All students are placed in intentional groups, one low skilled reader with at least 2 higher skilled readers.
  • Differentiated Primary Source handout that has definitions for challenging words. Other version has important statements bolded for IEP/ELD/SPED.
  • Students with IEP/ELD/SPED designation in groups (one per group) near the front so teacher can reach first.