Title: Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s Autobiography
Subtitle: What was Thomas Jefferson’s public persona and private personality?
Grade level: High School (9-12)
Topics: Monticello Architecture and Furnishing, Jefferson’s Personal Life and Family
Eden Prairie High School
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Duration: 90 minutes (1 block class period or 2 regular class periods)
Lesson plan overview: “Like the contents of your refrigerator, your house reveals quite a bit about your personality and your priorities. The décor, the furniture, the layout, the objects with which you choose to surround yourself – these all provide hints about the person you are when no one is looking. Now imagine you also designed the house. For some architects that is the case, and their homes function as autobiographies.”
(Excerpts taken from The Home As Autobiography by Annabel Walsh for DuJour) Source: http://dujour.com/design/the-architects-home-book-photos/
Often students reference letters, diaries, and other papers when thinking of primary sources. In this lesson students will use Monticello, Jefferson’s meticulously designed home, as a primary source in their analysis and eventual determination of Jefferson’s public persona and true, private personality. While taking the virtual tour on Monticello Explorer students will complete the graphic organizer. Once completed, they will answer a series of follow-up questions using their newly acquired information to determine Jefferson’s public persona and private personality.
Prior knowledge: Students will come to this lesson with background information on Jefferson’s public career: member of the Second Continental Congress and author of the Declaration of Independence, ambassador to France, Secretary of State for Washington, Vice President for Adams, co-founder of the Democratic-Republican political party, and third President of the United States.
Common Core Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Objectives/Rationale: Students will be able to describe the image Jefferson wanted to portray to the public and how he achieved this.
Students will be able to describe what Jefferson’s private personality might have been and how it influenced his career and achievements.
1. Introduction: Explain to students how historians determine information about history from objects as well as letters, diaries, and other documents. Show students a variety of objects (either in a picture or actual items) and have them work in pairs to come up with a description of that person. Have them share out to describe the person and their personality as a whole class. Push the students to analyze the objects and think more deeply about what they may represent.
2.Virtual Tour: Students will take the virtual tour of Monticello using Monticello Explorer (http://explorer.monticello.org). As they take the virtual tour online, students will complete the graphic organizer answering whether each of the rooms or artifacts are public or private, a 7 word summary, and what this reflects about Jefferson’s personality or character.
3.Reflection and Analysis: Once students have all completed their virtual tours, they will get into groups and analyze their findings. In groups, students will answer the following questions either on a worksheet, in their notebooks or orally. After discussion in small groups, the entire class can continue the conversation
4. Final Class Discussion: Wrap up the activity by having students answer the following questions as a large group:
This activity can be adapted by eliminating rooms of the virtual tour.