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Turn-of-the-Century First Ladies

Introduction | Implementation | Considerations | Assessment | Standards


Origin of this Lesson

This activity was originally created for an online, video-conference produced by the National Digital Library Program in conjunction with the National First Ladies Library. The web pages were designed to provide the participating middle schools with resources and a structure to prepare for an online Bowl Event (an oral quiz/game in which teams compete by answering questions they have previously seen and answered).

Turn-of-the-Century First Ladies, our selected topic, was chosen to take advantage of the expertise of the two presenting organizations. Any topic with many "factoids" would work as well.

Options for Implementation

The activity can be used in a single classroom as a cooperative learning, team project. It can also be used as a cross classrooms event in a school with multiple classrooms per grade level. An answer key is available for the Student Questions. A Bowl Event is well suited to the learning styles and interests of upper elementary through high school students. However the clever teacher designs and structures such an event, it provides a touch of competition, lots of fun and a great deal of student engagement in learning!


The Learning Tasks

  • to engage in fact finding research
  • to synthesize new information, making it their own
  • to work effectively as a member of a team or a partnership
  • to develop strategies for effective participation in competitive sharing


Implementation Overview:

This activity could be the engaging kick-off to a deeper study of women's history. It could be part of the study of our nation's turn-of-the-century Presidents. It could be the beginning or culmination of an in depth study of the role of First Ladies in our country's past, present and future. Or, the activity could be repurposed entirely, to develop a set of understandings around a different topic.

Creative teachers will determine how much time is needed for their implementation of this activity. However, it is recommended that at least an hour be devoted to the Bowl Event and five to eight hours to research and preparation.

Phase One of Implementation

  • develop the context for this activity (kick-off or culmination of a larger unit)
  • establish the timeline for research and Bowl Event
  • teach/review prerequisite research skills (online and text)
  • create teams and allow adequate research/assimilation time
  • require submission of "Challenge" and "Bonus" questions from student teams

Phase Two of Implementation

  • arrange physical space for the Bowl Event
  • establish procedures and rules
  • conduct the event, allowing opportunity for scoring by all teams

Suggestions for special scoring rounds:

Stump the Students Round

  • teams ask their own questions, receiving points if other teams cannot answer

Stump the Judges Round

  • teams ask their own questions, receiving points if referees/judges cannot answer
  • calculate final scores and congratulate winners!
  • a nice extra touch is the presentation of certificates of participation
    (Adobe Acrobat Reader is necessary to view the file)


Teacher Considerations

Elements for Successful Implementation

  • student centered teaching environment
  • student choice and accountability
  • adequate knowledge of effective online research techniques
  • rich collection of print and other materials for research
  • adequate time for students to complete research
  • adequate time allocated for the Bowl Event
  • adequate space and seating for the Bowl Event
  • additional adult support as referee's and score keepers


Residual Learning

The learning inherent in gathering and digesting such "factual" information is surprisingly broad. As students hunt for answers to the questions, a good deal of inferring, analyzing and deduction will take place. Because students are working with partners, or in groups, there is great opportunity for give and take, for sharing of responsibility for research, and for discussion of findings.

An Authentic, Embedded Assessment

This activity is an assessment in itself. It is the culmination of a research project. As such, observation of process and participation in the Bowl Event will provide feedback about the success of each participant to grasp the concepts and to master the facts. The activity also presents an opportunity for self and group assessment of process.


Addresses the following National Council for the Social Studies Standards

  • Time, Continuity and Change
  • Individuals, Groups and Institutions
  • Power, Authority and Governance